Roast Chicken Stuffed with Zucchini and Cheese

Roast Chicken Stuffed with Zucchini and CheeseMakes 4 Servings
Hands-On Time: 40 Minutes
Total Preparation Time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes

1 medium zucchini (about 1/2 pound)
Kosher salt
1/2 medium onion
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 t fresh thyme
1 1/2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 slices firm white bread
1/4 c whole milk ricotta
Freshly ground black pepper
One 3 1/2 pound chicken
Foolproof Egg Lemon Sauce (optional, recipe below)

Suggested accompaniments
Roasted potatoes and summer squash

1. Coarsely grate the zucchini (about 2 cups); toss it with ¼ teaspoon salt and set it aside in a strainer to drain for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, finely chop the onion (about 1/2 cup). Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot. Add the onion and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until it is golden. Press in the garlic (about 1 teaspoon) and cook for 1 minute more. Finely chop the thyme (about 1/2 teaspoon). Squeeze the zucchini by small handfuls to remove excess liquid.
3. Stir the thyme and well-drained zucchini into the skillet and sauté for 2 minutes over medium heat; transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and set aside.
4. Microplane-grate the Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1 cup) or grate on the fine side of a box grater (about 1/2 cup). Pulse the bread in a blender to make 1 cup bread crumbs. Add the bread crumbs, the Parmigiano-Reggiano, the ricotta, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to the zucchini mixture. Add salt to taste.
5. Place the chicken in a shallow roasting pan. Gently loosen the skin on the breasts and thighs, trying not to tear it; rub the skin with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Stuff the zucchini mixture evenly under the loosened skin of the chicken. (This is a messy project; just do your best.)
6. Roast the chicken for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and roast the chicken for 20 minutes. Cover the chicken loosely with foil and roast for 25 to 30 minutes more, or until a meat thermometer inserted into an inner thigh registers 165°F.
7. Remove the chicken from the oven and set it aside for 10 minutes before carving. Meanwhile, prepare the Foolproof Egg Lemon Sauce, if using, and serve with the chicken.

Foolproof Egg Lemon Sauce

Makes About 1 1/2 Cups
Hands-On Time: 10 Minutes
Total Preparation Time: 10 Minutes

1 1/2 c Homemade Chicken Stock (see recipe below) or canned broth
1 large egg yolk
1 to 2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T cornstarch
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the chicken stock in a small saucepan over low heat until simmering. Whisk the egg yolk, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and cornstarch together. Add a little chicken stock to the mixture in a stream, whisking. Add the egg mixture to the pot of chicken stock and heat for about 1 minute, or just until the sauce starts to bubble. Taste and add additional lemon juice if desired and salt and pepper to taste.

Homemade Chicken Stock

Makes about 8 cups
Hands-on time: 10 minutes
Total preparation time: 3 1/2 hours

Why bother making homemade chicken stock when there are so many respectable versions at the supermarket? Flavor, of course. At the end of the day the stock you pour out of a can or a box just can’t touch the stock you make yourself at home. The difference is gelatin, which adds unbeatable body to a stock. Gelatin comes into a broth from the long, slow simmering of bones. Homemade has it. Store-bought doesn’t. You can see for yourself if you ever boil them down side-by-side. A homemade stock becomes thick and viscous, its flavor very concentrated. A store-bought stock simply disappears into thin air. (Makes you wonder what the heck it’s made from in the first place.)

Of course, I’m not a snob and I’m not a purist. I use good store-bought chicken stock all the time. But for a special occasion – let’s say I’m making matzoh ball soup for Passover – I start from scratch with chicken wings. It’s part of what makes the occasion special.

Chicken stock freezes beautifully and can be stored in the freezer (I use 1-cup containers for convenience) for up to 6 months.

5 pounds chicken wings
2 medium onions
2 small carrots
2 medium stalks celery
4 sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 Turkish bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Put the chicken wings in a large stockpot and add enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring the mixture just to a boil over high heat, skimming the surface with a slotted spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-low immediately and simmer, skimming frequently, for 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, quarter the onions and halve the carrots and celery; add to the stockpot along with the parsley, thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Return the mixture just to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 1/2 hours.

3. Strain the stock through a colander and discard the solids. Skim off all the fat that rises to the surface. (Or, cool the stock and refrigerate it overnight. The fat will harden on top of the stock and is much easier to remove.)

4. Return the stock to the pot and simmer until reduced by one third, about 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook’s Notes

If you want to make a really simple roasted chicken on a Sunday you could try making my “Blasted Chicken.” The beauty of it is that you only have to remember two numbers 3 ½ and 45. You take a 3 ½ pound chicken, rub it with oil, season it with salt and pepper and put it in a roasting pan. Meanwhile you preheat the oven to 450 F. (alright, I added a 0 to that 45) and roast the chicken on the middle shelf of the oven for 45 minutes or until the temperature in the leg thigh joint registers 165 F. Take the chicken out of the pan, transfer to a platter and let it rest, covered loosely with foil for 15 minutes. Then carve. Chicken roasted this way has crispy skin and juicy meat.

One caveat here: the oven must be very clean when you start or it will give off smoke because the temperature is so high.


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