Christmas Special ~ Roast Chicken with Bread & Giblet Stuffing

Christmas always evokes special food memories for me. While my mum always cooked the yummiest traditional fare for Christmas lunch, my paternal aunt was famous for her most amazing Christmas Roast Chicken stuffed with absolutely delicious bread stuffing. I have vivid memories of being seated around the dining table at my uncle's place - along with my cousins and enjoying this happy meal. 

While traditionally Pork Bafat and Sanna also made it to the table, the most popular and on demand fare was this roast. Since back home, my mum never worked with an oven (in those days not everyone had an oven - some could not afford it while the others thought it was rocket science to put it to good use), we enjoyed her most delectable traditional curries and side dishes all moped up with cottony soft sanna or appams. 

While I had tasted this roast made by my aunt just a couple of times, the taste lingered on for many years thereafter. When the blog came into existence and family life demanded that I venture out of my comfort zone and try out different specialities that were worthy of a feast, I attempted to make this aided with a recipe from a book. Result - absolute disaster. The method was funny and the little voice in my head asked me not to follow it - yet I did and down went the chicken down the bin. Well, not really. We ate a nicely baked but bland roast chicken with a soggy (yucky!) bland stuffing. 

A couple of years later I decided to give it a shot again - this time I was at my brother's place. Excited on learning that lil' sister was going to roast a gorgeous turkey for the Christmas lunch, off he went to buy a nice and expensive bird. The kitchen witnessed three adults toiling over a bird weighing three kilograms for three hours. The result - average. I was totally disappointed - for having let my bro and his family down as far as the Christmas lunch was concerned. Lessons learnt - 1.) Read the recipe at least thrice 2.) Plan & prepare as much as possible in advance - preferably the previous day. 

Armed with these lessons I attempted to make this roast once again this year. This time I wasn't particularly keen to ruin the chicken, so I gave a quick call to my aunt Terry who helped me with the measures and method. Thank you so much for helping me out Aunty!

By the way, just in case you are as confused as I was as on time, in Mangalore, 'chicken roast' is a term popularly used to describe chicken kebabs - the large chunks of chicken marinated in red masala and then deep fried - popularly found on the wedding/roce function menu provided by caterers. However, roast chicken is a technique of roasting a whole chicken (usually with the skin on) with different spices and stuffed with different things like raisins, bread crumbs, mince meat or giblet (pronounced as 'jib-let')

(Above Picture: The whole roast chicken - To my bad luck the skin got slightly burnt due to my tiny oven)

Today's recipe is for the typically Mangalorean way of making the roast chicken - with a bread & giblet stuffing - an aromatic stuffing that involves sauteed coriander & mint leaves, onions, ginger, garlic along with bread pieces and giblet (liver, heart and gizzard of fowl/bird). All these ingredients are sauteed in ghee (preferably) and then stuffed into the bird's cavity and sealed (stitched up). It is then roasted in the oven for about an hour and served along with sides of your choice - buttered & stir fried vegetables such as french beans, baby carrots, peas or asparagus, sauces or fresh fruit like grapes, baby tomatoes, apple slices or orange segments. 
(Above Pic: Bread & Giblet Stuffing, before & after)

While preparing the stuffing stick to using ghee instead of olive oil as it lends a rich flavour and aroma to the stuffing. It is ok to indulge once in a while :-) The liberal use of ghee, raisins and nuts makes the stuffing absolutely delicious and worth the effort. As you carve through the meat and bite into a serving of stuffing that is beautifully soaked in the juices redeemed by the chicken, trust me, you will experience nirvana!

If you are planning to make this for your Christmas lunch, do plan & prepare it in advance! Good luck!

Roast Chicken with Bread & Giblet Stuffing
Prep time: 30-40 mins | Marinating time: overnight or 1 hour | Baking time: 1hour 20mins | Serves 4

You Need:
For the marinade
For the stuffing
Servings on the side (optional)
Baked Jacket Potatoes
Buttered Carrots & French Beans
Apple Slices
Marinate the chicken
1. Clean the chicken, especially the stomach cavity - remove any traces of blood, wash and allow to drain completely or pat it dry. Gently poke the chicken all over with a fork. Gently run your fingers between the flesh and the skin to form pockets. Take care not to tear the skin.
2. In a large bowl mix the ingredients for the marinade and apply it all over the chicken, inside the stomach cavity and between the skin and the flesh (into the pockets). Cover the pan with aluminium foil or cling wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight for best results.

Prepare the stuffing
1. Heat 4 tbsp ghee in a non stick skillet/pan and fry the bread cubes till they are just about golden brown and crispy. Remove and keep aside to cool. Adding more ghee if required fry the roughly chopped nuts and raisins one by one and remove. Ensure that the raisins just plump up and don't burn else they will turn bitter.
2. In the same pan continue to fry the onions till golden brown and then the chopped green chillies, ginger and finally the chopped coriander and mint leaves for a couple of minutes. Toss in the stew powder (or the pepper, turmeric & cumin powders) and fry for a few seconds. Remove the mixture into a large pan/bowl
3. Lastly adding more ghee if required fry the cubed liver & heart and fry for a couple of minutes till golden brown. Transfer into the pan/bowl and mix all the fried ingredients together - bread cubes, nuts, raisins, onion mixture. Add the salt to taste, lime juice and sugar and mix gently.

Prepare the sides
Baked Jacket Potatoes
1. Scrub and wash the unpeeled potatoes thoroughly and prick all over with a fork. Rub your hands with a little olive oil and salt and then rub them onto the potatoes well. Bake in a preheated oven at 200 C for 1-1/4 hours.
2. Remove and make a cross mark with a knife and put the filling into the slits and place it back into the oven. Use the grill mode for approx 10-12 minutes till the surface looks slightly golden and the cheese filling starts to bubble.

(Above Pic: Clockwise: Bread & Giblet Stuffing, Baked Jacket Potato, Buttered Carrots and French Beans, Apple Slices & Black Currant Sauce)

Buttered Carrots & French Beans
1. Blanch the carrots in boiling water with a little salt until half cooked. Add in the french beans and continue to blanch till 90% cooked. Drain the water (don't throw it - you can use it as a stock for soups).
2. Heat some butter in a non stick skillet and stir fry the blanched vegetables. Add salt (sparingly) and pepper to taste and fry for a couple of minutes. Keep aside until required to be grilled along with the chicken during the final 10 minutes of the grilling stage.

Apple Slices
Soak the apple slices in salt water to prevent discolouring. You may either serve them slightly salted or fresh (in which case slice them just before serving) or you may lightly stir fry them along with pepper similar to the french beans and carrots.

Stuff & roast the chicken
1. Preheat oven to 220 C for 10 minutes. Cover the oven tray with aluminium foil and grease with ghee or oil.
2. Place the marinated chicken out of the fridge for an hour before baking. Fill the stomach cavity with the bread stuffing. Using a large needle and thick strong thread stitch the opening of the cavity carefully ensuring that the skin does not tear (or else your stuffing will fall out). Tie the wings and the legs close together to ensure evenly baked chicken.
3. Place the stuffed chicken on the prepared tray and roast/bake at 200 C for 1-1/2 hours (approx) - bake time will vary depending on the weight of the chicken and the type of oven used. Flip the chicken half way down the baking time - use kitchen tongs or ladles and flip carefully. Pour/baste the juices over it so they dribble all over the chicken.
4. Reserve the last 10-12 minutes of the bake time to switch to grill mode just to get a nice golden brown colour on the outer skin. During these last 10 minutes you may add the pre-baked jacket potato with stuffing for a nice browning on the surface and you can also add the blanched and stir fried veggies for a nice colour and flavour.

Plating & Serving
Once out of the oven, cover the chicken with aluminium foil, just to allow to it absorb the juices and rest for 8-10minutes. Then remove the covering and hold the chicken in place with a fork and a carving knife. Untie the legs and wings and preferably carve them out first. Cut out each portion of meat along with some stuffing and transfer onto a serving plate. Drizzle a ladle full of stock from the baking tray onto the meat. Place the sides (baked potato, stir fried veggies, apple slices etc) along with the meat and the Black Currant sauce on the other side. Garnish with mint leaves if desired and serve hot.

1. Chicken or Turkey: If you are using turkey instead of chicken, then chances are that the turkey weighs nothing less than 3kgs. Just double the quantities of all the ingredients especially you may want to increase the number of bread slices and boiled potato cubes as a turkey will have a larger stomach cavity. Extra stuffing won't go a waste - trust me. A turkey weighing 3-4 kilos can easily serve 6-8 people.
2. Stew Masala Powder: Is a typical Mangalorean spice blend used for meat/vegetable stews. Substitute 1 tsp stew masala powder with 1/4 tsp turmeric pwd + 1/4 tsp cumin pwd+1/2 tsp pepper pwd.
3. Sides: You may serve any kind of stir fried veggies you fancy. Throw in baby potatoes, button mushrooms, broccoli or baby corn.

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