Most people like a roast ham on Easter. Me, I like a roast chicken. I guess there is a time and a place for ham, but I don't really do pork on holidays - I do poultry. Hey, the non-religious version of this holiday revolves around finding eggs - why shouldn't the meals revolve around the birds who created them?
Also, I guess having chicken on a holiday allows for people from almost all religions to come to a large dinner - not being able to eat poultry isn't a usual tenant of many religions. Chicken is a lovely meat to work with as well - its lack of flavor isn't a bane, in fact, its a great meat to use with strong seasonings. It is a juicy, tender vehicle for a saturation of taste. If you want to read more about chicken, The Oxford Companion to Food is amazing at describing every miniscule detail about the most random ingredients or even the most basic ones.
So I never differentiated between the words of 'stuffing' and 'dressing' - turns out they mean different things. Stuffing is when you literally 'stuff' the bird, while dressing is placed outside to cook. According to Wikipedia, which sometimes is reliable and sometimes not (especially after that huge scandal by one of their editors - when he turned out to be some random college student rather than a PhD in his field), the first evidence of 'stuffing' is in a Roman cookbook. The popular stuffing is usually bread (oysters have also been used!) but I also go against the usual - soggy bread has never been my idea of a good time. Rice, a Middle Eastern inclination, is my base of choice.
As a responsible food blogger, I should warn you that the USDA deems cooking stuffing inside the cavity of a bird is a safety issue, and that you should cook it outside the bird . . . as dressing. However, I haven't ever experienced a food crisis, don't know anyone who has, don't know anyone who knows someone who has . . . you get the picture. But you have been warned.
Perfect Roast Chicken with Ginger Rice, Almonds and Cranberry Stuffing
1 roasting chicken (cook for 20 mins per pound)*
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs. thyme
1 onion (slices)
1 onion (cut into chunks)
4 cloves garlic (each cut in 1/2)
1 thumb ginger (sliced)
1/4 c. ginger marmalade
1 cup chicken stock
1 c. cooked rice
1/2 c. celery (chopped)
1/2 c. carrots (chopped)
1/2 c. mushrooms (chopped)
1 onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1/2 c. almonds (sliced or chopped)
1/4 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. candied ginger (minced)
1 tbs. ginger marmalade
1 tbs. thyme
salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Take out any giblets from inside the chicken's cavity. Wash the chicken inside and out with water. Dry the chicken completely. Tuck the wings under the body.
2. Line the bottom of a roasting pan with the sliced onions. Make slight slices in the skin all over the body - put pieces of onion, garlic, and ginger under the skin. Rub the chicken all over with the marmalade. Sprinkle all over with thyme, salt, and pepper. Place chicken on the slices of onion.
3. Mix all the ingredients for the stuffing together. Place as much as you can in the cavity of the chicken. Any that you can't fit, put in a baking dish with a lid. Put the excess 2/3rd of the way of cooking the chicken - an hour in.
4. Place the chicken in the oven and roast until the skin is deep golden brown and crisp and the juices run clear when pierced, about 1 1/2 hours. If you have an instant read thermometer - the breast temperature should read 180 and the thigh should be 190.
5. Remove from oven and let stand for 10-15 minutes so the juices can settle. Pour the drippings into a shallow bowl so the fat can separate. Leave onions and any brown bits in the bottom of the pan - put on the stove over medium-high to cook (about 1 minute). Add stock to deglaze the pan, let boil until the liquid is reduced by half - about 4 minutes. Strain into a small bowl. Add salt to taste. If not thick enough, add corn starch.
* Let the chicken stand for 30 minutes at room temperature so that it cooks evenly.
Serve sliced chicken with gravy, mashed potatoes, and whatever vegetables are preferred.