Tuesday, August 23, 2011

(Almost) Boneless Roast Chicken with Apricot Walnut Stuffing

Now that Wellington on a Plate has wrapped up I think there's a rather large group of happy but slightly cuddlier-than-usual Wellington foodies who have sworn off unhealthy food for a bit. I definitely consider myself to be in this category - there's nothing like a spell of gruel to make you appreciate fine food again, it's not just my health which benefits from my restraint but also my tastebuds. ;-)


With all that in mind, today's recipe comes to you from the good old-fashioned family feed category - while you could coat your chicken in gravy and serve it with amazing glazed carrots and buttery brussel sprouts, I've chosen to just do the chicken and the stuffing and leave you to devise your own steamed veg combo to work away your sins (in case you haven't overindulged I'll come back to you later with a recipe for killer roast spuds - just give me a week or two to recover!).

Sister Cake was keen for me to help her debone a chicken when we were at her place in Dunedin - neither of us had ever done it before, but one of our aunts had suggested it to her as a good way of serving roast chook. My job, in this instance, ended up having more to do with entertaining my nephew while Sister Cake's hands were covered in raw poultry than actual assistance, but I managed to snap a few photos, and decided it was something worth mastering myself once we returned home.

Now that I have done it myself I'm not sure - on the one hand, I really loved having a boneless roast, and you really can fit an extraordinary amount of stuffing in (great if you prefer the stuffing, like me, or just want the roast to go further). On the other hand, it took quite a while - close to an hour - and while I'm sure I'd get a lot quicker after a couple of tries it's an extra time commitment. I guess it's something I'd make only for a special meal - it certainly wouldn't be the standard method for Sunday roast if that was a household fixture, but for Christmas dinner perhaps...

We found our technique on youtube - I love videos for this kind of thing, and though I've provided the photos I think watching a video helps with understanding. I'm not ready to star in my own chicken-deboning feature film, so you can click through to the video we watched here for a more in-depth look. ;-)

The basic technique is:
 - cut right through the skin and flesh all the way down the back of the bird
 - use your knife to separate the flesh from the bone, as close as you can to the bone, as far as you can around the body
 - use your knife to separate the flesh from the bone at the wing and leg, and then cut the tendons and work the joints until you can separate the joints. It's up to you whether you leave the wing and the drumsticks in the roast to cook but if you do you can still remove the upper leg/wing bones
 - continue to work around the bird until the meat can be removed from the frame
 - make your stuffing, plonk it in the middle, roll the roast around it, and tie at intervals with kitchen twine
 - roast as usual

The stuffing I made up based on what sounded yummy, and it worked a treat - apricot and chicken go together quite well (and I prefer this to the very saucy, sweet apricot chicken dish which haunted the 80s and 90s - do people still eat that? I'm sure it has the potential to be delicious but it seems to have fallen off the radar) and walnuts are excellent in stuffing. Feel free to tweak to your tastes - the formula I use for stuffing is something like breadcrumbs (I pulse frozen bread in the food processor until smallish) + herbs and spices to flavour (sage is classic) + onion + nuts and dried fruit if desired.

I pulsed first the bread and then everything else except the egg in my mini blitzer, then mixed it all together in a bowl. I made way too much stuffing for my normal-sized chicken, so the recipe below is adjusted to make a more sensible amount.

It's easier to tie the bird up if you have an extra set of hands, but it's still doable on your own - I'm all for making life easier where I can, though, so like to have Mr Cake lined up to help with awkward bits like this.
I did my roast in tinfoil because I didn't have a roasting bag, and I probably should have sprayed the foil with non-stick stuff and/or used it shiny side in, but apart from sticking to the skin a bit it worked a treat.

And how did it come out? Well, the chicken tasted like roast chicken (funny that) but was fantastically easy to serve - I'm all for slicing instead of carving. The stuffing was great, and will definitely be featuring again. I think I'll leave the butchery for a wee while, but it was a good experience, and a yummy meal, and I'm sure someday I will want a boneless roast enough to put in the time. Is this something you've tried and mastered? Or does it seem like more effort than it's worth?

In other news, today the tickets for the inaugural New Zealand Food Bloggers' Conference were released, and somehow I managed to be the first to snap one up (what can I say? I'm keen!). It sounds like an excellent day of food-centred fun, and I love to meet other bloggers because they don't think I'm weird for taking photos of everything I eat. ;-) If you, like me, have more photos of food than people you should join us!

Boneless Roast Chicken with Apricot Walnut Stuffing
1 medium chicken
3 slices of bread
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
70g walnuts
100g dried apricots
1 egg

Follow the instructions above to debone the chicken. Preheat oven to 180 C.

Pulse the bread, onion, garlic, walnuts and apricots in a food processor until finely chopped. Add egg and season with salt and pepper.

Place stuffing down the centre of the deboned chicken, then tie the chicken together to enclose the stuffing. Place in a roasting bag (or greased tinfoil) and in a roasting dish and roast for about two hours or until cooked. Slice to serve. Serves 6.


  1. Impressive! I've got a recipe for a fruit-stuffed boneless chicken but haven't been brave enough to try it yet. And I love the reference to '80s apricot chicken, my family has a recipe for "jazzy" apricot chicken that we don't seem to be able to let go of...

  2. Great pics on de-boning the chook and well done, it's certainly a fiddley job. The stuffing sounds fab.

  3. timeforalittlesomething, it's not hard so much as just time consuming. And hey, there must be something good about apricot chicken if you keep having it - perhaps I was just never introduced to the right recipe!

    Pease Pudding, thanks! I'm sure some real knife skills might have helped me but I got there eventually. :-)

  4. Apricot chicken! I'm so impressed,, i've always been a fan of chicken with either plum or apricot seasoning... hmmm yum!
    I'm on a break from uni at the moment and am soooooo tempted to try this myself! however i am a little apprehensive of the deboning bit, taking the flesh of the carcas.... will let you know.

  5. Anon, give it a whirl! The worst you can do is shred the meat - it'll still taste good, just not carve so well. :-)


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