Chicken relleno

What Speedy really wanted was a dish that goes like this: A deboned and stuffed chicken is stuffed into a deboned duck and the duck is stuffed into a deboned turkey. Even granting that I can debone a turkey and a duck, something I’ve never done before, I don’t know how we can finish all that. A turkey would be around ten kilos, the average duck is around five kilos… add the chicken plus the stuffing that goes inside the chicken… Wow, we’ll be eating the same three-bird dish for two weeks.

So, I cooked chicken relleno instead. Last Monday. I used a 2.2-kilogram chicken, I thought we’d have leftovers galore but, as soon as Sam saw the cooked chicken relleno come out of the oven, she announced that there won’t be any leftovers. She was right. But we didn’t really finish the whole chicken in one sitting. More like lunch and dinner plus several slices that I packed for the girls to bring to the condo.

Now, there’s an old chicken relleno recipe in the archive that I posted in 2007. The main differences between the old chicken relleno recipe and this one is the bacon and the marinating of the deboned chicken. I used chopped chorizo de Bilbao in the 2007 recipe; I used chopped belly bacon in this one. And, instead of simply rubbing the deboned chicken with salt and pepper, I marinated it in beer, herbs, spices and seasonings.

Using bacon made a whole lot of difference in the texture of the stuffing and the chicken meat — especially the breast meat. The fat from the bacon prevented the chicken meat from drying out. And, as the fat melted and melded with the bread crumbs, it served as a wonderful binder to make a firm but not too dense stuffing. Marinating the chicken with herbs and spices made the meat more flavorful and aromatic.

Recipe: Chicken relleno

Ingredients

  • a whole dressed chicken, 2 to 2.2 kg. in weight

For the marinade:

  • 1 c. of beer
  • 2 tbsps. of salt
  • 1 tsp. of sugar
  • 1 tsp. of cayenne powder
  • 1/2 tsp. of dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. of dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. of fennel seeds

For the stuffing:

  • 250 g. of ground pork
  • 250 g. of belly bacon, chopped
  • 1/3 c. of finely chopped onions
  • 1/3 c. of finely chopped carrots
  • 1/3 c. of sweet pickle relish
  • 1/3 c. of finely chopped bell peppers (I used a combination of red and green bell peppers)
  • 3/4 c. of panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 1 tbsp. of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. of freshly milled black pepper
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, shelled

Instructions

  1. Debone the chicken. Separate the meat from the bones, NOT the meat from the skin.
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  3. Using a small pointed and very sharp knife (I used a paring knife), cut around the tail end of the chicken to separate the meat from the bone. Use swift short strokes.
  4. Do NOT push the knife too far. Just small nips. As you cut with one hand, use the other the pull the meat away from the bone. When you have about three inches of the back bone exposed, set the knife aside and use your fingers to gently separate the meat from the bone. Just start pushing your fingers inside the chicken, little by little, feeling where the bone is and then inserting your fingers between the meat and the bone.
  5. Now, you’ll need the knife again to cut through five areas — the four joints and the neck bone. The four joints are the two joints separating the thighs from the legs (drumsticks), and the two joints separating the “little drumstick” (attached to the wings) from the breast.
  6. So, just use the knife to cut through the joints. I deboned the thigh but, if you feel more comfortable, you can cut the joint that separates the thigh from the back rather than the joint that separates the thigh from the leg. That way, there’s no need to debone the thigh.
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  8. Once you’ve cut through the four joints and the neck bone, you can pull off the bony carcass in one piece.
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  10. Mix together all the ingredients for the marinade.
  11. Place the deboned chicken in a resealable bag. Pour in the marinade. Keep in the fridge overnight, turning the bag over after about six hours.
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  13. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  14. Mix together all the ingredients for the stuffing, except the hard-boiled eggs.
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  16. Take the chicken out of the bag. Stuff the cavity. You’ll have to push the stuffing all the way inside to make sure that every nook and cranny gets stuffed.
  17. Now take the three eggs and push them through the stuffing, one after the other.
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  19. Use wooden toothpicks to seal the opening. In case the skin tore, use toothpicks as well to mend the tear.
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  21. Place a rack on a baking dish and arrange the chicken on the rack. I originally intended to roast the chicken breast side up but I figured that I wanted the melted bacon fat to fall onto the breast meat so I ended up roasting the chicken breast side down.
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  23. Roast the chicken at 375F. Depending on the size of the chicken, this can take anywhere from an hour and twenty minutes to an hour and fifty minutes. If you did not debone the thighs, the roasting time would be longer to make sure that the thigh meat is cooked through.
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  25. Cover the roasted chicken relleno loosely with a foil and cool for at least 15 minutes. Longer is better. In fact, chilling it in the fridge for a couple of hours after cooling will make slicing easier.
  26. Slice the chicken and serve. You might want to pour gravy over it but, seriously, ketchup and mayo are fine with me.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 40 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

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