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      RECIPE TITLE "Georgian Stuffed Chicken" recipe from Feast , Copyright 2006 by Nigella Lawson

    ... more great recipes by Nigella Lawson on our GREAT CHEFS page!

    yieldsserves 8 time ---difficultymoderate

    I am never so innocently happy as when making roast chicken. This is a more work-intensive take on it, but the supreme dish for a feast: the bronze-breasted, crisp-skinned birds come to the table bursting with their sour-sweet rice stuffing. As I've said about turkey, in a very primitive way, the stuffing is meant to remind us of the fullness of life, which is what a feast essentially celebrates.
    The rice stuffing takes on a deep savoury meatiness as it absorbs more flavour than you ever thought a chicken could have, but the only problem is you don't get much more than a spoonful or two per person like this. You do lose some flavour, but it's worth cooking a batch of the rice mixture in a saucepan, too, in which case use chicken stock (mine is, as ever, concentrated-instant not freshly made, though fresh organic stock from a supermarket tub would be a wonderful alternative) rather than water as you need to oomph up flavour. And when the rice in the pan is cooked, fork in a little butter as you add the parsley, sprinkling with more parsley and a few toasted pinenuts in the serving dish.
    Please don't feel this Georgian stuffed chicken must be cooked only as a part of the full-on feast. I don't deny it's particularly good with the beetroot and beans on pages 313 and 315, neither of which could remotely be called quick everyday recipes, but without the cheesebread and melon beforehand, this makes a fabulous weekend lunch that wouldn't be ludicrously exhausting to make. Especially since the beetroot can be wrapped in foil and roasted the night before as you veg out in front of the TV, leaving you with a not too labour-intensive morning ahead and a lunch that's really worth inviting people to.
    As part of a feast, though, no part of this meal requires defence or apology for the work involved. A feast demands concentrated effort and there is no point embarking on one unless you take a policy decision to enjoy the bustling preparations. This may not be possible very often, but when it is, try and go with it. If you choose to cook, it can, in the right frame of mind, feel like a devotional activity, a way to celebrate being alive; if you're forced into it, then it's drudgery.

      RECIPE INGREDIENTS

    2 x 2.25kg chickens
    30g soft butter
    FOR THE STUFFING
    60g butter (plus fat from inside the chicken cavity)
    2 onions
    2 cloves garlic
    200g basmati rice
    80g dried sour cherries, roughly chopped
    500ml water
    4 tablespoons chopped parsley

      RECIPE METHOD

    For the stuffing, melt butter along with any gobbets of fat from the chicken's cavity in a wide saucepan (one that has a lid). Process or finely chop the onion and garlic, and add to the pan with the butter, frying over a medium heat until the onion softens and begins to colour.
    Discard bits of the rendered chicken, add the rice and chopped cherries, and give everything a good stir so that the rice becomes slicked with the fat. Add the water and a sprinkling of salt and bring to the boil, then clamp on the lid and cook at the lowest heat possible for 15 minutes. While the rice is cooking, preheat your oven to gas mark 7/220°C. When the rice is ready, by which I mean, all the water will be absorbed and the rice be more or less cooked, fork through the chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper.
    Spoon the cherry-studded rice into the cavities of both chickens, and secure the openings with two or three cocktail sticks. The easiest way to do this is to pinch together the flaps of skin from each side of the cavity and make a stitch to hold them with a cocktail stick.
    Rub the secured chickens with the butter and roast in the oven for 1 1/2-2 hours. The skin should be golden and crispy and the meat cooked through; test by piercing the bird between thigh and body and if juices run clear, the chicken's ready. The reason why the chickens take longer than you would normally give them is twofold: in the first instance, the rice stuffing impedes the flow of hot air; in the second, having two birds in the oven tends to make each take longer to brown.
    Pull out the cocktail sticks and let the chickens rest before carving.

     

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