Wow! Just wow! What a busy summer it was. Visited my youngens, and grand-youngens, twice. Had to tend my veggie garden, do a little fishin’, and of course attend that necessary blessing/evil, the job. Couple that with cooking for pot-lucks, friends, and family, and you can begin to understand how I had so little time to put anything new in the blog.
But don’t despair; I’ve got a new laptop, and summer vacation is over. So class, get out your pens, pencils, erasers… Jim, Jim! Don’t you dare snap Beth’s braw-strap. And girls, if any one of our young men should snap your braw-strap, you have my permission to throw them in the river, even if there’s snow on the ground.
Now, where were we? Oh yes, today’s lesson, and it’s a good one. How may of you have eaten acorn squash. No, Linda, making that awful face won’t get you excused from class. And besides, you just might find you really like squash, when prepared right. What’s that? Your Mom always made hers by boiling and then mashing it with a ton of butter and brown sugar? Well if she added egg, evaported milk, cinamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger to it, and then baked it in a pie shell, there’s nothing wrong with that. But that’s not what we’re making. This pumpkin recipe takes the wonderful texture and flavor of roasted pumpkin, and matches it to the savory goodness of bread stuffing. And with those great flavors, we are going to add a succulent, juicy, and tender roast chicken. Now who wants some of that!
Oh, I see all of you have your hands up now. Very good. Wanna see what it looks like? Well read on my intrepid chefs-in the-making.
Acorn squash is a nutrient rich, and delicious member of the winter squash family. It is inexpensive, stores well in the pantry, and is versatile enough to be presented as a main course, a side dish, or as a desert. For this meal, we will use it as a side dish. Here’s what you’re gonna need:
1 3 to 4 lb. whole roasting chicken
1 large acorn squash, green, orange, or some combination of the two
1/2 cup salted butter, divided into two halves
1 gallon of water
3 tbs. Powdered Thyme
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp. rubbed sage
2 tsp. paprika
3 tbs. granulated garlic powder
2 medium sized onions
4 slices stale bread
3 cups chicken broth
5 medium russet potatoes
3 strips bacon
Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees F.
In a three gallon soup pot, or two gallon zipper, freezer bag, mix 1 cup of salt into 1 gallon of water. Add the thyme and granulated garlic. Stir until the salt is dissolved.
Rinse and clean the chicken under cold running water. and place into the water, making sure the bird is completely submerged. Seal, and place into your refrigerator overnight. This is what it looks like:
Salty brine infuses the chicken with moisture and flavor.
Ok. Now that we have our bird brined overnight, and supper is in two hours, let’s get the rest of this meal made. Remember to get all of your ingredients together in the order in which they will be used.
Now that we have our ingredients, let’s prepare them. First, we’ll prepare the veggies. So peel and slice the potatoes (yes, that’s a giant potato, and I only needed one for the meal); then wash al slice the celery, cutting off and discarding the ends.
Remember, tuck in that thumb.
I like it!
Take those chopped and chunked veggies an put them into the roasting pot.
Now we take on the chicken. See that bacon in the above picture, you know, the one with the chicken and bacon in it. Cut that bacon across its width, into thin strips. Now we’re going to make thin slits downward, into the chicken breast, on both sides of the breastbone.
notice that I’m pushing those strips of bacon right into the slits. Those pieces of yummy bacon will make the meat more juicy, and give an unmistakeable smokey nuance to the chicken. Can you say yum? C’mon, let me hear it.
Stuff any leftover bacon under the skin, smoothing it as flat as possible.
Take those remaining herbs and combine the in a small bowl. Mix ’em up. Add a little salt, and fresh ground pepper to the mix. Ok, now rub the outside of the bird with butter 1/2 of the butter. And yes Tom, you have to use your hands. Take a pinch or two and sprinkle it all over the bird, top, sides, and bottom. Pour 2 cups of broth into the roasting pan, place the bird on a rack, and into the pan. Here’s what that looks like.
The bird is ready for the oven. Let’s get the squash prepared. First, cut off the top, and using a fork, scrape out all of the seeds and discard them (or make into pepitas).
Half of that broth has already been pored into the roasting pan for the chicken.
But isn’t that squash just gorgeous?
Take the bread, place each slice on top of each other and cut into cubes., on a clean cutting board of course, and cut into cubes. place the cubes, and one stalk of clean, sliced celery into a mixing bowl. Add chopped onion, sage, salt, black pepper, the eggs, and 1 cup of chicken broth, then stir until well combined.
Jack, how are we going to get the stuffing into the squash? What’s that? A little louder so the rest of the class can hear. Yes, that’s right. We’re going to stuff it in with the fork. Very good. Stuff it in so that it’s packed. It will expand as it cooks, but will come out of the hole a bit, brown, and look just yummy.
Mow that your squash is stuffed, place it pointy side down, in a ramekin dish, and cover loosely with foil. Place both the chicken, and the squash into the oven. Now, just walk away for about forty minutes. Play a game of darts or something.
Alright class. The forty minutes has passed. it’s tie to do what, Jim? That’s very good. We’re going to check the chicken temperature. so take your meat thermometer, the one that’s calibrated, and push the tip from the center of one side of the chicken breast, down next to the leg joint. What’s it read 145 degrees, well that’s not hot enough. Pop it back into the oven, with the door closed for another twenty minutes.
So now what’s it read? 165, time to take it out. Carefully remove the chicken from the pan, and set it onto your clean cutting sheet. Let it rest for about fifteen minutes or so. Take the squash out too, and set it aside. While it’s resting, remove the potatoes and celery from the pan and onto a 2 quart pot. Cover with broth from the pan, cover, and bring to a boil. Let it cook for the fifteen minutes that the chicken is resting.
Now, pour off that juice into a suitable bowl. Add the remaining butter to the spuds, along with a quarter cup of milk, and mash until silky smooth. Put the smashed spuds into a serving bowl and keep warm. Put the broth back into the pot that the potatoes were in. don’t worry about any left over potato in the pot. It will help thicken the gravy. Bring that to a low boil. While it is heating, in a cup, add two tbs of cornstarch to three tbs. of water. Stir until smooth. Slowly pour this slurry into the boiling broth, while stirring. When it has thickened, remove from the heat into a serving vessel.
Ok, carve that bird. Serve up portions of everything to everyone and enjoy with your favorite beverage.
When I sat down to eat, I also put a heaping helping of both the squash, and stuffing on my plate. It was all soooo good. I think I was stuffed after it was eaten. My wife said to me that this chicken was the juiciest, and most tender that she ever had eaten. Go ahead ask her.
To be absolutely truthfull, I have made roasted chicken that was as juicy, and as tender. But the brine, and bacon lardoons really added to the meat flavor. And that squash was the perfect accompaniment. I gave my wife the mashed potatoes, and ate only the squash and dressing. It was that good. And I do love good mashed potatoes.
In October, I’m going to show you how to treat your kids to their very own, yummy, edible jack-o-lanterns, that will taste a whole lot like pumpkin pie. Until then, eat well, eat healthy. And remember that wonderful quote; “There is no success outside the home that can compensate for failure withing the home.
From the Kitchen of G.W.North