Sunday, November 30, 2008

Why I Roast Chicken Instead of Turkey for Thanksgiving Day Dinner

The other week I wrote why I don't roast turkeys for Thanksgiving Day dinner anymore. So what I did I cook in lieu of turkey last Thursday? Well, I roasted the closest relative of the turkey, chicken. I made it a cut above by stuffing the plump supermarket-bought chicken with sweet rice, shiitake mushrooms and walnut chips. Weeks before Thanksgiving Day, we made a choice between ham and chicken, and chicken won out because the hams on sale were much too large for my family. So chicken it was.

A day after Thanksgiving, I went to my office and the topic of conversation among some of the staff members was what to do with leftover roasted turkey. A visitor, who happened to be a foodie, said that she converts leftover roasted turkey into paksiw na turkey, using the Mang Tomas lechon sauce to give it a tiny bit of connection with the original, and much loved, paksiw na lechon. I almost gloated because they were talking about what I had been avoiding for years: that of dealing with a lot of leftover roasted turkey after Thanksgiving. Well, I do not have to deal with that anymore because I swore off roasting turkey for TG dinner more than a decade ago.

Last Thursday, I cooked a cup of sweet rice first by soaking it in lukewarm tap water for about 30 minutes and boiling it in enough water until it is cooked, about 20 minutes. I then set that aside and I sauteed a teaspoon of minced garlic, 1 medium onion sliced thinly, 10 pieces of shiitake mushrooms (pre-soaked in water) and sliced into little squares, and 1/2 cup of walnut chips.

Then I added the cooked sweet rice, added 1/2 cup of green peas, and 1 cup of chicken broth. I let it simmer for about ten minutes, which was enough time for the rice to absorb the liquid. I would have added a box of raisins, but stopped short to reduce the sugar content of the stuffing. But non-diabetics may add raisins if they so desire. Dust it with 1/3 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/3 teaspoon ground black pepper to taste.

I took the plump 5-pound dressed chicken-- already completely thawed out-- from the fridge and removed the giblets from the cavity and put them in a small plastic bag for re-freezing. Then I thoroughly cleaned the cavity, making sure that no blood residues remained. I wiped the inside and outside of the bird with a paper towel and dusted it with kosher salt and ground black pepper.

Stuffing procedure

I took the cooked stuffing from the fridge and began stuffing the chicken with it, filling the entire cavity, leaving just enough room for the anticipated expansion of the rice stuffing, then I tied the ends of the drumsticks together with twine, and closed the cavity using some pointed toothpicks. The chicken is ready for roasting in a conventional oven.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and insert an oven thermometer in the thickest part of the breast, making sure that the thermometer's probe is not lodged in the breastbone. Roast for about 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until the thermometer shows an internal temperature of 150 to 160 degrees. To make the skin to acquire a golden color, I also brushed soft butter on the chicken a few minutes before it reached full doneness.

My TG chicken was perfectly roasted in 1 hour and fifty minutes, and the pictures show how good it looks. But serving it with a beef and asparagus soup with noodles and hard-boiled eggs, and a two-pound loaf of Italian panettone bread beats just looking at the photos. You may try it next Thanksgiving Day or any day, and not worry about what to do with leftovers because there wouldn't be any.

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