When my husband and I first started dating, lo these many years ago, he traveled almost constantly for work. Dining out was not much of a treat for him. Eating at home was. We made an agreement: During the rest of the weekend we would do whatever - dine out, be social, whatever. On Sundays, though, we would always enjoy a home-cooked meal. That's the real reason we have our Sunday open-house dinners. When we started having his martial-arts practice at our house on Sunday people wanted to be social afterward. We could either abandon that tradition, that agreement between us, or we could invite them to join in that tradition and be a part of it.
Now, that did require a certain amount of change. During the season - pretty much any time the temperature is warm enough for them to be outdoors - I am mostly relegated to side dishes while my husband makes the main course on the Big Green Egg. This is more or less okay. I mean, at least we're all together, right? We're enjoying it and we're together and all that. But I will admit that I sometimes feel a little... limited. I'm the side dish queen.
This past Sunday was different. There was a big event down in Connecticut somewhere - I didn't go, I stayed back with Fearless Toddler - and there was no need to gather on Sunday. I had the opportunity to once again cook Sunday dinner the way I used to, and I took it. I decided to roast a chicken, because that's a nice thing to do on a Sunday evening. My husband did offer to roast the bird on the Egg and I took him up on it, because nothing cooks poultry to perfection like the Big Green Egg. (If your living situation allows it you should really pick one up; it is the best kitchen investment we have ever made.) I had initially intended a starch-based stuffing; I think I was thinking bulgur. I decided against it because of the logistics of coordinating between two different people. I'm glad I did. The apple, cranberry and mushroom stuffing worked to perfection and would have been suitable for those following a low-carbohydrate diet. I cooked some squash underneath the bird to soak up the pan drippings and because it's a great way to cook squash. It was also the first winter squash of the season and pleased all of us greatly, even me.
My daughter couldn't get enough of this chicken. The secret is in the seasoning, which I kept very simple. I mixed kosher salt, black pepper and nutmeg together and rubbed them under the skin. Rubbing the rub under the skin allows the flavor to penetrate the meat itself. The nutmeg matches well with apples and squash and doesn't clash with any of the other flavors when used in moderation. Seriously, try this sometime when you want a nice, autumnal meal to impress your guests.
If you don't have a Big Green Egg, you can still make this dish although without that lovely smoked color and flavor. Put the vegetables in a roasting pan as directed and set a roasting rack over them. Put the chicken on the rack. This way you will still get the drippings onto the vegetables.
Roast Chicken Stuffed with Apples, Cranberries and Mushrooms (serves 4; approx. $6.25/serving)
1 roasting chicken
1 jar dried black trumpet mushrooms, soaked in hot water and chopped (reserve the soaking liquid for another recipe, such as rice)
3 apples, diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 red onions, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- Big Green Egg (see note above for indoor cooking instructions)
- Roasting pan
- Prepare your Egg for indirect cooking at 400︒. We used maple for smoking.
- Put the squash and red onions in the roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to loosely coat.
- Combine the salt, pepper and nutmeg and rub them under the skin of the chicken on both sides. Yes, this is kind of gross.
- Combine the apples, rehydrated mushrooms and cranberries and stuff into the cavity of the chicken. If you have any extra stuffing, toss it in with the squash.
- Put the roasting pan where the drip pan goes, put the (clean) grate on top and put the chicken over the drip pan on the grate. Roast until done.
- I strongly urge you to use an instant-read digital thermometer to determine doneness rather than eye, experience or guesswork. Salmonella is no fun and is a higher risk when stuffing a chicken. Check the temperature of the stuffing, too.
- Let the bird rest for about 10 minutes under tin foil before slicing and serving.