Roast Boned Chicken with Liver and Sausage Stuffing

Pollo Ripieno al Vermut

Italian cooking has fewer dishes requiring elaborate preparation than some other cuisines, but it has a few and this is one of them. The only part that demands patience is the boning of the chicken. Keep the inch-by-inch directions by you as you work, and you will find it quite straightforward.

Making the remarkable stuffing is extremely simple: You do little more than assemble and mix the components. Do not consider omitting the liver. It transforms the taste of the chicken into one closer to that of a game bird. Avoid sausages bearing a heavy load of herbs and spices; their only ingredients, aside from the pork, should be salt and black pepper. The vermouth contributes a penetrating herbal quality to the mix of flavors; the dark rum provides the finish, redolent of caramel.

Ingredients

  • A 3½-pound chicken
  • 1 cup crumb—the soft, crustless part of bread—cut into 1-inch pieces
  • cup milk
  • ½ pound calf’s liver
  • 6 ounces mild sausage (see headnote) or pancetta or ground pork with fat content
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped sage
  • ½ teaspoon very finely chopped garlic
  • The grated peel of 1 small lemon or ½ large one
  • Salt
  • Black pepper ground fresh
  • tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves, chopped fine
  • ½ cup dry white vermouth
  • 8 to 10 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum

Needle and white thread

A broad pastry brush

Matches

Method

Boning the Chicken

  1. You will need a very sharp knife with a short blade. Place the chicken with the breast down, facing the work counter, and make a single, straight cut from the neck all the way down to the tail, probing deeply enough to reach the backbone.
  2. Do one whole side of the bird at a time. Begin at the neck, detaching the flesh from the bones by prying it loose with your fingers and, where necessary, cutting it from the bone with the knife. Always angle the blade’s cutting edge toward the bone and away from the skin. Continue thus as you work your way down the chicken’s back.
  3. When you have passed the midway point and are approaching the small of the back, you will find a small saucer-shaped bone filled with meat. Pull the meat away with your fingers, cutting it loose with the knife when necessary. Further on you will come to the hip joint. Use your fingers to loosen as much of the meat around it as you can, then sever the joint from the carcass with poultry shears. With one hand, hold the end of the chickens leg, and with the other, pull the meat away from the hipbone. When you come to long white filaments—the tendons—sever them at the bone with your knife.
  4. The next joint you must deal with is the one connecting the hipbone to the drumstick. Hold the hipbone in one hand and the drumstick in the other, and snap off the hipbone at the joint. You can now remove the hipbone completely, using your knife to scrape it loose from any meat still attached to it. Whenever the knife is your hand, always think about the skin, taking care not to tear it or pierce it.
  5. Next, you must remove the drumstick bone. Start at the thick, fleshy end and loosen the meat from the bone, pulling it away with your fingers when it will give, detaching it with the knife when necessary. Sever the tendons at the bone, leaving them attached to the flesh. Work your way gently to the knobby end of the drumstick, taking care not to split the skin. As you continue to pull the meat away from the bone, you will find this part of the chicken turning itself inside out like a glove. When you are about ½ inch away from the drumstick’s knob, make a circular cut, cutting skin, meat, and tendons clear through to the bone. Grasp the bone by its knob and push it back through the leg until it slips out at the other end.
  6. Return to the upper part of the back. Pulling with your fingers and scraping against the bone with the knife, free the flesh from the rib cage, moving toward the breastbone. When you reach the breastbone, leave the skin attached to the bone’s crest for the time being.
  7. Joined to the wing you will find the shoulder bone. Pry the meat loose from it, using your fingers when you can and the knife when you need to, then sever the bone at the joint where it meets the wing, and remove it. With poultry shears, cut off the end segment of the wing. Do not bother to remove the bones from that part of the wing still attached to the body.
  8. Bone the other side of the bird, repeating the procedure described above, until the chicken is attached to its carcass only at the crest of the breastbone.
  9. Turn the chicken over so that the breast faces you and the carcass rests on the counter. Pick up the two loose sides of the bird’s flesh, and lift them above the carcass, holding them with one hand. With the knife, carefully free the skin from its hold on to the crest of the breastbone. You must be at your most careful here, because the skin is very thin where it is attached to the bone, and easily slit. Keep the cutting edge and the point of the knife turned away from the skin, scraping the blade along the bones surface. When you have completely loosened the flesh, discard the carcass. Your boned chicken is ready for the stuffing.

Making the Stuffing

  1. Put the cut-up crumb and the milk in a small saucepan, warm over low heat without letting the milk come to a boil, then take off heat and allow to cool.
  2. Remove the skin from the liver and pick out as many tubes as possible. Chop the liver fine and put it into a mixing bowl.
  3. If you are using sausage, skin it and crumble it. If using pancetta, chop it very fine. Place in the mixing bowl with the liver.
  4. Add to the bowl the parsley, sage, garlic, grated lemon rind, and salt, and several grindings of black pepper. With your hand, retrieve the milk-soaked crumb from the saucepan and squeeze to free it of excess milk, then add it to the bowl, turning over all ingredients with a fork several times to amalgamate them into a uniform mixture.

Stuffing the Chicken

  1. Place the boned chicken skin side down on a work counter. Use some of the stuffing mixture to fill the places in the legs where the bones used to be. Take the rest of the mixture and shape it into an oval mass about as long as the chicken. Put it in the center of the chicken, and bring the bird’s skin around and over it, covering the stuffing completely. One edge of the skin should overlap the other by approximately 1 inch. Mold the mass under the skin with your hands to restore the chicken as closely as possible to its original shape.
  2. Sew up the skin, starting at the neck and working down toward the tail. Use a sort of overcast stitch, looping the stitches over the edge of the skin. Make sure you have sewn up all the openings and have put the needle out of harm’s way, outside the kitchen.

Cooking the Chicken

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
  2. Place the chicken in a roasting pan. Put the olive oil and chopped rosemary with some salt into a small bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Dip a pastry brush into the mixture and paint the chicken. Turn the chicken breast side down and place it in the upper middle the oven.
  3. After 25 minutes, turn the oven thermostat down to 325°, turn the chicken onto its back, use the pastry brush to baste the breast with the juices that have collected in the pan, and cook for 20 minutes more.
  4. Pour over it half the vermouth; after 10 to 15 minutes, pour over the remaining vermouth and cook for 15 minutes longer.
  5. Remove the pan from the oven, and cut away the thread. Scatter the bay leaves in the bottom of the pan. Put the rum on a large serving spoon, set fire to it with a match, and quickly pour it over the chicken.
  6. Place the chicken on a carving board and pour the juices from the pan into a warm saucer or small sauceboat.
  7. Carve the chicken at the table, starting at the neck, making thin slices. Pour a few drops of the warm juices over each slice when serving. If serving the bird cold omit the juices.

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