Perfect Roast Chicken Stuffed with Spicy Matzoh Brei

Roast chicken, simple and familiar as it is, remains one of the most perfectly pleasing meals. When stuffed with a spicy matzoh brei, it is elevated to special occasion status, appropriate for the grandeur of a seder. For me, a chicken should be aromatic with herbs, moist and juicy with crisp golden skin. And roasting the chicken according to the special method described here produces an exceptionally moist breast and crisp skin.

I am a great believer in free-range chickens as they have far less fat and far more flavor. In the summer I get all my chickens from my friends Gus and Barbara at Pine Flill Farms in Hope, New Jersey. Now these chickens are as free range as you can get. I have seen Gus personally chase the chickens around the yard to make sure that they get enough exercise.

Passover has always been special for me, partly because I was born at that time of year so I felt, when I was growing up, that it was my personal holiday. But what is most special to me is the two nights of seders, not only the most lavish food-related ceremonies in all of Jewish tradition, but also a deeply meaningful celebration of survival and freedom from oppression. The annual retelling of escape of the Jews from Pharaoh’s oppression, interwoven with the ritual communal consumption of symbolic ingredients (as pictured on the table), such as the horseradish to represent the bitterness of oppression and cinnamon-flavored chopped apples to represent the mortar used to build the pyramids, makes for an uplifting reaffirmation of life.

Memories of Passovers past include those I spent with my grandmother at a hotel in upstate New York. My parents did not keep the kosher tradition, and although my mother’s mother, who lived with us, was Orthodox, she found it more convenient to go to a resort for a week rather than go through all the elaborate preparations required to make a house ready for Passover. Until I went to college, she always took me along. At the Empire Hotel, most families had their own table at dinner but because my grandmother and I were alone, we were seated with other people who did not come with large families. I’ll always remember the sound of manishtana, the four questions, coming from all corners of the room, being chanted at different intervals and with different tunes depending on the origins of the family and how quickly they progressed through the seder. As a child, it always seemed like the recounting of the story would never end and we would never get to eat.

Since I married Elliott, we have always had the pleasure of seders spent with his large family, in which there are at least three men capable of correctly conducting a seder. Although tradition has yielded to a modified seder, in deference to the children’s impatience, Elliott’s brother Sam still takes great pride in the schmere matzoh made by hand in the traditional method and presented to him each year by an Orthodox rabbi. Our sister-in-law Betty makes the best matzoh balls and gefilte fish, and I always bring the dessert.

This year, I plan to prepare my new recipe for matzoh-brei-stuffed chicken later in the Passover week. But we both enjoy it so much, I doubt if I will wait until the following Passover to make it again!

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For the crispiest skin, place the chicken on a rack, preferably V-shaped, in a pan to catch any juices and allow it to sit, uncovered, in the refrigerator overnight.
One hour before roasting, remove the chicken from the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to: 425°F.
Baking time: 60 to 75 minutes
Internal temperature (thigh): 175°F. to 180°F.
INGREDIENTS MEASURE WEIGHT
volume ounces/pounds grams/kilograms
1 chicken (preferably free range) 3.5 to 4 pounds 1 kilogram, 588 grams to 1 kilogram, 814 grams
1 large clove garlic, cut in half and peeled 6 grams
goose fat or unsalted butter 1 tablespoon 0.5 ounce 14 grams
salt ½ teaspoon
black pepper, freshly ground a few grindings
cayenne pepper a pinch or two
Spicy Matzoh Brei
water 1 liquid cup

Method

At least 15 minutes before roasting, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Rub the chicken all over with the cut garlic and then with the goose fat or butter. Sprinkle the chicken inside and out with the salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Spoon the stuffing into the chicken and secure the opening with a skewer. Fold the wing tips back under the back. Leave the chicken untrussed and return it, breast side up, to the rack in the pan.

*Untrussed, chicken browns more evenly.

Roast the chicken for 45 minutes, basting every 15 minutes with the pan drippings. (Tilt the pan so that the drippings collect in one corner. Keep the oven door open as briefly as possible when basting. Do not include basting time in the 45-minute roasting time.)

Turn the chicken breast side down and continue roasting until done, 15 minutes longer for a -pound bird, 30 minutes for a 4-pound bird. An instant-read thermometer inserted in the thigh, not touching the bone, should read 175°F. to 180°F.

Let the chicken rest on the rack for 15 to 30 minutes before carving so that it can reabsorb its juices and the skin remains crisp.

Meanwhile, skim as much fat as possible from the juices in the roasting pan. Add the water to the pan, and bring to a boil on top of the range, stirring to release the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil, stirring constantly, until reduced to cup. Pour into a gravy boat and serve with the chicken.