Slow Cooked Boneless, Fruit-Stuffed Chicken
This is a great way to turn a large, relatively inexpensive, frozen chicken into something special for a dinner party! Guests find it interesting and unusual to watch a boneless, stuffed chicken being carved in crosswise slices from front to back, especially when the stuffing is colourful as well as tasty (and contains very little added fat).
I have found that this chicken can be prepared and cooked (on HIGH for about six hours) earlier in the day (or the day before), refrigerated, then reheated in the slow cooker (on LOW for 2 hours), just before it is served. (If you do this you can remove the toothpicks and string when the chicken is cool, which is easier, especially if you are doing it for the first time).
The recipe may seem rather long and complicated, but after you have made it once, it will be relatively easy, and worth the time involved and effort!
You need a pair of gardening (or other strong) scissors, a sharp (not necessarily large) knife for removing bones, a sharp carving knife for slicing, some toothpicks and string to hold the boned bird together, and a “sling” to hold the chicken while it cooks and in which it can be lifted out of the slow cooker when it is done.
For about 6 servings:
- 1 large frozen chicken, size 18 or 20
- about 1 cup of dried fruit (see below)
- 1 red, orange or yellow capsicum
- about ¼ cup pine nuts (optional),
- 1 tsp each of curry powder, ground cumin, and crumbled oregano
- ¼ tsp each of 5 spice powder and “chilli seasonings” (from a packet)
NOTE:. Allow time for the boning and stuffing processes if you are doing them for the first time.
Defrost the bird, unwrap it and pat it dry, and lie it, breast down, on a cutting board. Using a pair of sharp garden (or other strong) scissors, cut down each side of the backbone, through the ribs, so you remove the strip containing the neck, back and tail bones completely. Put this piece of chicken, and all the other bones you remove, in a medium-sized, clean pot.
Push the cut edges of the chicken outwards and downwards, so the bird looks quite flat, then, using a sharp knife, cut out all the bones in the central cavity, and remove them. Take care not to cut through the skin on the breast side. Cut between the thigh and upper wing bones and the bones in the body that they are connected to, leaving the legs and wings intact.
My favourite dried fruit for this stuffing is a mixture of different shaped and sized, large sultanas with some dried cranberries, but mixtures of sultanas, dried apricots and prunes, or a mixture called “fruit nuggets” are excellent, too. Halve large fruits like dried apricots and prunes, rinse all dried fruit under a cold tap, and place them on the breast meat, with the capsicum, cut into strips. Add some lightly toasted pine nuts if you like. (Do not pack the cavity tightly with dried fruit, because it expands as it cooks.)
Mix together the spices you intend to use, then sprinkle about half a teaspoon of the mixture over the dried fruit, with a little salt and pepper. Fold the cut edges of the back over the filling, then push toothpicks from one edge to the other, all the way from the neck end to the tail end. Take the string, zig-zag it round the toothpicks, from one side to the other, and from one end to the other and back again, and knot the ends. When you have done this, there should be no openings where any stuffing can fall out while the bird cooks.
Turn the chicken over, so it is breast-side up, and put it on a non-stick Teflon liner, or a folded piece of foil, or doubled baking paper. Rub it all over with a little oil, then sieve the rest of the spice mixture all over it.
Turn a fairly large, preferably oval, slow cooker to HIGH, coat it with non-stick spray and lower the chicken into it, on its supporting “sling”. Cover and cook on HIGH from 5–6 hours, until the juices run clear when the bird is pierced, and the flesh feels cooked.
Turn off the cooker, lift the chicken out onto a low-sided tray, etc. and turn it over carefully. Pull out the toothpicks, lift away the string, then turn the bird breast-side up again. Serve immediately or refrigerate it and reheat later as explained above.
To carve, cut off the wings and legs, then cut the boneless, stuffed chicken into crosswise slices, starting at the neck end, and working towards the back. Serve the wings, thighs and drumsticks alongside the slices. .
Optional gravy: Make stock by covering the bones with 2–3 cups of water, with flavourings to taste, and simmering them for 2–3 hours. Strain off the stock, add the juices from the slow cooker, and use the liquid to make gravy to serve with the chicken if you like. Stir together in a medium-sized frying pan, over moderate heat, 25 g butter, 1 Tbsp oil and 3 Tbsp flour until evenly browned, then stir in about 2 cups of the liquid, half a cup at a time, letting the mixture bubble and thicken before you add more. 2 cups of liquid should make a medium-thick gravy. Let it simmer for 3 – 5 minutes, then season carefully if necessary, and reheat before serving with the chicken
Variations: Replace the fruit stuffing with any other stuffing you like.
Villa Maria Private Bin Hawkes Bay 2006
Millton Estate Clos de St. Anne 2005
Leeuwin Estate Art Series 2004
The Jibe 2006
Neudorf Moutere 2005
Felton Road Block 3 2006