Tuesday 14 April 2009

Stuffing chooks

I promise that this will be the last in a short series of recipes for manly men. Men who like to eat like men. Perhaps even men who eat other men.

Let's not go there.

Today, we feature stuffing. I'm talking about stuffing a chook, or a duck, or even a goose. If you want to stuff an economy, go talk to Woin Swan. Or, if you want to see a goose stuff an economy.... still go and see Woin Swan. If you want to see a chicken act like a turkey, go see Krudd.

Question - can I use this recipe to stuff a dolphin?

Answer - go away. You annoy me.

Question - what about fish?

Answer - what about them?

You can use this for just about anything that flies, or would like to fly. It's good with chooks, ducks, geese and turkeys. Do not start me on ducks stuffed into geese and then stuffed into turkeys.

Question - what about penguins?

Answer - I thought I told you to go away.

First, get your bird. Fresh, frozen, hanging in the shed out the back and slowly going green - whatever. Do the usual thawing and rinsing and cleaning. This stuffing is no good without something to stuff, so sort out the stuffee before thinking about the stuffing. Otherwise, you will be stuffed.

Question - does it need to be organic?

Answer - I prefer them with the organs removed.

Question - no, "organic".

Answer - is that short for "organ mechanic"? Sounds like a prostitute to me. Or a quack that does penis extensions. What has that got to do with the stuffing of chickens? (Russ Meyer fans may recall a certain barnyard scene in one of his movies that involved a naked man with a chicken - I will not go there).

You really only need three things to make a stuffing (apart from a chook or duck or whatever) - onions, bread and herbs. So go and find those three things to start with.

Question - brown onions or white onions?

Answer - what are you, a racist? I have no onion preferences, and I do not think it necessary for my young children to be forced to play with brown and white onions in kindergarten so that they don't grow up with weird prejudices.

Question - how many onions?

Answer - well, how big is your bird, and how big are your onions? Forget that. Start with two onions that are smaller than a cricket ball. We're going to make more stuffing than will actually fit into the bird, so don't sweat it. But if you are doing a big bird (not the Big Bird) then you can scale things up.

Question - but don't you need to sweat the onions?

Answer - ok smartarse, you are right. But that comes later. To start with, just find two onions.

Question - does it matter if they are a lot smaller than cricket balls?

Answer - no. So long as they are bigger than golf balls.

Question - what is a cricket ball?

Answer - something real men bowl at each other at high speed. If you still don't get it, go find a baseball. Then find two onions smaller than that.

Now you need some bread.

Question - can I use packet breadcrumbs that I bought at the supermarket.

Answer - leave this blog and never come back. Mention breadcrumbs again and I will feed you feet first into a wood chipper.

Let me start again. Now you need some bread. Preferably a good Italian loaf, like ciabatta.

Question - how do you pronounce that?

Answer - I have no idea. I walk into the wog deli and point.

Question - what about a french stick?

Answer - if you were suggesting that we have a bowl of hot chocolate and wanted some bread to dip in it, I would say yes. But we are making stuffing, so you need something with body. The bread needs to be chewy. If you feed ciabatta to pensioners, their false teeth will come out. That's the sort of bread you need. It's the sort of bread where you need cheek muscles like Arnie to chew it.

Question - what about Wonderbread?

Answer - that is right up there with packet breadcrumbs. Wonderbread is not bread. It's a wonder the food and health authorities allow them to call it bread. It is not bread. It is white paste with small holes in it. Go away.

Question - what about brown bread?

Answer - fuck off hippy.

Select a few large slices of ciabatta, or whatever chewy loaf you have managed to find. Yes, you can bake your own bread at home if you want to. Sheesh. Ciabatta is not even and square - it is normally shaped like an enormous, slightly flattened slug. Use the big slices from the middle. Get your olive oil - you do have olive oil? - and a pastry brush (which is just a fancy term for paint brush that has not been used to paint anything yet) and brush olive oil on both sides of the bread. Pop them in the toaster and toast them for about half the time you would normally toast a bit of bread.

Be careful here - the oil will cause the bread to toast at least twice as fast as normal. Watch it carefully. Having your toaster catch on fire at this point will not help things.

Question - how much oil should I apply?

Answer - just don't soak it in like a sponge. Apply a thin coat - like the first coat that you apply over the undercoat when spray painting a car.

Question - I've never spray painted a car.

Answer - that is not a question. And you are not a man. Be gone.

Once you bread is slightly brown - all you want is for it to be crispy and crunchy, not black - you essentially have croutons made via a manly method. Let the bread cool - the oil will make it dastardly hot, like molten lead when you are casting your own shot, so don't try and grab it straight out of the toaster.

Question - I've never cast my own shot.

Answer - that is not a question either, and you are not a man. Didn't I tell you to be gone? Be gone! Begaaaaawn!

Once it has cooled down a bit, slice it into small squares. You do that by slicing the bread into thin strips, then rotating the strips through 90 degrees and slicing across the strips to make squares.

Question - can I make rectangles instead?

Answer - it's your stuffing. You can make love hearts for all I care.

Question - should I cut the crusts off?

Answer - this is stuffing for men, not girls! Men eat their crusts! Leave the crusts on!

Throw all the nicely toasted bread squares (or lovehearts) with crusts into a big bowl. Try not to eat too many of them. If you have selected a good loaf of bread, and a good olive oil, they will be delicious. Wonderbread (curses be upon it) and flavourless oils fall flat on their faces at this point. It is important to use good bread and a flavoursome olive oil!

If you want to go slightly nuts, you can cut a garlic clove and rub it on the oiled bread before you toast it, or you can even make up a mix of oil and garlic and paint that on the bread and then toast it, but bits of garlic will fall off and land in the toaster, and it doesn't smell that great when you are making toast and vegemite for breakfast the next day. We aren't making genuine croutons here - we are making manly stuffing. Men do not ponce around with frying croutons in a pan.

Remember those onions?

Peel them and chop them up. Normally, one would say "dice", but you might think I am talking about a game of chance and start rolling them across the bench top to see what numbers come up. Chop them as finely or as coarsely as you like. I prefer as fine as I can make them without removing my fingertips.

Put a frying pan on the stove, add a glug of olive oil heat to medium heat and when the oil has warmed up, chuck the onions in and let them sweat. That means fiddle with them from time to time by pushing them this way and that with a wooden spoon or a fancy silicone spatula. Do not use your fingers to do this. After a few minutes, chop up some garlic and throw that in. Or do what I do - throw the onions on, then start peeling and grating garlic (I have a very nifty little garlic grater to do this). By the time you have finished applying the last bandaid to your fingers after grating the tips off, it will be time to throw in the garlic.

Question - how much garlic?

Answer - does your girlfriend like garlic? If not, I suggest none. If she likes it, as much as you want.

Do not let the garlic go dark brown! Just cook it enough to take the sharp edge off it - until it is golden. But cook the onion - it will not cook much more once you put it into the chook, and you do not want half-raw onion in your stuffing.

Then tip the onion and garlic in with the breadcrumbs. Or, you can tip the breadcrumbs into the pan (if it is big enough) and infuse the pan flavour into them. Then tip the whole lot into your nice, big bowl. If it tastes good at this point, you are off to a good start. It should taste like a steak sandwich with BBQ'd onions, but without the steak. Got that?

Now the fun begins. It is time to raid your kitchen cupboards, and your herb garden (if you have one) or your neighbour's herb garden (if they are not armed, and have no attack dogs).

If you have pinenuts, toss them into the frying pan you have just used and swizzle them around from time to time until they have browned a bit. What that usually means is that about half have a big brown patch on them and the rest still look raw. That's enough - toss them into the bowl.

Question - how many pinenuts should I use?

Answer - I have a big resealable tub that all my nuts and dried fruit lives in. I usually hunt around and fish out a half used bag of pinenuts. That is sufficient.

Question - can I use pine cones?

Answer - you have a serious problem. And your name is probably Antony Lowenstein.

The best way to spark up a stuffing is to add lots of dried fruit and lots of herbs. You know the stuffing that you get when you buy a whole chook from say Red Rooster? (it is a greenish paste of breadcrumbs and finely chopped lawn clippings). You want your stuffing to look and feel and taste nothing like that. Use that as your guide.

I usually roughly chop dried dates, apricots and whatever else I find in the cupboard and then throw them into the bowl.

Question - can I use dried apple?

Answer - I am not allowed to eat dried apple. I ate a whole packet on the way to the snow once, and did the most horrendous farts for the next 4 days. The whole lodge slept with the windows open, even though it was well below freezing outside. I even cleared an entire bar one night. Everyone ran outside with their drinks - we're talking hundreds of people. If I farted on the chairlift, you could hear dozens of chairs full of people behind me complaining about the stench. The worst moment came when I fluffed on the chair lift, and it stopped! We almost lifted the safety bar and jumped. You can risk dried apple, but I won't.

The trick is not to end up with a dried fruit salad, but a nice mix of fruit, herbs, bread and onions. I don't use things like raisins, but I have tossed in dried cranberries. I don't recommend them. Stick to things that you would normally eat fresh off a tree - apricots, dates and so on.

Question - what about the herbs?

Answer - well, what does your garden grow? I avoid coriander and basil - too strong. Parsley is good, but in small quantities. Same with rosemary. Sage can be thrown in by the handful. I love lemon thyme with chook, but I normally make a herb butter with garlic and lemon thyme and stuff that under the skin, so I don't put much in the stuffing - you want to mix things up a bit. Lawn clippings are definitely out. Those thin green things that look like tubular grass - they are definitely in. Put lots of them in.

I also like to zest a lemon or an orange and toss that in the stuffing, maybe with just a small squeeze of the fruit as well. I then chop the lemon in half and use that to seal the chook after filling it with stuffing. More on that at the end.

So, now you have a glorious stuffing mix. Taste it. You should want to eat it as it is. It should be a nice balance of tasty bread, aromatic onions and herbs and garlic and the sweetness and richness of dried fruit. If you have got it right, you should now be hoping to have way, way too much of it, as you will want to eat a fair amount before sticking it into the orifice of a raw chicken.

Question - can I add booze?

Answer - I like to add a touch of tawny port from time to time.

Question - how much?

Answer - well, I pour a good measure of port into a glass when I start making the stuffing. If there is any left by the time the stuffing is made, I tip that into the stuffing. You just want a hint of flavour - not so much that you end up with fruit floating in a thick port soup.

Question - should I add an egg to thicken it?

Answer - I wouldn't bother. You can if you want. If you add an egg, you will have to stop eating it. That's why I don't add an egg.

Don't forget the salt and pepper. Use plenty of salt - the fruit is sweet, so you need salt to offset it. Just don't turn it into a salt lick.

Stuff the chook, and when it is full, stick the lemon halves in at the end to stop the stuffing falling out. You should have stuffing left over - stick it in a ramekin, cover it with foil and bake it in the oven with the chook.

Here is my advice about the bread. Lots of juice will run out of the chook as it cooks. Some of that will run internally into the stuffing. If you use shitty, pasty, gooey white bread, you will end up with mush. If you use a tough, crusty, chewy bread like ciabatta, it will absorb the tasty juices without dissolving into a floury slop. I have used ciabatta that was a week old and tough as a shingle. At that age, you trim the mouldy bits off, oil it, toast it and then chuck it in. The tough old bread, when cooked inside a chook with fruit and herbs, will emerge with plenty of body and stacks of taste. Do not skimp on the quality of the bread.

Cook the chook however you normally cook it. I take it you can roast a chook. If not, go consult Pogria.

That's my stuffing.

Try not to stuff it up.


M said...

Once again, the best stuffing recipe. With instructions like this everyone can cook.

Anonymous said...

My man....

Hmmmm, better go check the chook'n that I'm cook'n.

Boy's too busy writing recipes....

J xo

Pogria said...

Hey! What happened to my comment?

I posted a nice long one a couple of nights ago?

Gremlins, or, are you jealous of my vast culinary knowledge hmmmmmmmm?

Boy on a bike said...

Must be gremlins. Blogger has eaten a few of my comments in the past.

Maybe you posted a tasty comment?

Pogria said...

Bugger. It was extremely tasty.

Nevermind, I'll teach you how to stuff a goose some other time.