Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hungarian Stuffed Chicken

In my previous post, you may have noticed, was a sneaky sentence about how matching the sides to the main is important in Hungarian cuisine. And then my sister pointed out, justifiably, where is the recipe for the stuffed chicken that this goes with?

Quite right. My bad.

I luuurve this recipe, but, yes, I realize for some people it can be a hurdle to make a whole chicken if you're not used to it. I didn't realize there were people who were squeamish about this sort of thing at all until I was 20-something years old, when I dated met some of them. I, apparently, grew up in the European tradition of eating animals that, yes, you could tell that they were once animals.

Silly Americans and their silly squeamishness.

On the other hand, the first time I made this, I was quite grossed out by the thought of actually touching a dead animal. Still sort of am. So when I made this recipe for the first time, it was after years of having been a vegetarian, and, instead of being easy on myself and making something that I wouldn't need to touch, like goulash, I jumped right in to whole chicken (see above for why I thought this was normal.) Also for some odd reason, I had friends over when I was cooking. (I think they were 'helping' me.) And one of those friends thought it would be HILARIOUS to open and close the chicken's legs while shouting out 'chicken butt!'

I ran out of the kitchen. I don't know how that chicken got stuffed. But somehow I managed to get it into the oven, and cooked it, and everyone ate it and had a great time. Point is, don't make friends with your food.

Hungarian Stuffed Chicken - Töltött csirke

Yes, it tends to burn the pan a little. Aluminum helps.
  • 3-4 slices old, dry, disgusting, freezer bread
  • 3/4 to 1 1/4 cup or 200-300 ml soy milk (or regular milk if you don't keep kosher) 
  • a bit of oil or schmaltz
  • 1/2 a small onion, chopped small
  • bunch of parsley, chopped up
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 whole chicken, WITH skin
  • bit of salt, pepper to taste
  1. Make sure to assemble the ingredients before you do anything else. Chop the onion. Chop the parsley. Get out the eggs. You're less likely to forget them that way, like I just did. 
  2. Soak the bread in soy milk while you prep the rest of the recipe. Preheat that oven too while you're at it - 200-220C is good, according to my oven manual. 
  3. Heat the oil or schmaltz (give yourself a high-five if you're using schmaltz) and fry the onion slightly, until it gets a little yellow.  My recipe says to add liver if you're using it, but I never have, so I can't comment. 
  4. Remove onion from heat and add it to the bread. Mix. Add parsley, egg, a bit of salt, pepper if you want (I generally don't) and mash it all up with a fork or your fingers. Don't be concerned if the bread falls apart - you want it to. This is your stuffing.
    Lotsa parsley
  5. Put the chicken on the tray you're going to be baking it in. From the cookbook, "Using your fingers, gently loosen the skin around the neck opening, without damaging the skin." Basically pry the skin away from the chicken. Not all the skin. Mostly the skin around the boobs and/or the back, I find, is the easiest. Yeah, kinda gross. I use gloves. 
  6. Take the stuffing and stuff into chicken (still got those gloves on). Under the skin if you can (not that much fits there) and shove the stuffing into the absolute biggest kitchen euphemism I know of - the "cavity." Yeah. That's right. Into the cavity. 
  7. Gloves.
  8. Chicken butt.
  9. The recipe adds two more steps here that I never ever do, but you can if you want to. One, is use needle and thread to sew chicken closed. Yeah right. Two, is probably a good idea, but I also just have a hard time following instructions, is to then top the chicken with melted butter (or oil. Or schmaltz.) Yeah, that does sound good. Maybe that's a good idea to do. I never have, but maybe I'll start.
  10. Stick in oven. I find this chicken takes a good 2 hours to cook, but that depends on the size of the bird. Officially cook until it reaches 180 (that's fahrenheit) on a cooking thermometer, or, you could do what my roommate used to do, and cook until juices run clear when it gets poked. But you probably know how to cook a chicken by this stage in your life, and if you don't, call me. I'll come over with my kitchen thermometer.
Oh, sides - "Serve with potatoes or rice, braised vegetables, and salad. Töltött csirke (don't ask me how to pronounce that, I don't know) is also good served cold."

- You can tell this recipe is my peeps, right? A "bunch" of parsley. How much? Some. A bunch. If you want it less parsley-y, you use less. More, then you use more. A bunch. 

- Pro-tip - for the first time you make this recipe, yeah, go ahead and use oil. However, in FUTURE times, save the chicken fat drippings* and put it in the freezer, and use that in place of oil. It's much better and it's good sustainable living. Plus it's fancy - like how the French pair the wine with the cheese from the same region. Pair chicken dishes with chicken fat. 
*Do this with a spoon or turkey baster in the first hour of cooking, otherwise it cooks away. 

- Really one of the reasons I love this recipe so much is that it fits perfectly with my food philosophy. Whole chicken is one of the cheapest ways to eat chicken (I think because people are afraid of it), eggs and parsley are cheap, and this recipe is the perfect way to use up all that disgusting old bits and bobs of bread in your freezer, and elevates it to something simply divine. There you go, that's me going all food-blogger speak. 

Confucius say, take off rings when shoving hands into chicken cavity.