Christmas Day roast chicken

So, Christmas again, another year almost finished and a chance to cook yet another roast dinner.

The big question is how to make it different?

I like to get the work done ahead of time for this way of roasting a chicken, because the bird is boned and stuffed with a mixture of sausage meat and prunes, so the dish is very much something that you might find down in the south-west of France around Agen, where the prunes they grow are justifiably famous.

Boning a chicken is easy once you know how, there are plenty of descriptions of how to do this, or, if you ask him or her well ahead of the busy period, your butcher might do it for you.

The stuffing I used here was the meat from skinned pork and apple sausages laid out on the boned chicken, along the centre between the breasts and then about a dozen stoned Agen prunes laid along the length of the stuffing.

Once stuffed, the chicken is then rolled up and tied into a sausage shape. You can do this a day or two in advance and keep it in the fridge.

The chicken is roasted in a Gas Mark 6/180C oven with thyme, olive oil and lemons for about an hour and a half, or maybe longer depending on the overall size of the bird with the stuffing.

I am not sure that sprouts with bacon lardons, glazed carrots and potatoes roasted in duck fat are traditional accompaniments down in the Sud Ouest, apart from maybe the potatoes, but this is Christmas lunch and those things work well with the bird with its lovely meaty, fruity rich stuffing.

You should keep the carcase from the chicken to make stock, which you can use to make gravy with the pan juices while the bird is resting before carving.

A traditional accompaniment would be a Bordeaux red, I suppose, but we drank a bottle of 2007 Clos de l’Oratoire des Papes, AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which was spicy and rich with good red fruit flavours, an underlying sweetness and a long finish. It worked really well with the rich chicken and stuffing.

Before lunch we polished off a bottle of Duval-Leroy 2004 Blanc-de-Blancs Champagne, the last of a half-dozen I bought in 2009. Lovely crisp Chardonnay-only champagne. I wish I had some more bottles left to drink later.

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