This stuffing can be used in whole chickens (just rinse the cavities, pat dry, stuff and sew up) but boned chickens make for slicing easy – a bonus for Christmas day. Order boned chickens in advance from specialist meat suppliers or from good butchers.
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed 60g (2 oz) butter 1½ cups panko breadcrumbs or 2 cups fresh white breadcrumbs ½ cup milk 200g (7 oz) ricotta 200g (7 oz) sliced ham off the bone, finely chopped 2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley 2 Tbsp chopped sage ½ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts 1 small (size 6) free-range egg Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste Freshly grated nutmeg to taste ½ cup dry white wine 2-2½ cups chicken stock 2 boned (or unboned) size 12-14 free-range chickens (see Recipe Notes below) 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Put onion and garlic in a small saucepan with half of the butter. Cover pan with a lid and cook gently until tender and lightly golden. Cool. Put crumbs in a bowl and pour in milk. Soak for 15 minutes.
2 Add cooled onion and garlic with all the buttery juices to the bowl of crumbs. Mix in ricotta, ham, parsley, sage, hazelnuts and egg. Season with plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper and grate in a little nutmeg. Mix in ¼ cup white wine, or enough to make the stuffing very moist.
3 Preheat oven to 180°C (fanbake) or 190°C (375°F). Rinse chickens and pat dry with paper towels. Trim off excess fat, being careful not to cut the skin. Lay chickens open, season lightly with salt, then spread stuffing over. Roll up into neat shapes and stitch together with string or strong cotton. Brown chickens gently in remaining butter in a shallow ovenproof roasting tin or dish. Pour 1 cup of chicken stock around the sides of the chickens and pour remaining wine over the top of them. Season chickens lightly with salt. Roast chickens for about 1½ hours, turning and basting every 20 minutes, or until golden brown and the juices from the thickest meatiest part of the chickens run clear when pierced with a skewer. Add extra stock as needed to prevent juices scorching and scrape up sticky residue with a metal spoon and mix it into juices. Transfer chickens to a chopping board and cover loosely with tin foil.
4 Attend to the juices. Tilt the roasting tin and let any fat pool on top. Scoop it off, then add ½ cup stock to the juices. Bubble up juices in the roasting tin, swirl in balsamic vinegar, check for seasoning and remove pan from the heat. Slice chickens and arrange on a heated platter/s. Pour juices over chickens and serve immediately.
Chickens should weigh between 1.2 – 1.4kg (2½ – 3 lb).
The stuffing should be moist (slightly sloppy is good) because if it is on the firm side it will likely be dry.
All you top-notch home sewers will make light work of stitching up a chicken but if you’re like me, all fingers and thumbs, don’t worry, just sew away as best you can, or, if you are cooking a whole chicken/s, use toothpicks to stitch the skin together – it all works out in the end!
If you don’t have hazelnuts, use shelled salted pistachio nuts, peeled as well as you can, roughly chopped.
Alternatively, stuff and cook one chicken and bake the rest of the stuffing separately.