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Roasted Chicken with Za'atar Stuffing

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Serves 4

  • by from Avec Eric

A good roast chicken is one of my favorite things to cook and eat. Every cook should know how to roast a chicken properly. The stuffing in this recipe contains a fantastic Middle Eastern spice blend called za'atar, which is a combination of sesame seeds and dried herbs such as basil, thyme and oregano.

  • 1 4-lb. chicken
  • 1-1/2 cups diced crusty bread
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic plus 1 head of garlic, cloves separated
  • 2 tsp. za'atar
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Remove the wings and reserve.

Combine the bread, parsley, minced garlic, za'atar and lemon zest in a mixing bowl and toss with 1/4 cup of the olive oil to coat evenly. Season the stuffing with salt and pepper.

Season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper and fill with the stuffing. Tie the legs together with kitchen string. Season the bird on the outside with salt and pepper and drizzle with the remaining 2 Tbs. of olive oil.

Place the wings in a roasting pan and place the chicken on top of the wings. Roast for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and add the garlic cloves to the roasting pan. Continue roasting for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the juices run clear when the leg is pierced. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let it rest for at least 10 minutes.

Carve the chicken by removing the leg and thigh at the joint, then run the carving knife down one side of the breast bone and continue by following the rib cage, lifting the breast meat away from the bone. Repeat on the other side of the breast bone, removing the second breast. Slice the breast meat and leg meat.

Place 2 slices each of breast and leg meat on each plate and spoon some of the stuffing alongside. Spoon some of the pan drippings over the chicken and serve immediately.

Photo: Avec Eric LLC

I modified it a little by adding butter, parsley and za'atar under the skin. I also used cheesecloth soaked in olive oil to help with "finishing"-- I took it off for the last half hour of cooking. It was fantastic. Brought it to a party-was a huge hit! But, I think there's a typo; a 2 lb, stuffed chicken needs 2 hours in the oven.

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