Whole roast chicken with herbs and spices, roasted with an aromatic bacon-nut stuffing that is full of flavour, served with a sauce made with the pan drippings. This is the perfect showstopper for your festive table!
I’m so glad to have this recipe finally up here. This whole roast chicken recipe has been the centrepiece of our Christmas table for a few years now. The chicken is stuffed with the most incredible bacon-nut stuffing, one that is spiced and seasoned to perfection. The juices of the chicken cook through the stuffing, and the flavours of the stuffing intensify as it cooks in the juices of the meat.
I can’t stress enough how flavourful this chicken roast is, and all the superlatives I will be using in this recipe post are completely justified – make this chicken roast with herbs and spices and believe you me!
What’s the formula for the perfect roast chicken, you ask? This is it:
Overnight brining + flavour-packed stuffing + sinful sauce made from the pan drippings
That combination right here is what makes this different from any other roast chicken recipe –the brining renders the meat tender and juicy, the stuffing is cooked through in the juices of the chicken, and the sauce smacks of flavour from the pan drippings.
How to brine a chicken before roasting:
The idea of brining is simple enough – The process of soaking the meat in chilled salted water causes the chicken to absorb some of the water through the process of osmosis. The end result is juicier and more flavourful meat.
There are several recipes for brine that use lemons, bay leaves, stock, etc. I’ve tried a few, and I’ve come to prefer a simple brine recipe: 1/3 cup sea salt, 3 litres of water, ¼ cup sugar. Just mix together the salt and sugar in the water, until dissolved. Clean out the chicken, especially the cavity, and place the chicken in the brine solution for 8 hours, best overnight. The chicken should be submerged.
The next day, before you get ready to prep the chicken for roasting it, dry it out in the fridge for 2 hours. Pat dry before you proceed with the next steps.
How to make the most flavourful herb and spice stuffing:
The right kind of stuffing makes all the difference to the roast chicken. I use a combination of bacon, raisins and nuts, bread and celery, sautéed in ghee and garam masala for the stuffing. Be prepared for the aroma of all this good stuff wafting through your house! You’d be tempted to stop right there and have it on its own.
Sauté the bacon first, until just done. Keep aside. In the same pan, sauté the celery, garlic, nuts and raisins, along with the garam masala, in a little ghee. Add to the bacon. Finally, add the bread and lightly sauté.
Mix together the bread along with the rest of the ingredients.
Preparing the chicken for the oven:
To prepare the chicken for roasting, we season under the skin, with softened butter mixed with herbs (I use chopped fresh rosemary and sage). To do this, take the chicken out of the fridge, pat it dry with kitchen paper and very gently, using your fingers, separate out the skin from the meat below it. Starting from the cavity end of the chicken, separate out the skin on the breast and the thighs.
Then, using your fingers, slide the softened herbed butter under the skin, over the breast and thigh meat. Once you’re done with seasoning under the skin, stuff the chicken cavity with the prepared stuffing and truss up the legs, closing the cavity.
Finally, using a pastry brush, brush ghee over the skin all over the chicken and roast it on a rack, placed on a roasting tin.
Roasting the chicken:
For this recipe, I used a 1.5 kg chicken, which usually takes 1-hour 20 minutes of uninterrupted oven time to roast at 190 C or 375 F. However, I recommend you brush ghee over the chicken once every 30 minutes, and in doing so, the oven does lose some heat when you open the door. So, I prefer to roast the chicken for a total of 1 hour 40 minutes, which includes the time taken to brush the chicken with ghee.
Ghee or butter?
I prefer to use ghee for this recipe, but you could substitute it with butter, if you prefer.
Should I baste the chicken?
Basting the chicken in the pan drippings is an optional step, meant to keep the chicken moist and tender and add flavour back to the meat. You can skip this step, however, do try and brush the chicken with some ghee every 30 minutes or so, to enhance that beautiful golden-brown skin colour.
Making the sauce:
The icing on the cake (make that the sauce to the roast chicken), really, is the sauce that is made with the pan drippings – reduced and cooked with balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, this sauce is incredibly flavourful. Spoon some of the sauce over the chicken, get your fork and grab some of that, along with the stuffing, and some roasted potatoes – this is pretty much how you construct the perfect spoonful/forkful!
If you like this recipe, take a look at these festive recipes:
Roast Chicken with Herbs and Spices
- For the brine:
- 3 litres water
- 1/3 cup salt use sea salt
- ¼ cup sugar
- For the stuffing:
- 5-6 strips of bacon
- 3 cloves garlic diced
- 1 stalk celery chopped
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- ¼ cup raisins
- ¼ cup pecans
- ¼ cup cashews
- ½ cup white bread ideally, 1 or 2 days old, diced
- 1 tablespoon ghee
- For prepping the chicken:
- 1 whole chicken with skin on (for this recipe, I used a 5 oz/3 lb/ 1.5 kg chicken)
- 30 grams butter softened
- 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary and sage preferably use fresh herbs
- 1 tablespoon ghee plus more to brush over the chicken.
- For the sauce:
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ tablespoon cornstarch
- ½ cup water or chicken broth
- The night before you roast the chicken, prepare a brine and keep the chicken overnight in the brine solution.
For the brine:
- Combine the water, salt and sugar in a large vessel. Stir together until the sugar and salt dissolve. Place the chicken in the solution and keep it covered in the fridge for at least 8 hours, best overnight.
- After 8 hours, take out the chicken and let it dry out in the fridge, on a shallow plate or pan.
For the Stuffing:
- In a saucepan, sauté the bacon, until just cooked. Keep aside.
- In the same pan, add a teaspoon ghee. Sauté the celery, garlic, nuts and raisins with garam masala until fragrant, around 2 minutes. Add this to the bacon.
- Finally, add the bread and lightly sauté for a couple of minutes, until lightly browned.
- Add the bread to the rest of the ingredients, mix and keep aside.
To assemble the chicken and roast:
- Pre heat the oven to 190 C or 375 F.
- Mix together the softened butter with the chopped herbs. Keep this aside.
- Pat dry the chicken with a paper towel.
- Gently, using your fingers, separate out the skin from the meat below it. Starting from the cavity end of the chicken, separate out the skin on the breast and the thighs.
- Slide the softened herbed butter under the skin of the chicken, gently.
- Stuff the chicken cavity with the prepared stuffing and truss the chicken legs with kitchen twine.
- Brush some ghee (or butter) over the chicken, making sure you go over the entire chicken.
- Transfer the chicken to a roasting pan and place it on a rack centred in the middle of the oven.
- Roast at 190 C for 1 hour 40 minutes, brushing more ghee on the skin 3 times during the baking time.
- Once cooked, transfer the chicken onto a platter and let it rest outside the oven for 15-20 minutes before serving.
To prepare the sauce:
- While the chicken is resting, take the roasting pan which has all the drippings from the roast.
- Skim off the fat from the pan (this is an optional step) using a spoon.
- Place the pan on the stovetop, turn up the heat to medium and add the water or broth, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and salt.
- Stir with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula and slowly add the corn starch. Keep stirring until the sauce thickens a little. Use the spoon or spatula to scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Run the sauce through a sieve and serve alongside the chicken.
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