Right now, a little victory march is going through my head singing: "I did it! I did it!" This is my first ever roast chicken and it came out smashingly, if I do say so myself. Since starting More Please Recipes in April, my culinary interests have expanded and I've been much more daring in the kitchen. Before this, the thought of roasting a bird well, kinda freaked me out. Before this, the thought of making pasta from scratch (recipe found here), or a loaf of bread (recipe found here) freaked me out as well.
However, now that I get to document the whole process and I'm much more thoughtful about how I'll make my food, styles of preparation, and how I'm going to write about it, I've become much more brave. A roast chicken is one of those meals that every chef/cook/foodie should know how to do. At least that's what Eric Ripert said. And he should know, right? It's simple, classic, and elegant.
And the za'atar stuffing is just the thing to put this recipe over the edge. Savory oregano, thyme, sesame seeds, and sultry sumac combine in this Middle Eastern spice blend to create a moist stuffing. The only problem with this dish, is that there isn't more stuffing (for those of you at home, this isn't a problem at all, just make more on the side!). I was inspired to make this za'atar stuffing by a recipe contest being held by the excellent magazine, Edible Westside. Every month they challenge their readers to a new spice blend. This month it's za'atar; we'll see how I do . . . fingers crossed!
Roast Chicken with Za'atar Stuffing
1 4-pound organic chicken
1 1/2 cups crusty bread, diced
6 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 head of garlic, cloves separated
5 teaspoons of za'atar
(for the za'atar, mix 1 teaspoon ground sumac, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon fresh minced thyme, and 1 teaspoon fresh minced oregano)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup olive oil plus more for drizzling on chicken
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Cut off the wings and place in the bottom of your roasting pan.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix the bread, lemon zest, za'atar, a quarter cup of olive oil, and half of the parsley. Make sure the olive oil and seasoning are evenly dispersed throughout the bread. Season with a bit of black pepper.
Use salt and black pepper to season the cavity of the chicken and then fill the bird with the stuffing. Close the flap and tie the two legs together using kitchen string, and place the chicken on top of the wings.
Pack the rest of the parsley on the bird and drizzle with olive oil (about two tablespoons).
Roast for 20 minutes. Take out the bird and reduce the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the garlic cloves around the base of the chicken and put back in the oven for about 30-35 minutes. The chicken is done when juice from the leg runs clear.
Yield: 4-6 servings