Roast Chicken with Chestnuts
November, 2007

Serves 6 / Chestnuts always take me back to the years I spent in London, where, during Christmas time, street vendors toast them over hot coals. There, the appeal of chestnuts is equal parts flavor and experience: sparks floating into the cold night air, the sweet aroma of the nuts' roasting meat, vendors scooping blackened and blistered chestnuts out of the fire tray and pouring them into a small paper bag, , then spinning the bag to twist the corners closed. It's amazing how many memories can come from one fruit. Use only the best-quality, natural chicken you can find. If you have the chicken liver, heart, and gizzard, chop them up and add to the bacon while cooking; it adds a wonderful extra layer of flavor.

Good splash of olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
5 slices (about 4 ounces) pancetta or bacon, chopped
2 fresh sage leaves, chopped
About 15 peeled and cooked chestnuts (you can use canned or bottled, drained)
Salt and pepper
1 large onion, sliced crosswise
1 large carrot, chopped
6 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup dry white wine
1 top-quality roasting chicken, 3-4 pounds
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 sprigs fresh thyme

1. Heat a large saucepan on medium heat and add a splash of olive oil. Add onion, celery, and pancetta or bacon; sauté for 10-15 minutes until everything is soft. Add sage and chestnuts (try to keep chestnuts from breaking up). Warm through, then season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and let cool. (This can be made ahead and refrigerated.)
2. Preheat oven to 400°. Place sliced onion, carrot, garlic, and wine in a roasting pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss. Rub chicken with 1 tablespoon oil and season generously inside and out with salt and pepper. Place a couple of small handfuls of the chestnut mixture in the cavity (it should be very loose, about half full). Add thyme sprigs to cavity and tie legs closed. Place chicken on top of vegetables in roasting pan. Place remaining stuffing mix in a small, shallow casserole dish.
3. Roast chicken for 30 minutes. Add stuffing mixture dish to oven. Continue cooking chicken and stuffing for another 20-30 minutes, until chicken juices run clear. Remove from oven; cover stuffing and keep warm. Place chicken in a warm spot; tent with foil and let rest for 20 minutes. (The resting really does make a difference to the texture and taste of the meat.) Then it is ready to serve. You should have some lovely juices and cooked vegetables at the bottom of the pan; serve alongside chicken.


Recipe provided by Hugo Matheson, chef and co-owner of The Kitchen, an ecoconscious eatery in Boulder, Colorado (www.thekitchencafe.com).



PER SERVING (3 ounces breast meat, skin removed; 1/2 cup stuffing): 257 cal, 32% fat cal, 9g fat, 2g sat fat, 68mg chol, 24g protein, 19g carb, 2g fiber, 424mg sodium