This whole stuffed chicken with rice and chestnuts is usually made for Christmas but you can serve it for any other special occasion like a Thanksgiving dinner.
This is one of my most favorite ways of preparing chicken! And though a stuffed chicken recipe may sound complicated, this is actually pretty simple and straightforward (oh, and gluten-free!). This Greek whole stuffed chicken gets stuffed with rice, chestnuts, pine nuts, raisins and some minced beef and is usually made during Christmas, but I also like to make it for a Sunday dinner or for any other special occasion. It is also a very nice alternative to stuffed Turkey, especially if you’re planning a small Thanksgiving dinner. And if you plan on inviting more than 5 -6 people, then you can just stuff two small chickens instead of one 🙂
I have two secrets for a really juicy meat on the inside and an extra crispy skin on the outside. The first trick is to brine the chicken. Smaller meats do well with a liquid brining, but since this is a whole chicken, the easier way is to dry-brine it by just rubbing it inside-out with 1-2 tablespoons of fine salt. Salt attracts moisture, so it will penetrate the meat and help it keep its moisture during cooking (that’s why you must salt it several hours before baking it in the oven). My second trick, for a really crispy skin, is to store the chicken uncovered in the fridge, at least overnight. I learned this trick from chefsteps, though they suggest injecting the chicken with brine and hanging it inside the fridge for three days for the skin to dry (cool, ha?). Since this is somewhat difficult for most of us, I let the chicken rest on a rack, placed inside a large enough pan (this also prevents it from touching other stuff inside my fridge).
The filling is somewhat similar to this Moroccan rice (pilaf) since it contains dried fruits, nuts and spices. And it goes without saying that you can replace any nuts or fruits you don’t like with other of your choice, though I have to warn you that this stuffing is pretty damn good as is! And because it’s that good, I make it a lot. Some people (my mom included) like to also stuff the front side of the chicken where the stomach and neck is. But sometimes the skin over that area browns a lot faster because there’s no meat under it, just the stuffing. So I only stuff the belly, which makes things a lot easier and put the rest of the delicious stuffing in a small baking dish and bake it next to the chicken for about an hour.
- Don’t be tempted to use any sauces or glazes for the skin! Just buy a free-range chicken for the best flavor possible.
- Other Greek recipes use the liver, heart, and gizzard of the chicken instead of minced beef.
- Cooking time will depend on the size of the chicken. Since we’re talking about a stuffed chicken you should add extra 15-10 minutes to the total cooking time.
- I like to serve this chicken with the stuffing and some mashed potatoes on the side. For the potatoes, I boil the quantity I need until soft, drain them well, and add inside the pot some salt, pepper, butter, milk and grated parmesan. I don’t measure anything, I go by instinct. Then I mash everything with a fork, transfer to a large bowl and sprinkle with some chopped chives.
- You can bake the leftover stuffing in a small baking dish or casserole. If you don’t have a lid, cover it firmly with a piece of foil.
- I use basmati or jasmine rice for the stuffing, varieties not typically used for a Greek stuffed chicken, but I happen to like that taste!
- This is a gluten-free recipe.
- 1 whole chicken, about 3-4 pounds (1.5-2 kg)
- 1-2 tablespoons fine salt (I use 2)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 9 oz (250 grams) minced beef
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ teaspoon grated allspice
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 3 - 4 tablespoons roasted pine nuts
- ½ cup raisins
- 1 cup boiled chestnuts
- ¾ cups basmati or jasmine rice (or your favorite long-grain variety)
- ¾ cups water
- Olive oil for rubbing the chicken (2-3 tablespoons)
- Optional: lemon juice for preparing the chicken
- Prepare the chicken: rub it inside-out with the juice from one lemon, rinse well and pat-dry (inside-out) really well with paper towels (this reduces any “chicken” odors)
- Rub the chicken inside out with the salt, transfer it to a rack and place the rack in a deep pan. Store in the fridge for 24 hours or at least overnight. Keep in mind that the longer you dry the raw chicken, the crispier it will get!
- Heat a saucepan over high heat and add the olive oil and the minced beef. Break any lumps with a spatula and cook until well browned, about 7-8 minutes.
- Add the onion, bay leaves, salt, pepper, allspice, and cumin. Reduce heat to medium and cook until onion is soft, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add the rice, stir for 1 minute and then add the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until all the liquid have been absorbed, about 3-4 minutes. Rice will be half-cooked.
- Remove from heat, add the pine nuts and chestnuts and let it cool a little.
- Preheat oven to 356°F (180°C).
- Lightly rub the chicken with some olive oil and stuff the belly with the stuffing. Keep in mind that the stuffing will puff-up a little during cooking, so don’t overdo it. Secure the skin with a toothpick and wrap the legs with kitchen twine to keep them closed. Tuck the end of the wings under the body to prevent them from burning (I wrap them with some extra twine).
- Put the rest of the stuffing in a small baking dish, add 2-3 tablespoons water and cover with a lid or foil.
- Bake the chicken for 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 45 mins (in a fan oven if possible) or until skin is browned and crispy.
- Bake the stuffing next to the kitchen for about one hour, or until rice is done.
- Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before carving.
- Serve with the stuffing and some mashed potatoes.