Holiday Roast Chicken with Cranberry-Fig Stuffing

Fifteen years ago, I came to the Bay Area for the first time. The husband and I lived in two different states (Utah and Colorado, respectively), and he invited me to California for what would be my first of many Thanksgiving dinners with his family. Of course, at the time, I didn't know that.

I was a bundle of nerves, wanting to impress his family. I spoke little, was so polite I did not ask to eat any breakfast or lunch on Thanksgiving day. I minded all of my manners. I even sent a thank you note to his parents for their hospitality. And for years, his parents were concerned that I was "too nice."

Nope.  Just terrified.

During that first trip (ever!) to San Francisco and the East Bay, the then boyfriend and I did many of the requisite tourist activities, including but not limited to the Golden Gate Bridge, Baker Beach, and the Cliff House. It also included cat-sitting a 21 year-old-feline, driving around in a borrowed black Volkswagen beetle, attending a concert at the Fillmore, drinking tea on the corner of 9th and Irving in the City.  

Not bad for a four-day introduction to what would later become my home. 

This year, the husband and I have been tasked with making the turkey, for the first time. This is big. This is the handing over of the torch. 

This is a lot of pressure. Thank goodness I am over being so polite, because we might offend someone with our turkey. The worry--it will be dry, tasteless, and cardboard-like.

So we have been practicing on chickens. 

In this iteration, you have the easiest chicken ever. Smack some butter, salt, and pepper on it. Roast away. It's a particularly simple roast chicken, and the only thing making this a "holiday" chicken is the stuffing--but it is truly worthy of guests and a full sit down meal. Especially if you don't want the hassle of a turkey.

With the chopped figs and the dried cranberries next to the chicken broth and shallots, this stuffing is sweet and savory and certainly satisfying. I would add more to the stuffing if I were to make it again (which we might, but we have a sage and sausage stuffing on the docket for our next round). Perhaps some celery and mushrooms? The celery for the bright flavor and the mushrooms for more umami. Because I am not sure it's possible to have too much umami. 

We're not there yet when it comes to our Thanksgiving recipe. However, this one was well worth the attempt. Don't wait until there is a holiday.  

Just dig in. No cutlery required. 

I won't tell if you're not being polite.


Holiday Roast Chicken with Cranberry-Fig Stuffing

Serves 6

4 cups cubed (3/4-inch cubes) country bread or baguette
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup minced shallots
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped dried figs
1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme, divided
3/4 tsp kosher salt. divided
1/2 tsp pepper, divided
One 4 1/2 to 5 pound chicken

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish or coat with nonstick cooking spray. Spread out the bread cubes in a single layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet and bake for 5 minute or until slightly dry. Cool and transfer to a large bowl. (The bread can be prepared up to 3 days in advance and kept in an airtight bag).

2.  Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a small skillet and cook the shallots for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Pour over the bread. Toss the cranberries and figs. Moisten the bread with the broth. Stir in the egg, and sprinkle with the parsley, 1 tablespoon of the thyme, and 1/4 each of the salt and pepper.  Toss until well blended. Reserve about 1 1/2 cups of the stuffing for the chicken and place the rest in the baking dish. Cover with foil. (The stuffing up to this point can be prepared up to 8 hours in advance.  Do not put the reserved stuffing in the chicken until right before baking.)

3.  Place a roasting rack in a shallow roasting pan. Oil the rack or coat with nonstick cooking spray. Tuck the chicken wing tips behind the chicken. Spread the remaining 1 Tbsp of butter over the chicken. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Spoon the reserved stuffing into the chicken cavity so that it's filled loosely. If the chicken cavity will not hold all of the reserved stuffing, add any remaining to the baking dish.

4.  Bake the chicken for 60-70 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken at the thickest point of the thigh registers 175 degrees, and the temperature of the stuffing inside the chicken registers at least 165 degrees.

5.  About 15 minutes before the chicken is ready to come out of the oven, bake the dish of stuffing alongside until the stuffing is hot and the internal temperature registers at least 165 degrees, 20-25 minutes.

6.  Remove the chicken from the oven and loosely cover with foil for 10 minutes before serving. Spoon out the stuffing, carve, and serve.


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