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Young Chickens with Apricot-Fig Stuffing (Poussins Farcis aux Abricots et Figues Sèches)

Young Chickens with Apricot-Fig Stuffing (Poussins Farcis aux Abricots et Figues Sèches)
Apricots and figs, fresh or dried, are beloved fruits of the Mediterranean. They go well with the regional herbs, as this dish demonstrates. Rubbing the chickens inside and out with resinous rosemary and sage before roasting subtly flavors the meat and makes a good companion to the savory sweetness of the stuffing, which is also enhanced with herbs.

Ingredients:

  • 4 young chickens or Cornish hens, each
      1 to 1 1/4 lb.
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh sage
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh rosemary

For the stuffing:

  • 4 to 5 cups sliced or cubed 2-day-old baguette,
      pain au levain or any combination of coarse
      country breads
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, minced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 3 Tbs. minced fresh rosemary
  • 3 Tbs. minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

For the glaze:

  • 1/2 cup apricot jam
  • 2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

Rinse the birds and pat dry. Rub inside and out with the salt and pepper, then with the sage and rosemary. Discard the herbs or, if you prefer, leave some of them clinging to the skin or tucked under the skin.

To make the stuffing, place the bread in a large bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the boiling water and pour the mixture over the bread, turning it to soak all the pieces. Let stand until the bread is cool enough to handle and the water has been absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes. Using your hands, squeeze the bread, breaking it down until a thick paste forms. Add the dried figs and apricots, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper, and continue squeezing to incorporate them into the paste.

Spoon 1/3 to 1/2 cup stuffing into the cavity of each bird. Do not pack the cavities too full. Gently slip your fingers between the skin and the meat of the breast to make a pocket, and tuck some of the stuffing under the skin as well. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wings under the breasts.

Place the birds, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for 25 minutes.

While the birds are roasting, make the glaze: In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the jam and vinegar and heat, stirring occasionally, until a syrup forms, 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove the birds from the oven and, using a pastry brush, coat them with the glaze. Return the birds to the oven and roast until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced with the tip of a knife, about 25 minutes more.

Remove the birds from the oven, garnish with rosemary sprigs and serve.
Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring France, by Georgeanne Brennan (Time-Life Books, 1999).