Herb and Ricotta Chicken

Recipes by Vicki Ravlich-Horan, Images by Ashlee DeCaires

The game changer with this roast chook is that the ‘stuffing’ is not in its cavity but under the skin, creating a beautifully moist and flavourful bird.

1.5kg free-range chicken
250g ricotta (I love the Zany Zeus one available from Vetro)
1 garlic clove, crushed
handful of fresh herbs (like tarragon, thyme or sage), finely chopped.
handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
zest of ½ lemon
½ cup parmesan, grated
1 egg
⅓ cup breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
5 medium sized potatoes, scrubbed not peeled (I used Deseree)
4 large sprigs fresh thyme
4 unpeeled garlic cloves, bruised
extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Make the ricotta stuffing by mixing together the ricotta, crushed garlic, chopped herbs, lemon zest, parmesan, egg, and breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper and mix until well combined.

Starting at the neck end, carefully push your fingers between skin and flesh, first over one breast and leg, then the other, leaving the skin attached at the end of each leg.

Now carefully place the stuffing between the loosened skin and meat. From the outside, smooth and shape the stuffing over the chicken so that it is even.

Slice the potatoes in to 1.5–2cm pieces. Scatter the thyme and bruised garlic cloves along with the potatoes in a roasting dish. Drizzle with the oil then place the chicken on top, breast-side up. Brush the chicken with oil, season with more salt and pepper and roast for 15 minutes at 200°C. Turn the heat down to 175°C and cook for a further 35–45 minutes, or until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the meat is pierced with a skewer.

Allow the chicken to rest for 5–10 minutes before carving.

Got Leftovers?  Make my Chicken and Mushroom Lasagne

This dish is so delicious, I have often found myself cooking ricotta stuffed chicken just so we can have this lasagne. It freezes well and, trust me, you will thank me on a busy midweek night when you have one of these in the freezer you can whip out!

25g butter
2 tbsp oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
500g mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp truffle salt or porcini powder* (optional)
120g–200g baby spinach
50g butter
1 onion, finely diced
⅓ cup flour
2 cups milk
1 tsp salt
1½ cups cheese, grated
2 cups (around 300g), leftover chicken, shredded
6–8 dried lasagne sheets

In a large pan melt the first measure of butter and oil, over a medium heat. Add the mushrooms and garlic. Sauté for 5–7 minutes or until the mushrooms have browned. Season with salt and pepper, and if using the truffle salt or porcini powder, add this now. Add the baby spinach and continue to cook until the spinach has wilted and much of the liquid has evaporated.

Make the white sauce by melting the second measure of butter in a small pot with the diced onion.
Stir in the flour and cook for 1–2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk. Add the salt and 1 cup of the cheese and continue to cook and stir the sauce until it thickens. Add the shredded chicken along with any leftover ricotta stuffing.

Assemble the lasagne by placing a small amount of the white sauce on the bottom of a 1 litre square or oblong oven proof baking dish. Place a layer of lasagne sheets down, followed by half the mushroom mix. Top this with a third of the white sauce followed by more lasagne, the remaining mushrooms and another third of the sauce. Place a final layer of lasagne on and cover this with the remaining white sauce. Top with cheese and either freeze at this point or bake at 180°C for approx. an hour or until golden on top.

*you can find porcini powder or truffle salt at great food stores like Vetro, La Cave, The Herbal Dispensary…  They may some extravagant but a teaspoon added to an everyday dish like this, a risotto or your mushrooms on toast will elevate it to the next level!

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