Samui Wining & Dining
Get Stuffed!
Why put stuffing in poultry, and what are the favourite mixes?

 

Get Stuffed!It’s the quintessential accompaniment with turkey at Christmas time, yet we seem to forget about it for the rest of the year. And that just doesn’t make sense. Stuffing is great with a whole variety of poultry and game birds, and can bring a different dimension to an otherwise ordinary meal. Not to mention with many vegetables as well. In fact, there are very few things you can’t stuff. You just need a little inspiration. Or if you’re single or a student, with a desire to use up every last possible bit of food in the house before you can be bothered (or have enough money) to go to the supermarket again.

 

Stuffing has probably been around since the dawn of time, or at least since (wo)man could form a cohesive thought and murmured, “Mmmh, I wonder what would happen if …” Certainly stuffing was around in the Middle Ages when it was known as farce, from the Latin farcire (and French farcir) meaning to stuff. Originally farce denoted a brief, lighthearted play stuffed in between lengthy religious productions to keep the audience from being bored. I think today they call them sermons! The term stuffing first appeared in English print in 1538. After 1880, however, it seems the term stuffing did not appeal to the propriety of the Victorian upper crust in Great Britain, who began referring to it as dressing. Nowadays, both terms are used interchangeably depending on where you live. And the term forcemeat (from farce-meat) is still in common usage when referring to sausage.

 

Every chef and cook will have their favourite recipe for stuffing. And for those that can’t cook, then the supermarkets have been selling instant packets of stuffing and pre-stuffed birds for decades; the first ones being introduced in 1955. Fine if cooking isn’t your thing but you can get really adventurous or mischievous with a stuffing. Just depends on who you’re catering for. There is a school of thought when it comes to stuffing a bird that there’s an inherent food safety risk involved. If the stuffing mixture is still warm it can create bacteria and lead to food poisoning if not cooked properly. And often people will completely stuff the cavity, forgetting that many types of stuffing will expand during the cooking process. As such, some prefer to cook the stuffing separately (making it unstuffed stuffing!). Most recipes give detailed instructions on how to stuff a bird safely, and usually recommend cooking any leftover stuffing in a casserole dish as it seldom goes to waste. There’s also the possibility that a fully-stuffed bird will result in the breast meat being over-cooked and dry. And some folks like their stuffing crispy on top, which is easily achieved outside of the bird.

 

For many people, turkey with a pork, sage and onion stuffing is just the ticket. Not because we love it above all others, but simply because it’s traditional. And to an extent it reminds many of their first memories of Christmas. But setting that auspicious time aside, what are some of the alternatives. Certainly, things like: apples, prunes, pineapple, cranberries, apricots, raisins, celery, walnuts, almonds and green beans are all tasty alternatives and suitable with vegetarian dishes. And you can spice things up with herbs, peppers, salsa and chilies. For the mischievous amongst you think, prunes, figs and curry powder. There are also a number of suitable cheeses that can be added to any mix, from cheddar to parmesan to goats’ cheese or something a little different like a Sicilian pecorino with peppercorns. One simple type of flavouring that works well is to cut up some lemons and put them inside a chicken, the resulting juices can also add something to a stock or gravy. Game birds might require a bit of consideration and it’s worth checking with a butcher (if you can find one these days) for a recommendation.

 

Of course, it doesn’t have to be whole birds that are stuffed. Leg joints can be boned and rolled around a stuffing. And chicken breasts can be partially opened up and stuffed with something like a mousse. Although my own favourite is stuffing the breast with banana infused with honey and wrapping it in bacon before roasting. Trust me, it’s a winner. And whole peppers and large tomatoes can also be stuffed with just about anything. For the macabre amongst you forget recipe books and instead pick up something by one of the horror genre writers like Stephen King or Dean Koontz, with some of their cannibal characters. Like I said, it all depends on who’s coming to dinner!

 

Let’s end on a lighter note and the anecdotal tale of the frustrated butcher. After picking through and fussing over every bird in his shop, one particular lady puffed and pointed to a row of ducks. She asked the butcher, “Do these get any bigger?” Looking her straight in the eye and completely stone-faced he replied. “No madam, they’re dead.” I think he may have meant, get stuffed!

 

Johnny Paterson

 


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