Growing up, Thanksgiving was a major holiday for my family – hearty meals, long weekends, and good company. One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving was my mom’s famous stuffed cornish hen. Never a fan of turkey, my mom began cooking a small cornish hen on the side for me each year. She would stuff it with rice, nuts, spices, and dried fruit- no bread in sight! So my quintessential stuffing is essentially non-American. The recipe here is an adaptation of my mom’s famous stuffing and one from Ariana Bundy’s new book – Pomegranates and Roses.
In Ariana’s book, there is a recipe for stuffed quail with a very similar stuffing. If you can find quail at your local market, I recommend trying this out, adjusting the cooking time accordingly. I also opted to use raisins instead of sour cherries in the stuffing, and my mom’s original recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and lentils in the stuffing as well. Feel free to modify this as you wish!
- 1 whole chicken, washed and dried, organs discarded
For the stuffing:
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cups dried Basmati rice
- 1 tbsp. turmeric
- 1/2 cup barberries, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
- 2 tbsp. dried rose petals
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tbsp. lemon zest
- Juice of one lemon
- 1/2 tsp. saffron, ground and dissolved in 3 tbsp. hot water (optional)
- 2 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
- Juice of two medium oranges
- 3 tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 2 tbsp. butter
- dried rose petals
- shelled pistachios
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Sauté onion in oil for 5-7 minutes, until it begins to become translucent while browning. At this point, add garlic. Sauté for an additional minute and add rice. Mix until the rice is coated in the onion and garlic mixture, and then add turmeric, salt and pepper. Continue to mix, while slowly adding lemon juice, lemon zest, and chicken stock. Cover and cook on high heat for just a minute, and then reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked. Remove from heat, toss in rose petals and let stand for 10-15 minutes as the rice cools down.
- In the meantime, begin creating your basting sauce. In a medium saucepan, mix orange juice, pomegranate molasses, lime juice, saffron water, and butter. Cook on medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes.
- Once your rice has cooled, add barberries, raisins, sugar and pistachios and carefully mix in – keeping your rice as fluffy as possible here.
- Brush the outside of your chicken with your basting sauce and stuff with your rice mixture. Whatever is left (there should be nearly 3 cups left) you will serve alongside your chicken when it’s ready.
- Either sew the legs of your chicken closed, or use two lime wedges (or one of your orange halves) to cork your chicken and ensure the stuffing stays put during the roast.
- Place the chicken in a roasting pan and cook for 60-90 minutes (they say 20 minutes per pound of chicken you have). If you don’t have a rack, flip your chicken halfway through cooking. A thermometer should ready 175F to signal that your chicken is fully-cooked and ready to be served.
- Garnish your bird with rose petals and pistachios, and serve on a dish with the remainder of your stuffing. Your guests will not be disappointed!