Delia Smith's Winter Collection
FEBRUARY 17 2012


It's clear that Delia is very, very concerned that my roasted chicken might come out dry and embarrass me in front of my husband, our guests and the entire world. Which is why I will be packing a pork-based stuffing under the skin and in the cavity, liberally rubbing the whole chicken with butter and THEN layering on slices of bacon. Finally, as if all that's not enough, I'm supposed to baste it three times with pan drippings while roasting. After all that, there is no way the white meat can be anything but juicy!

I will spare you and not post images of the pork-y stuffing. After pureeing together the ground pork, chicken liver, onion, apple, sage, parsley and fresh breadcrumbs, I ended up with pasty, unappetizing, grey glop. And I also don't want to make you look at close-up images of pimply chicken flesh. So, all you get is a "ready for the oven" shot of the stuffed, buttered and bacon-draped roaster. Into the oven with you, my lovely!

Now to make the sauce: whisk cranberry jelly (which I have concluded is basically American canned cranberry sauce), balsamic vinegar, chopped sage and black pepper in a pan and simmer until combined. This will be served at room temp, so it can just hang out until the chicken is ready. There really isn't very much sauce, but it is rather potent so hopefully it will be enough.

I'm thinking the ideal accompaniment is the Perfect Roast Potatoes which are supposed to be roasted in pan drippings or lard. How fortunate I suddenly have lots of lard-laced pan drippings! With 30 minutes left on the chicken, the bacon jacket is removed and I'm a little concerned because, while the bacon looks (and tastes) smashing, the chicken skin lurking underneath is pale and unattractive.

mmm... roasted chicken covered in crispy bacon

shook the heck out of the potatoes

Luckily, 15 minutes later, the oven gets cranked up to crisp this skin. At this point I add the parboiled, and brutally shaken, potatoes to the foil boat, tossing them liberally with the drippings. Here they will stay, untouched even after the chicken is removed, for the next 40 - 50 minutes until super duper crispy.

After 2 hours, the chicken comes out of the oven and now has to rest for 30 minutes. Thankfully the skin has crisped up real nice... maybe even a bit too much. The potatoes remain in the oven to acquire that last little bit of crispiness. I may have been a bit aggressive with my shaking as they are pretty much falling apart as they roast.

roast chicken w/ crispy potatoes

chicken breast with a thick crust of pork stuffing

Last step is the gravy. Heat 2 tablespoons delicious pan drippings in a saute pan then whisk in flour. Slowly add chicken stock (homemade!), season and let simmer until thickened. Dear hubby carves the chicken and sets the table as I whisk.

We definitely need some green stuff to go with this meal, so I blanch some broccoli and toss it with dukah (thanks, Jess!) to balance out the insanely rich chicken and potatoes.

dinner. YUM!

So... this is pretty much the best chicken we have ever eaten. Seriously! It's like chicken and pork made sweet, sweet love and we just ate their lovechild, porken. The chicken tastes like pork and the pork stuffing tastes like chicken and the bacon is crispy and the potatoes are caramelized from the drippings and the cranberry sauce is tangy and the gravy is rich and meaty and, and, and... we pig out!

Delia never really gives instructions on how to incorporate the crispy bacon into the meal, so we improvise! And now the vodka tastes like bacon and the bacon tastes like vodka and everything is heaven.

bacon martini!


When roasting a chicken the skill is to ensure that the cooked bird is not dry, but juicy and succulent. Placing a pork-based stuffing inside the chicken ensures that the juices from the pork provide a kind of internal basting. Most of it is placed around the breast end, which is potentially the driest, then a small amount is tucked inside so the flavours can permeate all through. At the same time the buttery bacon juices do much the same from the outside. The cook can help the process by basting the chicken at least three times during the cooking. For eight people you will need two chickens, or for four just halve the recipe.

Serves 8

2 x 4 lb chicken with giblets
12 rashers smoked streaky bacon
3 oz butter, at room temperature
Salt and freshly milled black pepper

For the Sauce:
3 tablespoon cranberry jelly
1½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 dessertspoon fresh sage, chopped
Salt and freshly milled black pepper

For the Apple, Sage and Onion Stuffing:
4 oz fresh white bread, crusts removed
1 tablespoon parsley
1 heaped tablespoon fresh sage
1 dessert apple, cored and quartered
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
Chicken livers from the giblets
8 oz minced pork or pork sausage
1/4 teaspoon powdered mace
Salt and freshly milled black pepper


Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.

First of all the chickens need to be stuffed. If you have a food processor, then making stuffing is a doddle; all you need to do is switch the motor on, add the pieces of bread and process to crumbs, then add the parsley, sage leaves, apple and onion quarters and process till everything is finely chopped. Next trim the chicken livers (use the rest of the giblets for stock), rinse under cold water, pat them dry. Then add them together with the sausage meat, mace and seasoning. Give a few pulses in the processor or until it is all thoroughly blended. Remove the stuffing with a spatula, then place in a polythene bag and store in the fridge until it is needed.

To stuff the chickens, you begin at the neck end where you'll find a flap of loose skin; gently loosen this away from the breast and you'll be able to make a triangular pocket.

Pack about one-third of the stuffing as far as you can go and make a neat round shape on the outside. Then tuck the neck flap under the bird's back and secure it with a small skewer. Repeat with the other chicken, then divide the stuffing you have left and place a small amount in each body cavity.

Now place the chickens side by side in a large solid roasting tin. Divide the butter in half and simply smear it over each chicken, using your hands and making sure you don't leave any part of the surface unbuttered.

Season the chicken all over with salt and freshly milled pepper, then arrange 6 slices of the smoked bacon, slightly overlapping in a row along each breast.

Place the chickens in the oven on the centre shelf and cook them for 1-3/4 hours (i.e. 20 minutes to the pound plus 10-20 minutes extra). The chickens are cooked when the thickest part of the leg is pierced with a skewer and the juices run clear. It is important to baste the chickens at least three times during the cooking - the juices mingling with the bacon fat and butter spooned over help to keep the flesh succulent.

During the last basting (about half and hour before the chickens are cooked) remove the crisped bacon slices and keep warm. If they are not crisp, leave them around the chicken to finish off. For the final 15 minutes of the cooking, turn up the heat to 425ºF which will give the skin that golden crispness.

When the chickens are cooked it is important to leave them in the warm kitchen (near the oven) covered in foil for 30 minutes, which will allow them to relax. This is because when a chicken is cooking all the juices bubble up to the surface (if you look inside the oven you can actually see this happening just under the skin) and what relaxing does is allow time for all those precious juices to seep back into the flesh. It also makes it much easier to carve.

You can make the sauce and the gravy while the chicken is relaxing - all you do to make the sauce is combine everything in a small saucepan by whisking over a gently heat until the cranberry jelly has melted. Then pour the sauce into a serving jug and leave till needed (it doesn't need re-heating - it's served at room temperature).

Next make the giblet gravy using giblet stock. When you have spooned off the excess fat from the roasting tin and only the dark juices are left, work about 2 level tablespoons of flour into these juices over a low heat. Now, using a balloon whisk, whisk in the giblet stock bit by bit, until you have a smooth gravy. Let it bubble and reduce a little to concentrate the flavour, and taste and season with salt and pepper. Pour it into a warm serving jug and hand round separately.


Serves 8

The amounts here are not vital because it depends on who's greedy and who is on a diet and so on, but I find that 8 oz (225 g) per person is enough – yielding three each and a few extras for inevitable second helpings! I like Desirée best of all, but my second choice would be Romano.

2 4 lb (1.8 kg) Desirée potatoes (red potatoes)
4 oz (110 g) dripping or lard


Pre-heat the oven to 425°F.

First place the roasting tray with the fat in it on the highest shelf of the oven while it pre-heats. Thinly peel the potatoes using a potato peeler, then cut them into fairly even-sized pieces, leaving the small ones whole. Then place them in a saucepan, pour over boiling water from a kettle, just to cover, then add salt and simmer for about 10 minutes. After that lift one out with a skewer and see if the outer edge is fluffy. You can test this by running the point of the skewer along the surface – if it stays smooth, give it a few more minutes.

Then drain off the water, reserving some for the gravy. Place the lid back on the saucepan, and, holding the lid on firmly with your hand protected by a cloth or oven glove, shake the saucepan vigorously up and down. This shaking roughens up the cooked edges of the potato and makes them floury and fluffy – this is the secret of the crunchy edges.

Now, still using the oven glove to protect your hands, remove the hot roasting tray containing its sizzling fat and transfer to the direct heat (medium) on the hob. Then use a long-handled spoon and quickly lower the potatoes into the hot fat. When they are all in, tilt the tray and baste each one so it's completely coated with fat.

Now place them back on the highest shelf of the oven and leave them unattended for 40-50 minutes or until they are golden brown. There's no need to turn them over at half-time – they will brown evenly by themselves.

Sprinkle them with a little crushed salt before serving straight away; they lose their crunch if you keep them waiting. If they're ready before you are, turn the oven off and leave them inside.

These recipes are taken from Delia Smith’s Winter Collection.

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