I love to eat. And when not eating, I love to talk about food. Here are my reviews and favourite recipes.

Many of the recipes and comments can also be found on Fabulous Foodie, and all the Restaurant Reviews can also be found on Qype.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

How To Get A Hot, Tasty Bird

The subject of roast chicken came up recently in conversation with a Colonial of my acquaintance, when I mentioned I was doing a roast bird as Sunday lunch for Boy and his brother.Some dribbling may have been involved at this point.

You see, it appears that the lady in question has been on a search - a quest, even, for The Perfect Roast Chicken. I have this mental image of her wandering the United States a la David Carradine in 'Kung Fu', entering deserted diners in one-horse dustbowl towns, ever seeking poultry-based enlightenment.

Of course, I was happy to help, in the spirit of Hands Across the Oceans to which I so fully ascribe.

Here, then, is my method of cooking roast chicken. I can't say it's TPRC, but it seems to work pretty well, and is neutral enough that you can tweak the seasonings, should you desire, to match the weather outside.

You will need:

1 decent roasting chicken<. Organic/corn fed if you wish, in all honesty I couldn't give a proverbial flying one at the equally proverbial donut. Just PLEASE, for the sake of your tastebuds if nothing else, make sure it's free-range.
1 Lemon;
1 Onion*;
As much garlic as you like/can stand/will still get you kissed;
Butter; Olive oil.
Sea salt and black pepper are a given, right? Right.

First, stick your oven on. I'm with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on the 'sizzle', so whack your oven up to 250 if it'll go that far, and let it preheat.

Halve the lemon, halve the onion, peel and halve a couple of the garlic cloves and leave the rest untouched. Stuff half a lemon, half an onion and the peeled garlic firmly up the bird's backside.

Butter first. I think it's well worth pinching Jamie Oliver's suggestion of massaging butter unto the flesh under the skin of the chicken - just gently work your fingers between flesh and skin and, when you've got a pocket there, slip in some butter.

Drizzle the chicken in olive oil, grind over a good wodge of black pepper and sprinkle with sea salt. Don't be reticent about this bit, plenty of salt. If you like (and I do) you can also shake over a few squirts of Maggi Liquid Seasoning (which I'm utterly addicted to), to add a spot of 'unami' to the skin's flavour.

Massage the whole bird, making sure it's fully coated and the butter is nicely spread over the breasts.

By now your oven should be as hot as [insert your favourite heat-related simile]. Chicken into roasting dish - make sure it's a GOOD one, it'll need to be later. Chuck the remaining half lemon, half onion and the whole, unpeeled garlic cloves into the dish and chuck dish into oven.

Wait 20 minutes. Don't go near the oven at all. No basting, no checking - just let it get blasted on full heat and sizzle away.

After your 20 minutes has elapsed, you're allowed to open the oven. Pop the dish out, give it a bit of a shake and turn the heat down to about 190. Back into the oven.

Now, the next bit's up to you - basting. Some do, some don't. I sometimes do, other times I just relish the 'fire-and-forget' nature of roast chicken and don't bother. I tend to find that there's plenty of moisture anyway. But the occasional shake doesn't hurt.

I've found that leaving it to its thing for another hour works out about right for an ordinary-sized bird. If you're doing one that's roughly the size of an ostrich, you may need more. But for a normal (feeds 4 with the usual accompaniments) chicken, an hour seems fine.

Give your bird that hour, then remove it from the oven. If you're unsure, you can always test if it's done by sliding a skewer into the breast or leg and checking the colour. Clear: done. Pink: back in the oven for a bit. These days I don't tend to bother, it's up to you.

Tip the chicken upwards over your roasting dish, to allow those glorious juices to pour out. Worry not, there's still plenty of juice left. Wrap the bird, tightly and well, in two or three layers of good kitchen foil and set it aside. You won't be going back to it for 20 minutes...

RIght, remember, I said about a good roasting dish? Here's why. Whack it straight onto the hob, on a high heat. Bring the juices up to a fast boil, scraping at the sticky, unctuous bits of meat juice on the bottom of the pan. Throw in some water, or wine if you prefer. Don't forget to press the lemon and the onion, and squish the roasted garlic cloves. How much water you add depends on how much gravy you like. You shouldn't need more salt, but hey, what's tasting for? Sieve it into another pan to get the bits out, then put your smooth gravy back on the heat. Keep tasting.

Reduce. And reduce, and taste and reduce, until you're getting where you want to be - glossy meat-juice gravy with highlights of roasted onion and garlic and the tang of the lemon juice. Skim the fat off if you wish. I don't wish. Thicken with butter or cornflour if you need to. Once it's right, LEAVE IT ALONE and just keep it hot.

Carefully unwrap your chicken from its 20-minute stint in a health spa. Marvel at the amount of juices collected in the bottom of the foil, and carefully pour them into your glorious gravy.

Carve. Serve with whatever accompaniments you deem appropriate for the season - my old staple of watercress, rocket and spinach leaves goes very well with it in warmer climates.

Present to your Colonial acquaintance, and sit back, secure in the knowledge that you've organised a hot and tasty bird.


In summer, I find that replacing the onion with a lime works well. Add a (light) touch of chilli and, when you take the bird out to relax, stuff a handful of coriander** into the cavity to infuse the chicken with its scent and flavours. Perfect picnic chicken.

** Cilantro, for the Colonials reading this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

great, now I'm starving. :-)