Chicken, without a doubt the most versatile meat of them all! and also in my opinion the most often ruined by lack of love given to it in many cooking processes. Often seen as a plain meat, I think chicken gets a raw deal. To me plain means – exciting – you can experiment with recipes, try different flavours, cooking methods and dishes.
Truth be told, if you grab yourself a good quality chicken (free range and corn fed as nature intended) you might be surprised at the amount of flavour even the plainest of recipes can deliver. I know what you’re thinking – Free range!? Corn fed!? They cost a fortune – sorry to disappoint but (here in the UK) discount German supermarkets (you know who they are!) are able to sell UK bred, free range chickens for a fraction of the cost compared to the big chains and I highly recommend them.
So back to the recipe – the often overlooked and understated roast chicken. A firm favourite roast for me; as it goes far, keeps well and offers a fabulous array of leftover options. And when cooked well, presents beautifully on the Sunday dinner table (other days also available). This recipe is ideal for a Sunday roast or a weeknight dinner and can be pretty much served with anything. My method ensures both a crispy and extremely juicy chicken, say goodbye to dry chicken breast and sloppy chicken skin!
Ingredients (Serves 4-6 depending on weight)
1 whole free range (preferably corn fed) chicken-giblets removed Note: I know in the UK it is not advised to wash raw chicken, for the risk of spreading potentially harmful bacteria- but if you follow basic hygiene, washing gets rid of the nasty slippery goo that builds up on the outside of a packed chicken. So I always do! I also burn away any remaining feather roots over the gas stove or with a kitchen blow torch.
1 large white onion – peeled and chopped into large chunks
2-3 large cloves of garlic –peeled and chopped in quarters
Butter – approximately 2 tablespoons of
Olive or rapeseed oil – for drizzling
Dried garlic flakes – around a tablespoon
Dried Mixed herbs – again about a tablespoon
Rosemary and thyme – fresh sprigs (optional but tasty)
100ml water (approx)
Salt and pepper- for seasoning
Plain flour – table spoon of
White wine/brandy/port – good splash of
1.Chicken – Cut away any string and make sure the legs are un-tucked and separated out. This is essential, you are trying to create as much surface area as you can for maximum crispy skin awesomeness. Place the chicken in an oven proof dish or tray. You’re looking for a snug but not tight fit.
2. Onion and garlic – Put half of the chopped onion and garlic inside the chicken cavity, spread the rest around the base of the chicken.
3. Butter- Now gently prize away the skin from the breast using your fingers at the cavity opening end, creating little pockets. Stuff half the butter in one and the other half in the other- then push down spreading it along the breasts (under the skin of course!).
4. Garlic and herbs – First drizzle the chicken in a little oil, season well all over and then sprinkle the dried garlic and herbs over the chicken concentrating in the breast and legs. If you are using any fresh herbs place these in the cavity now.
5. Water – stick with me here.. this is how you will keep the chicken moist and make the tastiest chicken gravy known to man (this might be a bit over exaggerated but it’s really good). Pour the water into the tray/dish it should be about 1-2 cm high. Add more water if it’s a bit too shallow.
6. Roast- Place the chicken uncovered into a preheated oven, (gas mark 5 should do it) on to the middle shelf. Roast for however long the instructions said/ weight depending. An average medium chicken should take just over an hour.
7. Baste – never underestimate basting! Even if you just do it once half way through.
8. Remove the juices – about 15 mins before the timer goes off, drain off all the lovely oniony, garlicy, chickeny juices into a glass jug. Gently turn the chicken over and place back in the oven to allow the bottom side to crisp up ( you might need to turn up the heat).
9. Gravy – Your chicken juices should have separated, you’ll see a layer of fat floating at the top – spoon a few tablespoons off the top into a saucepan. (If you’re feeling health conscious; spoon the rest off so that you are left with just the stock in the jug – but remember – fat is flavour – so your loss). Put the saucepan on a medium heat, add the flour and stir into a paste. Not letting it burn, pour and whisk the remaining juices in the jug in, add the alcohol and seasoning. Once you’ve got rid of any lumps – turn up the heat and reduce until it thickens up (you’re looking for a slightly thicker jus consistency rather than a chip shop thick gravy!)
10. Chicken – Remove the chicken from the oven when done, turn it back over, cover with foil and allow it to rest before carving.
11. Serve – with your favourite vegetables – don’t forget those lovely roasted onions from your chicken!