Monday 10 September 2007

A million ways to roast a chicken: here's mine

Roasting a chicken really is a no-brainer, and something a 10-year-old child could master with ease. But have you noticed how much conflicting advice there is out there about the best method? Cookbooks and TV programmes boast about having the BEST EVER recipe, one that produces a result far more crisp, tender, tasty and flavoursome than your pathetic attempts at roasting a bird.

My chickens, ready for the oven
Put the chicken on its front. No, put it on its back. Put it on its front, then turn it  on its back. Put it on its side for half the cooking time. Heck, no, stand it up in the oven! Put a can of beer up its bottom! But before you do that, brown it all over in a hot pan then put it in the oven.

Wrong: put it in a roasting bag. Remember to loosen the breast skin and pack in plenty of butter and (freshly plucked) herbs. Or a glug of olive oil. Or drape some bacon over the breast.

Trim off the excess fat, and the pope's nose and wing tips. No, on second thoughts, leave them on so the chicken doesn't dry out.

And what about the cavity? Put nothing it it. Put lime leaves in it. Put half a lemon in it. Boil the lemon first (Jamie Oliver). Or, put garlic in it. Or herbs. Or garlic and herbs. Or, garlic, herbs, and an old bicycle pump.

A bay leaf is essential. NO, it's not! Only rosemary will do. Rosemary? Are you a freakin' Philistine? Only thyme organically grown by Sherpa maidens on the upper slopes of the Himalayas will suffice!

Well, you get the picture.

Here is my method of roasting chicken. It works for me, but I cannot claim it is the BEST EVER.

POSTSCRIPT, 2016: I used to roast chickens at 180 °C, but - oops - in recent years I've had better results with a cooler oven temperature and more time in the oven (see amended recipe below). The longer roasting time allows time for flavour-packed sticky golden residue to form under the chicken, and the flesh remains juicy and tender.

Roast Chicken

1 fresh free-range chicken
vegetables to go under the chicken: sliced carrots, celery, unskinned onions
1 lemon
fresh herbs of your choice (thyme, rosemary, a bay leaf)
fresh garlic, plus a slice of onion
chicken spices of your choice
salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 150° C. Arrange a bed of vegetables the same size as the base of the chicken in a roasting pan. Put the chicken on top, breast-side up.

Cut the lemon in half. Squeeze the juice over the chicken. Put the squeezed-out lemon halves, herbs and garlic into the cavity.

Tie the ends of the drumsticks together. Grind a little salt and pepper over the chicken and dust with spices/seasonings of your choice.

Roast for about two hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut into the thigh joint (the bone should feel very hot,and the drumsticks should move independently of the body when you give them a wiggle). Remove the chicken from the oven, cover loosely with tin foil, and rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.

Serves 4 - 6. 

Now that I've got that off my breast, tell me how you roast YOUR family chicken.

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