Well, I couldn’t very well cook from a book called ‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories’ for a week without making roast chicken, could I? Also, and frankly, this is shameful to admit, but…I’ve never roasted a chicken before. I know. I have a food blog and I’ve never made one of the basic staples of the Sunday lunch table country-wide. A hangover from The Vegetarian Years, maybe, but I’m just not very confident at cooking animals – particularly if they’re animal shaped as opposed to, say, neatly contained as a thigh or a sausage or an escalope. It just seems more of an event to cook an entire creature and I worry that I won’t do it justice – it dies for my dinner and I make it dry or tough and tasteless. I want to honour my meat. But this is no way to go on. Faint heart never won fine gravy…ahem. As of Sunday, I decided, there would be a turning point in my life: the post-chicken roasting era would begin!
Having procured my chicken in the scant 5 minute window during which it was not raining, I armed myself with plenty of butter, a lemon, some garlic and herbs. Potatoes were par-boiled. Bird was carefully anointed, cavity was stuffed, and into a hot oven she went. An hour or so later and…well, I was ridiculously over-pleased with myself. The skin was all golden and crispy, just like it was supposed to be, there was enough juice (after a bit of poking about) to mix with the melted buttery bits into a gravy of sorts, and the flesh was moist and not dry at all. Some leftover courgettes from the veg box were sauteed briefly and dressed with vinegar and mint as a slightly sharp contrast, and we sat down to enjoy it in front of the first season of Mad Men. Tom declared it ‘the best Sunday lunch ever’, though I’m sure he was just being nice.
OK, so my carving skills still need some a lot of work, but it wasn’t bad for a first attempt. And the best part is, we now have neatly cling-filmed leftovers sitting in the fridge and waiting to be turned into a lemony pilaf for tomorrow night’s dinner and a chicken and bread salad for lunch the day after that. If there’s one thing I love more than successfully tackling a new recipe, it’s successfully stockpiling the leftovers.
Coming up next: more Simon Hopkinson, with ‘Week In, Week Out’.
Roast Chicken Serves 4, or 2 with plenty of leftovers
110g butter, at room temperature
large free-range chicken, around 1.8kg
salt and pepper
several sprigs of thyme, tarragon, or both (I used parsley as it was all I had, but tarragon would have been better)
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
Preheat the oven to 230c. Put the chicken in a roasting tin and smear the butter all over it with your hands. Season it liberally with salt and pepper, inside and out, and squeeze over the juice of the lemon. Put the herbs, garlic and squeezed out lemon halves inside the cavity.
Roast the chicken in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Baste, then turn the oven down to 190c and roast for a further 30-45 minutes, basting occasionally. The bird should be golden brown with a crisp skin and if you pierce the thigh the juices should run clear.
Turn off the oven, leaving the door ajar, and leave the chicken to rest for around 15 minutes before carving. The recipe recommends carving in the roasting tin – you can then set aside the carcass for stock later, stir or whisk the juices that have amalgamated in the tin and pour them over the meat. Another option given, which I didn’t bother with, is to scoop the herbs and garlic out of the cavity and stir them into the juices, gently heating through and straining before serving.
From Simon Hopkinson’s ‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories’.