While most days we are flying by the seat of our pants, I do try at weekends to make a few more elaborate meals. This has become especially important to me since having a baby because weekends don’t have the same meaning as they did pre-family. No more late nights and lazy mornings, our daughter has put pay to that. And though we try and get out and do fun stuff, there’s often the mundanity of catching up on housework and little chores that become somewhat more significant to complete when we are passing between each other a small human.
Making a fancy dinner is the easiest way I know of pampering my husband and I, and often leaves us with left overs which we then can take to work.
Roast chicken is a favorite that almost demands roast potatoes and carefully prepared vegetable to do it justice (more on those in another post). Delicious and attractive, it perfumes the air and makes everything seem more homely. Also, there’s often enough left to make soup, add to sandwiches or make a pot pie.
Choose as good a quality chicken as you can afford, the taste is definitely better and they often more tender when cooked. I honestly didn’t really care that much about chicken until I went to Zambia. There, livestock is left roam to such a degree that they could almost be re-classed as game. I have never had such a tasty, deeply flavored chicken as the ‘village chickens’ that Zambians would eat on special occasions, indeed their flavor was almost gamey. Since then I have given chicken the respect it deserves by choosing birds that have been responsibly farmed. We pay more for them, but since we don’t often buy pricier meat like beef, it doesn’t affect the budget much at all, especially as I generally cook meat dishes no more than about three times a week and the rest of the time we eat fish or vegetarian. Try and get a chicken that still has the giblets, these make a wonderful gravy.
There are endless ways of roasting chicken and I have tried my fair share. This current method works the best for us. The cast iron skillet is useful for catching the juices and making gravy and looks rustically pretty on the dinner table.
Before cooking you will need to calculate how long you will should roast, based on the weight of the chicken. I have always used this formula: 20 minutes per pound plus 30 minutes. That said, check in regularly towards the end to avoid over cooking. If the juices run clear at the thickest part of the bird and the legs separate easily from the rest of the body, it’s done.
You will need:
1 small lemon
1 small onion
Half a stick of salted butter – very cold
Three large bay leaves
A small glass of white wine
Course kosher salt
A little canola oil
- Pre-heat your oven to 350 F.
- Score the skin of the lemon all over with a small sharp knife or grate it a little. This helps release the fragrant oils in the skin of the lemon which will perfume your chicken
- Cut the lemon in half
- Peel and cut in half the onion
- Stuff the cavity of the bird in this order:
o One lemon half
o One onion half
o One bay leaf
o One lemon half
o One onion half
- Put your chicken into a heavy roasting pan that can be put on a direct burner or use a cast-iron skillet
- Take a butter knife and carefully insert it between the skin of the breast and the meat. Gently separate the skin from the meat. Try not to tear the skin.
- Cut your cold butter into about four pieces and insert one piece on either side of the breast under the skin
- Carefully slide a bay leaf on either side of the breast under the skin
- Slide in the rest of the butter, again on either side
- Drizzle about a tablespoon of canola oil over the chicken
- Season with salt and pepper
- Put in the oven and leave it to cook for 30 minutes
- After 30 minutes, start to baste every 20 minutes or so
- If you feel that the top is browning faster than the meat is cooking, cover loosely with foil
- Remove the foil towards the end to let the skin crisp up
- When the chicken is cooked (see above),move to a warm plate or wooden board, leave to rest for twenty minutes – CRUCIAL, do not skip this. This is when the juices sink back into the meat making it moist and delicious
- In the meantime put your pan or skillet over a medium high burner.
- Saute the giblets, mashing down the liver
- When cooked add the wine and deglaze the pan with a wooden spoon, by loosening any bits stuck to the pan. Cook until the wine is reduced.
- Add a little stock or broth if you feel there isn’t much sauce and use some cornstarch to thicken
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