Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Meat Cooking for the Faint Hearted #3 - Roast Chicken

It being cold and miserable and generally grim I thought I'd treat the Chap to a nice roasted chicken dinner when he got home from work on Monday.  Having text him about it and got the boy all excited I realised I have zero idea how to do roast chicken.  Despite reading many and varied cookery books and recipe websites over the years I tend not to retain the details of the meat recipes so much, not eating it myself.  So - how do you roast chicken?  Answer - google it.  :-)  Top results are Jamie, Delia, BBC &c &c.  I'm afraid I don't tend to go for Delia's recipes very often as I dislike her needlessly didactic tone so I checked out the Jamie Oliver and the BBC effort as well as a handy page here which deals with the entire process including weight vs cooking time tables.  I settled for Jamie's recipe in the end as it sounded tasty with the lemon and herbs but pretty straightforward with a minimum of faffing about - just what I wanted after a long day at work.
So - roast chicken.  First buy your chicken.  Depends on budget whether you'll go for an organic or free range but at the very least please get a 'higher welfare' bird.  From watching various stuff like Hugh's Chicken Out campaign &c I've heard that the free range and/or organic birds taste better - a more concentrated 'chickeny' flavour so I guess you can get that bit more out of them in terms of stock, leftovers etc.  The next decision is size - the Jamie recipe quotes for 4 people but I was cooking for 1; albeit 1 large appetited Chap.  So - I thought I'd look for a smaller size chicken.  Pointless!  In the stupormarket they had large - deffo too big, then medium and small sizes.  The medium were about 1.4 - 1.5 kilos - the recipe seemed to be for 1.6kg bird.  The smaller birds were anything from 1 kilo to 1.2 but were only about 20p cheaper than a medium size!  A no-brainer so I went for the medium.  First hurdle out of the way.  (You may be wondering at this juncture why I feel the need to chronicle my chicken buying exploits in quite such detail but as a non-meat eater who went veggie before she learnt most of her cooking; buying meat is not something I'm familiar with at all, nor confident about.  So - I'll share with you guys and maybe help a fellow 'faint hearted meat cooker' or more likely - you can tell me how to do it properly. :-D )

Ingredients as used by me:
1 chicken
2 red onions
1 parsnip
2 carrots
Approx 3" section butternut squash  - from the narrower neck end
About 4/5 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
Sprig rosemary
Olive oil
1 lemon
Home then and after sticking the oven on at 240 - top temp - I peeled the veg (except the garlic which also stays whole) and scraped the carrots as they were looking a little tired and sorry for themselves.  Chopped them into chunks and piled on the baking tray and drizzled with oil as per Mr Oliver's instructions.  Well - I say drizzled - kinda had a bit of a gushing out moment so there was a bit more oil than I intended.  My little big sis has greatly recommended an oil drizzler to me for moments like these - given that she is the least domesticated person I know I'm not sure how she knows this but perhaps I should suggest it as a suitable chrimble item.
Righto - using the tips from the 'help with cooking' site linked above I made sure to wash the chicken - inside and out - then dabbed dry with a kitchen towel.  Apparently this helps get a nice crispy skin.  As my chicken was tied up and Jamie's recipe didn't specify I chose to untie it as the tips site seemed to think this could help it cook more evenly. 
I sploshed some oil on and rubbed it in then realised my obvious error and had to ask the Chap to grind on the S+P for me to then rub in.  After a good washing of the hands I duly stabbed my lemon and microwaved it on a plate for 30 seconds as recommended to bring the flavour out.  Insert herbs and lemon inside chicken - possibly whilst averting your gaze as this really is a bit 'ick'.  Plant bird firmly atop your veg and bang it in the oven - turning this down to 200 at the same time.
Cook for 1 hour 20mins, basting half way through.  Basting means getting the whole lot out and spooning the juices that have come out of the chicken back over it to help prevent it from drying out.
Remove chicken and put on board - cover with foil then a tea towel (don't ask me why - it's what Jamie says to do so I duly did) and leave to rest for 15 minutes.  His recipe then helpfully says: 'Now is the time to make your gravy' without offering the slightest hint how you go about this.  Well - in my house I'm afraid gravy comes from veggie granules; generally Aldi's own so I made some of these up a little bit thicker than usual and left some room in the jug.
I poured off the juices from the meat tray into a mug and stuck it in the freezer - the Chap does this when he's had roast beef so the fat solidifies and can be removed easily leaving the stuff with the meat flavour in it that you then add to the gravy.  This fat didn't really solidify, quite possibly because a) it didn't have enough time and b) there was a fair bit of olive oil in it but we managed to pour it off and added the meaty juices left to the chaps gravy jug.
I then carved (first time ever!) as per Jamie's instructions - quite easy once I worked out where the leg joint was he mentions.  And ta - daa!!  Roast chicken all by my own fair hand!


  1. Well done and three cheers for even attempting it since you don't eat meat. Why did you wash the chicken? You will have spread any bacteria from the chicken all over your sink and anywhere else that the water went. I have never washed a chicken in my entire life and I am old so you can see it won't harm you.

  2. Oh!! I did because one of the sites I looked at told me to. I don't know what I'm doing with meat but will heed your wisdom and not bother next time! :-)


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