So we’ve trifled with titles: roast lemon chicken, poulet au citron… whatever. In our house it always comes back to ‘roast chicken with a lemon up its bum’. Anatomically correct? Probably not, but it’s kind of stuck.
Roast chicken is the easiest of meals. A quick fiddle, bung it in the oven and your work is done. First things first, though, you must choose your chicken wisely. ‘Oh bloody hell’, I hear you cry, ‘here she goes with that free range guff again’, but I won’t be budged: anything other than free range chicken is not an option in my book. I’d rather have chicken less often and have a clear conscience than buy into the terrible cruelty that is intensive farming. There, I’ve said it. This free-range whopper (2.2kg) set me back £10.00 in Tesco. I don’t think that’s bad at all as it’ll probably feed the four of us for two, maybe even three meals. It’s all about using it wisely. In our house a roast chicken will go on to be stock and then soup, and maybe risotto or pilaff too. There are plenty of farmers markets, farm shops and other places doing really great chickens. Shop around and vote with your money and your feet. Right, moving on, then…
Firstly, as with your Christmas turkey, don’t be tempted to rinse it under the tap. The oven temperatures will kill any nasties and you’ll just splash a load of germs around your sink.
The easiest way then is to do nothing. Shove a good quality chicken in the oven on a baking tray with absolutely no adornment and it will still taste delicious. However, anoint it a bit and twiddle with some flavours and it will taste spectacular. As you know, I favour the ‘lemon up the bum’ technique: slice a lemon in half and pop it inside the cavity. The scent of lemon will infuse into the meat beautifully as it steams inside the bird. Dribble a little rapeseed oil on top (or rub with butter) and sprinkle with salt and pepper and you will moisten the breast and flavour the skin too.
If you want to, though, go wild. Be inventive. Cover your chicken with maple syrup… sprinkle with chilli flakes, or rub it with tandoori paste. Stuff it with handfuls of herbs and a couple of onions… the possibilities are endless.
Ah the interwebz – a delectable tangle of information. Generally, too much information. If you search ‘how to roast a chicken’ you’ll get a thousand people (a thousand and one, now) telling you a thousand different ways: 45 minutes per kg and then 30 minutes, or maybe 20 minutes for 500g and then 20 minutes… Gas mark 4… gas mark 5… You get the picture.
I’m not one for faffing, so I keep it simple: I set the oven at 190/gas 5 and then if it’s a 1kg chicken, I cook it for an hour. If it’s 1.5kg I cook it for and 15 or so, 2kg about an hour and a half.. and so on. If you check it ten minutes before and it’s done, then just whip it out. Not quite there? Leave it another ten.
Checking to see if the chicken is cooked:
The easiest way is to undo a leg (if it’s tied to the other one) and give it a wobble. If it’s very easy to move, then it’s done. You can also stab it in the thickest part of the thigh, catch the juices in a spoon, and make sure they’re clear. If there’s any blood, pop it back in for a while.
If you carve a bird straight out of the oven, the flesh just ‘fluffs’ up and you can’t get a decent slice. Cover your bird with foil and a teatowel and leave it to ‘chillada’ for ten or fifteen minutes and everything will have calmed down a bit. Now you can carve it easily.
Again, the world’s your oyster. Serve the chicken traditional-style with gravy, roast potatoes and vegetables, or in summer try some lovely roasted veg and some minted new potatoes. It’s lovely with couscous and wonderful just picked at with a massive salad and loads of fresh crusty bread.
In Dubai, they served roasted meat with a glorious spicy mixture of cabbage cooked in cream with sultanas. It tasted divine.
Yes, picking over a roast chicken is a pain, but stuff it in the fridge overnight and the next day it will be much easier to pick. Don’t forget to turn it over and get all those lovely bits from underneath – perfect for sandwiches, salads, risotto and curry. Finally, use the carcass to make stock and you’ve really done it justice.
For the wine:
… it’s over to the gorgeous Helen – a fabulous bundle of loveliness, a dear friend and… coincidentally, a wine expert (check out how fantastic wine blog, Knackered Mothers’ Wine Club):
”So, for roast chicken, a fuller-bodied Chardonnay often does the trick. However, EM has cleverly added lemon, garlic and rosemary flavours to the mix so this dish needs something with a bit more weight and flavour to it. If you want to stick with white, go for a rich style of Chardonnay with a bit of oak but – honestly – red will work better. Chianti is the answer: great flavours to match the garlic and rosemary but not too overpowering to cover the flavour of the chicken.”
Off you go, then. And if anyone can think of a better title for the ‘lemon up the bum’ bit – feel free to let me know.