There’s nothing better than a piping hot, straight from the oven, moist, tender, gloriously golden-brown, aroma-filled roast chicken on a bed of roasted veggies!
“A hen is only an egg’s way of making another egg.” – Samuel ButlerThe Fact: Gainesville, Georgia, in the United States, is the “Chicken Capital of the World”. There, eating the meat with a fork is considered illegal. The Inspiration: I love chicken! My entire family will vouch for it. To me, chicken is an indulgence; an experience all by itself. I can eat it in any form and any combination, although, on some days, nothing can ever beat the straight from the oven, piping hot, moist, tender, gloriously golden-brown, aroma-filled, roast chicken served on a bed of roasted veggies. I’ve been making and eating, actually, eating (thanks to my mum and mother in law) and making chicken all my life. But in my household, somehow, a majority of the time, we ended up combining chicken with some gravy and eating it with our staple, rice. I’m not complaining, like I said, I love the bird. But ever since I got married, experimentation has gotten so exciting, with my favorite guinea pig, Ally (my husband) and me for samplers. So trial and error is my thing now, and that’s exactly how I stumbled on to this glorious recipe. It’s something I created in my kitchen on Easter Sunday with whatever I could find in my kitchen. I do hope you enjoy this recipe!
- 1.5 – 2 kg chicken (whole; with skin) Switch the chicken with turkey for a beautiful Thanksgiving meal.
- 2 medium-sized onions
- 2 carrots
- 2 tomatoes
- 5 – 6 baby potatoes
- 150 gms mushrooms
- 1 big apple
- 1 orange
- 2 sticks celery
- 1 bulb garlic
- Olive oil or melted butter (use olive oil for a healthier meal)
- 2 lemons
- 1 small bunch fresh thyme, rosemary, bay or sage, or a mixture
- Kosher or coarse salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 feet of twine
Buying your chicken
Since chicken is an easy-to-find ingredient in my locality, I simply run down to the local chicken shop or the supermarket and pick up any whole chicken, with the skin intact and the insides cleaned. I also look for a chicken with thighs that have that perfect swell to them. This usually means a higher fat content, which also means a juicier and a more moist chicken. The breasts are too lean for my taste; however, this is something that’s up to you—based on your liking and your health.
When it comes to picking the right size, simply weigh your chicken. I prefer a 1.5 – 2kg chicken, which suffices for about 4 – 6 people, and also leaves a little for when you get home late with a growling stomach.
Preparing your chicken
- Before you begin, wash your chicken thoroughly—inside and out, and also under the skin. Then, drain the chicken.
- Ensure that your chicken is kept at room temperature—either fresh or refrigerated, but kept out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes before cooking. This is important to prevent your chicken from cooking unevenly or drying out. If you cook cold chicken, the heat dries out the meat on the outside before the inside is done. Room temperature meat cooks more evenly and fewer juices leak out or evaporate during cooking.
- Preheat your oven to 240°C/475°F.
- Take a tray or baking dish that has enough space to hold your chicken along with all the vegetables. Also ensure that your tray is hollow enough to hold all the juices that ooze out while your chicken and veggies are cooking. If not, all the juices will spill over and you’ll have quite a task after your chicken’s done.
- Break the garlic bulb into cloves. Peel about 10 – 12 cloves and leave the remaining cloves unpeeled. Roughly smash the peeled cloves. I used a mortar and pestle; you can smash it any way you like. Add the juice of 1 lemon and about 2 tbsp of melted butter to the mashed garlic. Season this concoction with salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Dry your chicken with a kitchen towel. Don’t ignore this step. Then, using a fork or a skewer, prick the bird all over. This will help any marinade or seasoning to easily seep into the meat rather than stay on the surface. Place your chicken in the baking tray or dish.
- Pour 3/4th of the garlic concoction all over the chicken and using your fingers, rub the marinade in; don’t forget to go under the skin and into the chicken cavity as well. The more the seasoning seeps in, the tastier your chicken will turn out. Leave your chicken to marinate for about 20 minutes.
- Take all your veggies (along with the apple; not the orange), but don’t peel them (except the onions of course); I know I didn’t. Wash your veggies thoroughly under running water, along with a soft brush if required, and then, roughly chop them. Note that you can throw in any additional veggies you like or can skip the ones you don’t quite fancy.
- Take the tray in which the chicken is resting, lift the chicken and pile in all the veggies (under the chicken), along with some of the unpeeled garlic cloves. Drizzle the remaining garlic concoction and about 2 tablespoons of olive oil (or melted butter) over the veggies. Then, place the chicken over the pile of veggies.
- Prick the remaining lemon all over, using the tip of a sharp knife or pop it into the microwave for about 30 seconds. (This will bring out the lemony flavour). Place the lemon inside the chicken’s cavity, with the bunch of herbs.
Trussing your chicken
Trussing or tying up your chicken snugly is an important part of roasting chicken. While a lot of chefs prefer to leave this out completely, which is also alright, I prefer to truss the chicken for several reasons—it makes for better presentation and prettier photos, it makes the chicken more compact and helps it cook evenly (by retaining heat and moisture), and it also prevents the tips of the wings and legs from burning.
Place your bird with the breast upwards. Place the twine horizontally under the tail bone or the end of the cavity. Then, hold the legs together, cross both ends of the twine across the chicken and pull the twine tightly. Now, taking the twine ends upwards, towards the neck of the bird and away from you, cross the twine around the wings and completely across the neck as well, tie the twine beneath the neck. Honestly, you can truss the chicken in any way you prefer, as long as the wings and legs are held close to the body of the chicken.
Cooking your chicken
With the trussed chicken placed (breast upwards) on top of the vegetables in the roasting tray, cut your orange in half and squeeze some fresh orange juice over the chicken and the veggies. Pop the tray into the preheated oven. Turn the heat down immediately to 200°C/400°F and cook the chicken for 1.20 hours, which is the ideal time to cook chicken. A lot of chefs prefer to add the potatoes a little later, but on trying their method, I found my potatoes slightly undercooked. So I suggest tossing them in right away.
After about 35 – 45 minutes, check on your chicken. You will notice a lot of juices collected in the tray. Open your oven door and scoop up the juice, only to pour it right back over the chicken and the veggies. Keep doing this until the chick looks nice and moist. Don’t let too much of the heat escape while doing this, so hurry. If you notice that the veggies look dry, add a splash of water to the tray to prevent them from burning.
After 1.20 hours, remove your tray from the oven. Alternately, using a meat thermometer, check if the temperature of the inside of the bird has reached about 70°C/160°F. Remember that your chicken will continue to cook even after you remove it from the oven. Its temperature will gradually increase to 74°C/165°F, after which, it will start to cool. At this point, transfer the chicken to a board to rest for 15 – 20 minutes. Resting the bird allows the juices that were released to be absorbed back into the meat, which is the lovely flavor that you do not want to forego. To retain the heat, cover the bird with some tinfoil.
Making the gravy
Although I love serving the roast chicken just like this, as you can see in the picture, you could also keep the chicken aside and use the veggies to make a lovely gravy.
For the gravy, sauté all the veggies in some butter, along with about 1 tablespoon of flour. Preserve some of the veggies and mash the remaining, finally, passing the mash through a sieve. Bring this liquid to a boil while seasoning it with salt and pepper.
Carving your chicken
- Remove any twine from the chicken. Using a carving knife, cut down between the leg and the breast of the chicken. Then, cut through the hip joint and bend the leg backwards until the hip joint pops out. Repeat on the other side.
- Next, cut off the wings from both sides.
- Next, cut through the drumstick-thigh joint on both pieces. You should end up with four portions. Now, angle the knife along the breastbone and carve one side off, then the other.
- Place the carved portions on a serving platter. Pour some of the homemade gravy over the carved portions and serve hot.
To see how this is done, check out this link: http://www.wikihow.com/Carve-a-Chicken, or look it up on YouTube.
Note: Throwing the remaining carcass away is a sin. Using your fingers, pull all the meat off. Don’t forget to turn the carcass over and get all the juicy bits from underneath.
And while the fight for the ‘prized’ chicken leg continues at my Easter dinner, please tuck in. Bon appétit!