Everyone’s favourite, it’s been said "A kitchen is not truly your own until you’ve roasted a chicken in it." Simple and delicious, the perfect roast chicken is aromatic, succulent and tasty with golden, crispy skin.
Harking back to my childhood, white chicken meat was considered superior to red meat and would most often grace the table for special occasions. Worlds away from the pitiful, intensively reared chickens that now predominate most supermarket shelves, my remembrance is of free-range, pastured, happy hens that, when their time had come, were slaughtered out of sight of the rest of the flock.
When I was very little, my parents shipped my sister and I off for a month long summer holiday to Gear Farm in Helston, Cornwall. It was here that I endured what at first felt like abandonment but turned out to be a most edifying exposure to farming life. It was rustic. There was no running hot water so we had a washbowl in our bedroom and once a week we bathed in a tin bath in the front sitting room. The only flush toilet was outside. At night if we needed to pee we used under-the-bed chamber pots. The only in-house entertainment was a piano, which is where the family and farmhands gathered in the evening for a sing-along. My all-time favourite was our rendition of a Doris Day song ‘Que Sera Sera’, which to a little girl full of imagination and uncertainty seemed to resonate. Come to think of it, the lyrics still hold good!
It was a simple but good life. To be woken up very early in the morning to the whinnying of a majestic shire horse stood immediately below my bedroom window, helping to herd the cows from field to farm and back again for their twice-daily milking, hand-collecting fresh, warm eggs from straw filled nests in purpose-made wooden henhouses, walking through fields of ripening wheat, gathering pure white field mushrooms ankle-deep in morning dew, peacefully watching a sow suckling her piglets. And, on the dark side, taking care to avoid the padlocked shed that housed the farm’s very large and vocal bull, lying in bed listening to the sound of a chicken trying to escape having it’s neck wrung and the squeals of terrified pigs being forced onto the slaughter truck. After all these years, I have still not managed to come to terms with the variance between life and death.
Accordingly, at Primal Plate the vast majority of our meals are vegetarian. However, we do still occasionally eat organic, grass-fed meat, which I also buy to make into healthy, raw pet food for my cat Sushi. An occasional treat for us, a Perfect Roast Chicken is probably what most people think of as the best meal in the world!
I’ve avoided all the ‘faff and fiddle' that many classic roast chicken recipes call for, so you don’t need to be a seasoned cook to bring a perfectly roasted chicken to the table in all it’s golden glory. In fact it’s so easy to cook, it almost beggars belief. However, please don’t be cheapskate when buying chicken. Honour the bird you’re about to eat - and yourself - by paying extra for free-range, pastured and preferably organic, then follow the instructions step-by-step for the best roast chicken you’ve ever tasted.
Finally, there’s nothing much more useful to have in your refrigerator than a cold roast chicken. I like to pile juicy bite-sized pieces of cold roast chicken mixed with lemony mayonnaise, crunchy celery, fresh tarragon and crisp lettuce leaves between slices of grain-free bread to make the most deliciously satisfying sandwiches to take on a picnic with a bottle of chilled champagne. Simply add English strawberries and cream for the ultimate celebration of summer.
Hot or cold, I guarantee that once you’ve learned how to roast a chicken to finger-licking perfection, it’ll be a friend for life!
Perfect Roast Chicken (Serves 4)
1 organic onion, halved
2 organic carrots, cut into chunks
1 free-range, organic chicken about 1.5 kg / 3lb 5oz
40g grass-fed butter, softened
Celtic sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, pricked all over with the point of a sharp knife & microwaved for 30 seconds
small bunch thyme - optional
Take the chicken out of the refrigerator at least 30-45 minutes before you want to cook it to allow it to come to room temperature.
Remove any plastic packaging and stand the chicken on a plate lined with paper-towel. Pat the chicken dry - inside and out - using more paper towels. N.B. Do not rinse under the tap, the chicken needs to be really dry for its skin to crisp up to a beautiful golden-brown.
Heat the oven to 190℃ (175℃ fan) 375℉ / Gas mark 5. Have a shelf ready in the middle of the oven without any shelves above it.
Scatter the vegetables over the base of a roasting dish that fits the chicken snugly (see photograph).
Season the underside of the chicken (its back) and inside the cavity with salt and pepper, then stuff the cavity with the lemon and thyme, if using.
Sit the chicken on top of the vegetables and smother it all over with the butter. Then, liberally season it on the outside with a generous amount of sea salt and a good grinding of black pepper.
Place in the oven and leave, undisturbed, for 1 hr 20 mins – this will give you a perfectly roasted, crispy-skinned chicken.
To check, pierce the thigh with a skewer and the juices should run clear.
Remove the cooked chicken from the oven and carefully lift the chicken onto a dish or board to rest for at least 15-20 mins. As you lift the chicken, let any juices from the chicken pour out of the cavity into the roasting dish - you can use this to make delicious gravy, soups and sauces.
Carbohydrate 0g Protein 70g - per serving