Raindrops and Roast Chicken

Though I find it surprising, I actually came quite late to the humble roast chicken. I seem to recall we had it as children – but only at Christmas. It seemed to me a special kind of dish for that reason and not something I ever pursued in my twenties, which was as much about never having access to a decent oven in all those years of share houses and student living.

So when we moved into our own home in 2006, with a decent oven, one of the first new frontiers for me was roasting. I was an instant, passionate and dedicated convert. Roasting gives you the best of both worlds – an impressive piece of meat and at least 90 minutes’ worth of knitting time. No standing around stirring, watching and so on. Just bung it in the oven and walk away. Pour a drink. Wait for the timer. Knit. Or if you’ve got people over, spend more time talking and less time being the cook. It’s a win-win situation really.

What happens in winter is that come Saturday, I’m often so brain dead from the week that the simple roast chicken has become my default dish on a Saturday night. I get great satisfaction from it, with very little effort. I have some variations on the theme, but mostly I stick to olive oil, salt, pepper and sometimes a lemon in the cavity. Other times, I go for a herby version, stuffing a bunch of thyme in the cavity, or herbs under the skin.

Though it may be winter in the northern hemisphere (the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics was a nice celebration of cold things today!) it’s still summer here, but today at least, thanks to much needed lingering rain, we got to pretend that we don’t live in a part of the world that’s scorched to oblivion.

I stepped outside late this afternoon, got splashed with rain, and caught a few glimpses of the wetness.

Rain Feb 2010

One of my favourite pairings is chicken and tarragon and it just so happens I have, in my poorly populated garden (see above comments on scorched gardens), a profusely growing tarragon plant.


To make my tarragon chicken, I chop finely 2tbs of tarragon (or more, I love the lemony tang of it so go heavily if I feel inclined) with two or three cloves of garlic. I mash it up in some butter, about 10g, and add some salt and pepper.

chopped tarrago

Then my favourite part, I lift the skin on the breast of the chicken and tuck the herby, buttery mixture under it. I remember learning this trick early on in my chicken roasting career and thought i was so damn clever. How wonderful to lift that delicate skin and fill the space without breaking anything more than the sinews that hold the skin to the meat!

Roast the chicken, with a lemon quartered and placed inside the body, until done (I usually give it about 90 minutes or until it’s about 75degC. Let it rest under foil for about 15 minutes and serve with roast veggies or whatever you choose.


I adore how the green of the tarragon can be seen through the crispy, roasted skin, where with the garlic and butter it’s all melted against the breast meat and infused it with such wonderful flavours. Sometimes I use thyme or sage under the skin, whatever is to hand or most in need of being thinned in the garden. With a glass of chardonnay and the sound of gently falling rain outside, it’s a Saturday night to savour.




22 thoughts on “Raindrops and Roast Chicken

  1. Oooh, you are making me dribble a bit! I haven’t done a nice roast chook for a while – thanks for the inspiration (not that there’ll be time till next weekend at the earliest, but still, more anticipation!)
    And Elijah is deeply adorable.

  2. That looks fantastic.

    I have almost the opposite history, we would have had roast chicken at least once a week, and it was often my job to get it ready and put it in the oven because my mum was at work until 6. Consequently, it wasn’t really something I wanted to make when I moved out of home and it’s only lately that I’ve started roasting chickens again.

  3. Love a roast chook – and have become a convert to butterflied chicken, because it can be done so quickly….

    But a proper roast chook, with a fresh sage and onion and breadcrumb and butter stuffing (or whatever you fill it with, should not be denied either!

  4. I love a roasted chicken. It’s so easy and almost always comes out good. And then I put the carcass in a pot and make soup and some chicken salad or a pot pie. Roast chicken is a good way to not cook all week! I like to put herbs under the skin as well. They look good and make the meat taste so good.

    It looks beautiful and warm and wet there. I know you’re in the middle of the heat but it looks so inviting right now (more snow this coming week. )

  5. I wooed my husband with Stephanie Alexander’s Roast Chicken (from the Cook’s Companion). Its a great recipe for a beginning roaster. The only thing that I would change is a glass of semillon instead.

  6. I don’t remember chicken of any kind in my childhood – ah, wait Chicken Maryland as a special treat in my mid-teens. Christmas was always roast turkey (dry, overcooked, consequently a white meat I am still not fond of). Family roasts were lamb and beef (usually dry and overcooked and served with Yorkshire Pudding – my favourite part) with pork at Christmas.

    Now, not being fond of white meat, we eat chicken several times a week. It has been years since we roasted our own but you have set my tate buds wondering.

  7. My experience of roasting is exactly the same as yours!! Although we rarely, if ever, had roast chicken growing up, it was always a red meat roast. Since I did my first roast (which was a chicken, from Stephanie Alexander, using lemon and garlic in the cavity) I haven’t looked back!

    But I have never tried tarragon with my chicken, I must do that, it sounds delicious. And I must get one of those curvy choppers, what are they called again, I can’t remember!!

  8. Beautiful, beautiful pictures. And Australia looks so green! I made a disaster roast chicken a few years ago (burnt outside, raw inside) and haven’t been game to go back. But maybe, just maybe I might give it another try…

  9. I do like a roast chicken. It’s comfort food. On the other hand, I’m getting so sick of dealing with meat! (it’s the repressed vegetarian in me.) I have to admit to going heavy with the butter when I roast a chicken–I generally season with salt and pepper, then melt some butter, add some poultry seasoning & extra thyme, and pour the butter mixture over the bird. Also, if you roast breast down, the breast always stays nice & moist. And another thing I like about roast chicken–there are always leftovers, so if I roast a chicken on Sunday, it’s quick & easy to make chicken soup or chicken pot pie on Monday.

    A new one for me–last weekend I cooked a pork tenderloin! Husband wanted one. I was so-so on it (pork in general, really; I always think of the 10th grade biology lesson on trichinosis) but he liked it.

  10. Beautiful. Roast chicken has become one of my favorite things. I go for the ultra simple version, just sprinkled with salt and pepper, maybe some herbs, and stuffed in the oven for about 70 minutes. I think it will be my Sunday dinner, this time with some fresh bread and a green salad.

  11. One of our dearest friends is coming over for dinner tomorrow night and Felix and I decided about two hours ago that a lemon-oil roasted chicken is the perfect choice. I’m using the amazing “Vicar’s Wife’s Cook Book” recipe, because it just seems to work! I think I’ll be adding some tarragon to the recipe now!

    Great minds think alike, yes?

  12. How lovely, Helen. Like you, I came a bit late to roasting not just chicken, but any meat, but have been a delighted fan since I started doing it in the past 7 or 8 years. You’ve inspired me to do the tarragon & butter under the skin next time – I adore tarragon! Lovely photos as well. πŸ™‚

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