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.
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.
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.