About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007
Roast Chicken
Having had a bit to say about Heston Blumenthal's method for perfect roast chook, it seems beholden upon me to give some instruction as to how to achieve a wonderful result, without the perceived food poisoning risk. I'm not saying this method delivers perfection, but you will be impressed with the quality of the cooked bird.

Nine times out of ten, I cook a roast chicken about the same as anyone else, season inside, rub with a little oil and because I enjoy a neat bird, a rudimentary trussing is in order. Straight into the oven at 200c (400f) until cooked; with a 1.5kg (3.5lb) chicken, that should take about 1 hour, perhaps 15 minutes more, depending on whether you took the bird out of the fridge early or not. The result is a generally moist roast with a crisp skin.

But when I want to make an impression, I look to the French for their method of roasting, which produces a gloriously moist and subtly scented chicken that will bring a tear to your eye, with the only downside being the skin doesn't crisp up as well. Pay your money, make your choice.

The first thing to do, is buy the best bird you can; there is a remarkable difference between genuine free range and supermarket birds. We always use Glenloth chickens, which if you live near St Kilda, a 1.5kg bird can be bought from Gruner Butcher & Deli for the great price of $16, a nice bargain. The amazing thing about Glenloth is that they start with exactly the same breed of chicks that the supermarket growers use, but all similarity ends there.

When you are ready to cook your bird, it is important to remove it from the fridge for about an hour before you pop it in the oven and leave it in a cool, protected spot. Half an hour before cooking, turn on the oven to 200c (400f), then, remove your bird from the plastic wrapping and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Place a 20g (3/4oz) knob of butter inside as well as two or three sprigs of tarragon* and season the inside cavity very well with salt and fresh ground pepper, a chicken can take a lot of seasoning, but do not season the outside skin, salt here would hinder browning by drawing out juices.

Truss the bird as best you can, I simply take two lengths of kitchen string, twine, not Bridget Jones's nasty blue plastic crap. With the first string, simply tie the drumsticks to each other and with the second piece, run it around the chicken where the wings are to hold them in place against the body. Knot of choice? Granny, what else. It is necessary to truss the bird as you need to move it around in the baking dish.

Next, take about 30g (1.25oz) softened butter and rub all over the bird, you want a fairly thick coat of butter. In a baking tray that will hold the bird snugly, pour in 300ml (1.25cups) of hot, homemade chicken stock. Place the chicken, breast side up on a roasting rack, cover with a buttered baking paper and place in the baking tray with the chicken stock, the bird should not be touching the stock.

Place the baking tray in the oven and roast for twenty minutes. Remove from the oven, turn the chicken on its side and baste with its juices, cover with the paper. Roast for another twenty minutes, remove from the oven and turn it so it's resting on the other side and baste again, cover with the paper. Roast another twenty minutes, remove from the oven, turn breast side up, baste again, do not put the paper back this time, allowing the chicken to brown and return to the oven for fifteen minutes to finish cooking. To test for doneness, pierce the thick part of the thigh, any juices should be clear, if any sign of pinkness, roast for a bit longer. If need be, top up the stock with hot water from a kettle.

After removing from the oven, let the chicken rest in a warm spot for fifteen minutes while you make a sauce from the pan juices, remove any excess butter and oil first.

*tarragon isn't strictly necessary, but it forms a perfect marriage with chicken, you will thank me.
  posted at 8:08 am

At 1:49 pm, Blogger Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I confess that I usually just toss some salt and pepper on top of the chicken and throw it into the oven. But I can certainly imagine that treating the chicken with this much TLC would produce a delicious end result.

At 2:12 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi lydia, if you were roasting without all the liquid in the tin and no buttered paper on top of the chicken, salting wouldn't really be a hindrance to browning, it's just that with this method, every little thing helps. I know there is a raging debate about salting pork crackling prior to cooking, having had it both ways, I'm not sure it makes a big difference, but crackling does have a lot of fat underneath, which may be a barrier to moisture, chicken of course, doesn't have this same protection.

At 6:35 am, Blogger Finla said...

Sure the aroma comming frm the kitchen would have been great. Never used tarragon for roasting chicken. I sometimes throw in few garlic and tyme.
Agree with you better to pay money for a good chicken.

At 10:30 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice metrhod Neil but I reakon you can get a similar allover crispiness by just roasting on rack, breast side up.
HOWEVER- I have also tried the Zuni cafe way, place chookin brine solution overnight, wash thoroughly & pat dry before roasting. Add your usual aromats & roast as per normal. Chicken skin nirvana plus gentle undertone of seasong-I was impressed.
Maggie Beer usually seperates the legs from the frame & roasts them seperately after they have been marinated in say, some olive oil, OJ, salt, peppercorns & garlic. The chicken 'buffe' gets roasted in a pre heated oven, depemnding on the size, at about 180C for 15 to 20 mins. The legs for about 10 mins more. You let the breasts 'rest' upside down to retain moisture & is exceptionally moist done this way.
Another good way is to wet roast like your idea but completey cover the bird with tight fitting alfoil so the steam cooks it. Do this for about 45 mins, then take the fouil off to 'crsip' it up. Use white wine & heaps of aromats & the smell is intoxicating when you left the foil off.
Golden rule for all these methods:
let the bird rest before carving, it make the world of difference!
I use Groenewolds free range chicken where I live & they are about $5.95 a kg-How goods that!

Sorry to hog your blog.

At 1:13 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi happy cook, I think you know a thing or two about aroma, I would love to get a sniff of your kitchen. You are so right about a quality bird, people are generally amazed the first time they eat one.

Hi gobbler, a lot of good info there, I love the bit about lifting off the foil and being intoxicated by the aroma, nice.

At 7:04 pm, Blogger paul kennedy said...

I nearly forgot you were talking about chicken, Neil. The baking tray got me back on track.

(I asked where Tarragon was in a greengrocer once and the girl said to me: "Isn't that a town in Gippsland?")

At 1:29 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi kitchen hand, a baking tray with more than one purpose! I think I may have passed through there once, isn't it near the wind generators?

At 8:08 am, Blogger Gigi said...

I adore a nice roast chicken ~ something I can season up and bang in the oven while I go do something else. (I do season the skin; it doesn't seem to dry but is that why it never crisps?) My fave method is the simple one involving oil, rosemary, whole lemons and lots of garlic cloves. This sounds wonderful and like something even I could manage. Toss in a knob of butter and some tarragon...? mmmnnn


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