This past weekend I picked up a beautiful roasting chicken at the Chester City Indoor Market. We are so lucky to have an indoor market here in our lovely city . . . and other than a few odds and sods, there is not much you can't get there . . . cheeses, eggs, fresh produce, baked goods, fish, meats and poultry. There is literally everything there and all reasonably priced and all out of the elements, dry and warm.
I decided to roast it using my favourite recipe for roasting chicken, which is one that I have adapted from a recipe I found in Rachel Allen's book, Rachel's Food for Living. I just love Rachel Allen's recipes. They are not too fiddly and well written, and I have always been able to adapt them to my own methods and tastes.
It helps when you are going to roast a chicken to have a really good chicken to begin with. I love buying my roasting chickens from a butcher. They are normally air dried which means that the skin gets really crisp and flavourful . . . not like a grocery store chicken which has spent days sweating under plastic cling film. They may not be as pretty to look at as the grocery shop chicken . . . but there is no real comparison when it comes to taste . . . a free range Butcher's chicken just plain tastes better. It tastes like chicken is supposed to taste.
I don't change a thing when it comes to Rachel's lemon and herb stuffing. It is her mother's recipe and pretty hard to beat . . . soft bread crumbs, gently softened onion, butter, herbs . . . lemon, both the zest and the juice . . . and of course salt and pepper. It doesn't get much better than that.
I love to rub my roasting chickens with lots and lots of butter. It just gives it a nice colour and flavour and I sprinkle it with plenty of sea salt, black pepper and some more of the thyme which was used in the stuffing. Now here's where I vary from her method. I like to cut up potatoes and sweet potatoes (if I have them) and lay them around the chicken in the roasting dish. I dot them with some of the fat which I have pulled out from the inside of the chicken . . . and of course season once again with more salt and pepper and a few sprigs of herbs.
A few hours later we are rewarded with a beautifully roasted chicken, with lovely crisp skin and meltingly tender roasted potatoes . . . not to mention that delicious lemon and herb stuffing.
You can't get much better than that!
*Lemon and Herb Stuffed Roast Chicken*
Serves 4 to 6
A moist and delicious perfectly roasted chicken, stuffed with a fabulous lemony herb bread stuffing. Fabulous.
1 large free range roasting chicken (between 3 1/2 and 5 pounds in weight)
a knob of softened butter
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a few thyme leaves
the juice of half a lemon
375ml of chicken stock (1 1/2 cups)
For the Stuffing:
2 TBS butter
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 TBS chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp chopped fresh sage leaves
the finely grated zest of one unwaxed lemon
the juice of 1/2 lemon
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
100g of fresh soft white bread crumbs (about 1 3/4 cup)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into large chunks
6 medium potatoes peeled and cut into large chunks
2 TBS flour
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Have ready a nice deep roasting pan.
Melt the butter for the stuffing in a skillet. Add the onion. Cook, stirring over low heat, without browning, until it is meltingly soft, about 10 minutes. Tip in the herbs, lemon zest, lemon juice and bread crumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow to cool completely. (Safe the squeezed lemon carcass)
Place your chicken into the roasting pan. Stuff the cavity lightly with the bread stuffing. Slather the chicken breast all over with a knob of softened butter. Sprinkle with some sea salt and black pepper and a few thyme leaves. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over top. Place the lemon carcass into the roasting pan around the chicken along with the one you used for the stuffing. Scatter the peeled vegetables around the base of the chicken. Sprinkle lightly with some salt and herbs. Pour about half the chicken stock around the chicken and vegetables.
Roast for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, basting with the pan juices and turning the vegetables over halfway through the baking time. When done the juices should run clear from the chicken when pierces between the thigh and the breast and the legs should feel quite loose when gently twisted. Remove from the oven. Remove the chicken and vegetables from the pan to a serving platter. Loosely tent with foil to keep warm. You will want it to rest for about 20 minutes now, while you make the gravy and cook any additional vegetables.
To make the gravy, pour the pan juices out into a measuring jug. Pour a bit of boiling water in the pan and scrape up any juicy browned bits. Pour this into the measuring jug. Spoon about 2 TBS of the fat from the jug into a saucepan. Discard the remainder of the fat. Heat over medium heat until bubbling. Whisk in the flour and cook for about a minute. Slowly whisk in the pan juices, whisking until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken slightly. Season to taste. Allow to simmer over low heat for a few minutes to get rid of any flour taste.
Serve the chicken sliced, along with some of the gravy, stuffing and roasted vegetables, and of course any other vegetables you have prepared.
We love to have carrots and peas with this! Boring I know, but very tasty.