Proper roast chicken
- You want to cook your chicken for 20 minutes per pound of weight. Check the label and work this out before starting. A bird that feeds around 4 usually takes around 75-90 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 180 deg C fan or 190 deg C (non fan).
- Grab a deep roasting pan big enough to hold your chook comfortably.
- Peel and quarter the onions, leaving the root on if possible to hold the quarters together. Place the quarters in the centre of your roasting dish.
- Wash the carrots and cut lengthways. Put those in the tray with the onions.
- Halve the lemon and cut one of the halves into two. Place those two pieces in with the onions and carrots, hanging on to the other half.
- Scatter over the thyme sprigs.
- OK, now grab your chicken. Untie its legs - birds should be free in the oven. When they come out looking all akimbo and wonky legged that is half the fun, but on a practical level it allows the heat to flow in and around the bird more freely.
- First gently slide your fingers up under the skin of the breast meat, starting from the neck end. Be careful not to tear the skin and go careful, you will eventually separate it from the breast leaving you with a lovely space to insert flavour.
- Now grab a fistful of the butter, about half and get it up under the skin of that chicken. Get as much up under there as you can. If you can get it all in, good show. Massage it out over all the breast so it has a buttery coat under the skin.
- Rub any remaining butter from your hands or leftovers all over the legs and outside of the chook.
- Get that butter off your hands with a good wash. Now it's time to get the sage up under that skin too. Slide one leaf in at a time, massaging again to distribute them across the surface.
- Again wash your hands and now season the outside of the chicken liberally with salt and pepper, then place the whole thing in the oven.
- Set a timer for halfway through the cooking time and now go sit down have a nice glass of vino, a beer or a cuppa.
- Bzzzzz.. it's half way through. Lift your chicken out of the oven. It should be all starting to get good and golden.
- Pour the white wine and water in around the veg; place the chicken back in for the rest of the cooking time.
- While this is happening it's time to make whatever veggies you are serving with your feast. I also recommend bread sauce. It's balm for a dented soul, a mood cushion for a cold day and the best accompaniment to a Christmas dinner as can be found.
- When the chicken is done time-wise, it's time to check that it actually is. You need to ram something thin and metal like a skewer or your skinniest knife right into the thickest part of the dark meat, where it meets the breast. Leave it there for a count of five and remove it. Visually check the juice that comes out is clear and most importantly, touch the blade to the back of your hand. If it feels hot then your chicken is done. Not ouchy hot, just a good cup of tea hot. (fact – chef's touch it to their lips or cheeks as their hands are so used to heat it's not an accurate thermometer).
- If it's not done put it back in for a few more minutes. If it is, let it have a rest.
- After fifteen minutes lift the chicken onto a clean plate, draining all the juices out of its cavity into the roasting dish. In fact, I usually jam one side of a pair of tongs into the cavity (or up the chook's hooter, as my Nan used to say) and tilt it to drain out the juice and lift it onto the plate. This is good as it's a secure way to hold a hot chicken.
- Now discard the lemons from the roasting tray. Grab a masher or a sturdy wooden spoon and give all the veg a good pounding to get all their tastiness out. Let this sit for a few minutes until the fat settles on the top and tilt this off to use for something else. I like to roast my potatoes to go with the chicken in it, or rather naughtily beat it through mashed potatoes like butter. Mmmmm.
- Now strain that stock through a sieve into a clean pot, really smushing up everything and scraping the marmite-y goodness off the tray.
- Bring that to a boil and taste it for strength and seasoning. It should be really roasted in flavour. I don't like a thick gravy (apologies to my Northern roots there where gravy is something a spurtle can stand up in) so I just reduce mine a little and serve as is.
- There you have it. The perfect crispy skinned, boy-band tanned chicken. Have at it folks.
If you have any left after the first meal it would go wonderfully in this Panzanella inspired salad.