Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Perfect" roast chicken

Have you heard of Marcus Wareing? 

He is a protégé of Gordon Ramsay, and after 15 years of working under/ with Ramsay, Wareing split from him and went on to say that Ramsay was a "sad bastard" whose influence had left him feeling "trapped and constrained." 

Anyways, now that I have given you something definite to remember Wareing by, I want to tell you about one of his cookbooks. It's called How to cook the perfect... and yes, it does the obvious. It features loads of stuff like chocolate cake, shallot  tartin, scrambled  eggs etc. And it of course has a roast chicken recipe. Now roast chicken is one of those things that is prone to being used alongside the descriptor "The prefect...", much like chocolate cake. Jamie Oliver has one; Ina Garten has one; Martha Stewart has one; Nigella Lawson has one. And when you combine all these techniques, you get absolutely amazing roast chicken (but sometimes, you get a bloody mess.) 

One of my roast chickens, unroasted
Here's how I make roast chicken now. 

1 chicken weighing about 2 kg, preferably organic
20 shallots, peeled or unpeeled
1 bulb of garlic broken into cloves, unpeeled 
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 lemon, unwaxed and organic
a small bunch of fresh thyme, rosemary, sage, or bay; or a mixture
olive oil
a knob of butter
a chicken stock cube

500 ml chicken stock
150 ml white wine (optional)
1 tbsp cornflour (optional)

Ensure that the chicken is at room temperature. Preheat your oven to 240 C/475 F/gas 9. 

Remove the giblets from the chicken and dry the outsides and the cavity well with a paper towel. (As I learnt the hard way, this step is very important, because if the chicken is not dry, the water on it will turn into steam and prevent the skin from crisping up.) Season the insides with salt and pepper. Anoint (as Nigella puts it) the chicken all over with an itsy bitsy bit of butter and/or olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper liberally on it and rub it all over the bird. Prick the lemon all over with a fork or a sharp knife (so says Jamie) and place it in the cavity of the bird along with the bunch of herbs, a few cloves of garlic and a chicken stock cube (taking cue from the Italians via Nigella). If your lemon is waxed and/or not organic, you could skip the step of placing the lemon in the chicken cavity. Instead, sprinkle a bit of lemon juice over the chicken. Tying the chicken legs together after crossing them will ensure that your chicken looks more ladylike, if you thus prefer.

Place the shallots, the rest of the garlic cloves, and the carrots in a roasting pan and drizzle with a little olive oil. Place the chicken over this and place the pan in the oven, turn it down to 200 C/400 F/gas 6, and let it roast for about 20 minutes per 500 g plus 30 min. 

Now, Nigella tells you to place the bird breast-down for the first hour so that all the fats and juices make their way down to the white meat and flavor it up. Marcus Wareing goes all technical and instructs that after the chicken has roasted for half an hour and the breast has become crisp and brown, it must be turned to one side, basted, and allowed to cook for 10 minutes. Then, the bird needs to be turned to the other side, basted, and allowed to cook for 10 minutes. Then, the chicken needs to be placed on its breast so that its back faces up, basted, and allowed to roast for 10 minutes. Finally, it needs to be placed breast-up and allowed to roast for the remainder of the time. Phew! (Guess which option I choose.)

To check if the chicken is cooked, insert a skewer into the thick end of a thigh. If the juices run clear, the chicken is done; if there is blood, the chicken is not. Transfer the chicken to a board and let it rest for ten minutes, covered with a tent made of foil.

Remove the herb bunch and the lemon and transfer the vegetables to a serving dish. 

Strain the liquid and from the roasting pan and add the brown bits from the pan to it; this is required for the gravy. Pour out the excess fat if you want to live heartily. Pour the liquid into a saucepan and place it on the stove. Add the stock and the wine and reduce until the consistency is thick enough. If you wish for a thicker sauce, mix the cornflour in some cold water and add it to the sauce, making sure that no lumps are formed. To achieve this end, a whisk is very helpful. Adjust the seasoning and serve the gravy on the side of the chicken and the veggies.

Did I inspire you to make roast chicken or to never make roast chicken again? Don't tell me if it's the latter. I've had enough heartbreak for the day. The Spice Girls are not reuniting, didn't you hear?

Jamie's recipe: Perfect roast chicken found in Jamie's Ministry of Food and here.
Nigella's recipes: Basic roast chicken found in How to eat; Slow-roasted garlic and lemon chicken found in Forever summer.
Marcus Wareing's recipe: Roast chicken found in How to cook the perfect...
Other reads on roast chicken: Heston Blumenthal and Guardian UK's awesome food blog

perfect roast chicken
Jamie Oliver's roast chicken

1 comment:

  1. lovely! i love roast chicken.. thanks for the wonderful recipe!


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