I have recently been asked this question and instantly I knew the answer. For many I guess it would be a sweet seduction, not a meal – maybe chocolate cake, or maybe the best possible vanilla bean ice cream or for one of my best friends sugar & cinnamon tossed donuts, still warm from the oil. But for me is all about roast chicken- yes the humble roast chook!
Oh but it has to be mouth-wateringly tender, juicy and covered in golden crisp skin. Flavoured with lots of lemon and seasoned well. Or maybe stuffed to the brim with a marvellous stuffing.
I have had many roast chicken dinners, some excellent and sadly a few very ordinary. But the memory is on my lips of the sensational ones, it still makes me salivate.
So what are the rules, tips and musts in producing a stunner…. well read on.
1. Buy the best chook you can find. Maybe it’s from a farmers market, maybe a specialty poultry shop, the local good butcher or the supermarket. It does without stating it has to be free range, but if it can be organic and corn fed…. Oh that’s the way.
2. Size: normally size 16, or 17 is a good size- particularly as that happily feeds my hungry family with a little left for my spoilt 4 legged ones to have a nibble or a nice little bit for a sandwich for ‘my’ lunch the next day! Fresh bread, good mayonnaise, maybe some avocado – hmmm, maybe that’s my 2nd favourite.
3. Get the chicken out of the plastic bag and give it a good rinse (inside and out) and pat dry with paper towel. Preheat the oven to 200 o C and grab a nice big heavy baking dish. Set a rack or trivet into the pan.
4. Cut 2 or 3 juicy lemons or limes in half. Pop about 3 halves into the cavity, a good handful of roughly chopped herbs like thyme, oregano and parsley and push them into the bird. Tie the legs together with a little string and tuck the wings under.
5. Season all over with a good sprinkling of salt and freshly ground black pepper and drizzle and rub well with olive oil. Place the chicken onto the rack breast side up. Roast for 20 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 180oC and roast for about another 45 – 50 minutes or until the juices run clear when gently tested ( in the thigh) with a fine skewer. You can roast perfectly in your BBQ if you have a hood. All through summer I cook constantly on the barbie.
6. Remove the chicken and allow to stand for a least 10 minutes while you prepare a quick delicious gravy using all the juices in the pan and adding some chicken stock, red wine, a touch of cranberry jelly or plumb jam and let it boil and reduce, stirring over a high heat.
All the trimmings: Yes, the stuffing I adore contains nuts, currants and bacon- sometimes made with bread crumbs or left over cooked rice. I also love crispy baked baby potatoes, creamy cauliflower au gratin and steamed garlic beans. But the ‘trimmings’, tips for those…. I will leave that for another time. Dinner tonight, yes think it has to be roast chicken – again!