RECIPE TITLE "Roast Chicken" Author: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of The River Cottage Meat Book
45 minutes moderate
A free-range or organic chicken
Softened butter, 5 tablespoons
A few bay leaves, sprigs of thyme or oregano
Salt and black pepper
White wine, 1/2 cup
Heavy cream, 2 tablespoons (optional)
Scissors, roasting pan, butter knife, sharp knife, cutting board, large glass measuring cup, large spoon, sharp knife or skewer, 2 large forks, large serving plate, tablespoon, mug, wooden spoon, sieve, small saucepan, teaspoon, small pitcher or gravy boat
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F, or its hottest setting if it doesn’t go that high.
2. Unwrap the chicken from its packaging and snip away any pieces of elastic or string that hold the legs together. Check inside to see whether a bag of giblets (the chicken's heart, liver, and gizzard) is included. If it is, take it out (you could use it to make stock).
3. Put the chicken in the roasting pan, breast side up. With a knife or your fingers, smear the breast and legs of the bird with the butter. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice over the buttered bird. Put the squeezed halves inside the chicken. Tuck some bay leaves and herb sprigs around the chicken and some in the cavity. Grind some pepper and sprinkle a little salt over the bird.
4. Peel the papery skin from the onions and cut each one into quarters. Cut off the top and tail of the carrots, peel them, then slice them into big chunks. Put the onion and carrot pieces in the roasting pan around the chicken. Pour the wine into the pan.
5. Oven gloves on. Carefully put the roasting pan in the oven and cook the chicken for about 15 minutes, until the skin of the chicken has started to brown. Turn the oven down to 325°F and cook for 1 to 1-1/2 hours; the exact cooking time will depend on the size of your chicken. Every 20 minutes or so, baste the chicken by scooping up the cooking juices in the bottom of the pan with the large spoon and pouring them over the bird. If you can manage this 3 times during the roasting, you've done well.
6. Test the chicken to find out if it really is cooked by piercing the thigh with a sharp knife or skewer to see whether the juices run clear. If they look pink or bloody, then the bird isn’t cooked. Put the pan back in the oven and test again in 15 minutes.
7. With a couple of big forks, lift the chicken carefully onto a warmed plate and let it sit for 10 minutes or so. This gives the meat time to relax and let the juices settle back into it.
8. While the chicken is "resting," you can make a very simple gravy. (Although, of course, you don’t have to make a gravy. You can just leave the chicken in the roasting pan and spoon out the delicious juices from the pan as you carve.) Let the roasting pan sit propped up slightly at one end so that its juices collect at the other end. You’ll see that the oily fat rises to the surface, as it’s lighter than the liquid underneath. Skim off as much of this fat as possible with the tablespoon and put it in a mug at the side of the stove to throw away.
9. Unprop the pan and put it on the stove (wear your oven gloves), then turn the heat under the pan to low. Stir with the wooden spoon to loosen any chickeny bits that may be stuck to the bottom of the pan. If there aren’t many juices, you can add another tablespoon or two of white wine.
10. Stir again. Place the sieve over the small saucepan and carefully pour the juices into it. Then set the saucepan on the stove over low heat and let it come to a very gentle simmer. Use a teaspoon to scoop up a little of the gravy, blow on it to cool it down, then taste it. Do you think it needs salt and pepper? You may want to add a couple of tablespoons of cream just to soften the flavor. Let it simmer for a minute longer, then pour the gravy into a warm pitcher or gravy boat ready to serve.
How to eat your chicken:
It's your roast, so you get to carve. Make sure that everyone gets the bit of the bird they like best and pass the gravy around. The pieces of onion and carrot may look a bit wizened, but they’re actually quite tasty.
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