I love chicken! There I’ve said it. It’s my favourite meat, the most versatile and the best to match with Chardonnay. I cook this at least once a week and the best part is the smell that emanates through the house. There are many fancier versions of roast chook, but for a weekday meal, it’s set and forget, puts the kids to bed and then finish it all off in the last ten minutes. And, no, before you ask, don’t even think the pre-flavoured & stuffed marinated birds you can get from the supermarket will do the job…. they never do!
A chook, a lemon cut in half, thyme (I have an enduring love affair with lemon thyme), sage, rosemary (or a variety of fresh woody herbs that you have at your disposal), extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), a head of garlic, salt and pepper (S&P), brown onion quartered or eshallots.
Sides: dutch (baby)
carrots, washed and trimmed, chat potatoes, woody herbs, butternut pumpkin, feta, sage, walnuts, EVOO, S&P and garlic.
Gravy: plain flour & chicken stock.
Put the chat potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold water, season generously with salt and bring to the boil and cook until until tender (20-30 mins).
Drain any excess liquid out of the chicken carcass and pat the top of the chicken dry. Stuff it with half the lemon, a bunch of your woody herbs, half a head of garlic (cut through the middle so the inside of each clove is exposed). Put a bit of EVOO in a roasting dish (also suitable for use on the stove when making the gravy), place the chicken breast side up in the dish, drizzle generously with EVOO and season (don’t be shy with the salt it will help the skin go crispy). Place the quartered brown onion or eshallots (these help give the gravy a rich brown colour) and the other half a head of garlic in the pan and put in a pre-heated oven at 180-200 degrees for an hour.
While the chats are cooking, put a glug of olive oil in another small roasting dish and add carrots, thyme and S&P and put in the oven for about 40 minutes or until cooked to your liking.
Cut the pumpkin into wedges and place in another baking dish (a big one so there is room for the potatoes too) with a lug of EVOO and S&P, and cook in the oven with the carrots and chicken for about 40 minutes or till caramelised and soft.
When the potatoes are soft, drain and place in the baking dish with the pumpkin. Smash them with a masher (I use a pestle), so they break up a bit, drizzle them generously with EVOO, season well, scatter over some of the woody herbs, a few garlic cloves and the juice from the other half of the lemon and roast them along with the pumpkin until they are golden, brown and crispy.
When you think the chicken is cooked, pierce the area between the thigh and the breast and if the juices run clear it is cooked. Place the chicken breast side down on a plate and cover with foil to rest.
Put the kids to bed at this point and pour yourself a glass of E.M. Limited Release Chardonnay, a food and wine match made in heaven!
Put a handful of walnuts in the oven to toast (watch them carefully they turn quickly).
Skim or remove the excess fat from the roasting tin the chicken was in and add a tablespoon or two of flour and mix to form a paste. Put the pan on the heat (stove top) and add chicken stock to make the gravy (I usually start with 500ml and add gradually as necessary). Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the roasting tray, squish the onion up and squeeze out the garlic cloves and bring to the simmer until it is the desired thickness. If you are having trouble getting a nice rich colour in the gravy, add Vegemite or soy sauce to help.
Boil the jug and fill a gravy boat or whatever you plan to serve the gravy in with boiling water to get it warm.
Meanwhile in a small fry pan, brown some butter and add the sage when the butter is nut brown.
Once everything is cooked, turn off the oven and put in all your plates and serving platters to get warm.
Add any liquid from the resting chicken to the gravy and pop back in the oven to keep warm.
Plate up the pumpkin, pour over the sage and brown butter and toasted walnuts and put back in the oven to keep warm. Put the potatoes and the carrots in serving dishes and back in the oven to keep warm.
Strain the gravy through a sieve into the warmed gravy boat and put in the oven to keep warm.
Take out the chicken, carve it and serve it to the table with all the sides and the gravy. Add the feta to the pumpkin at the last minute. A family feast!
Then act really tired and make yourself scarce – there will be a pile of washing up.