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Roast chicken: New ways with a favourite dish

PUBLISHED: 15:00 16 March 2013

Spatchcock, a different twist on a classic dish

Spatchcock, a different twist on a classic dish

Archant

Roast chicken is such a simple dish and yet sometimes a challenge.

Spatchcock roasted chicken with herbs and garlic

INGREDIENTS

1 whole chicken

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 sprigs of each fresh

rosemary, thyme and oregano

½ teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Roasted Vegetables:

2 small onions, peeled and

quartered

3 to 4 carrots, peeled and cut

into inch chunks

2 medium potatoes, cut into

inch chunks

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

½ lemon, sliced

For the gravy

2 teaspoons plain flour

1 chicken stock cube

Method

Preheat the oven to 200c/400f/

gas mark 6.

Position the chicken so

the back is facing up and the

drumsticks are pointing towards

you. Using poultry or sharp

kitchen scissors cut down one

side of the backbone. Cut down

the other side of the backbone,

removing it completely.

(Reserve the backbone and

cook it underneath the chicken.

It will add flavour to the stock).

Now turn the chicken and

press it down towards the work

surface so it flattens slightly.

Tuck the wings under the

chicken.

Rub the chicken with the oil

and sprinkle with salt and black

pepper, place in a large roasting

tin and add herbs, garlic cloves

and a few lemon wedges. I put

season on the board so the

roasting tin doesn’t catch too

much seasoning, as it can make

the gravy too strong.

Toss the vegetables with 1

tablespoon of oil, rosemary,

salt and black pepper. Arrange

vegetables around chicken

in the roasting pan. Pour an

inch of cold water around the

chicken and pop in to roast.

After 30 minutes, rotate the

roasting tin so the chicken

cooks evenly. Cook for an hour.

Test the legs for pink juices.

Once roasted, transfer

chicken to a cutting board on a

tray, cover loosely with foil then

let rest about 10 minutes.

To make the gravy remove

the vegetables with a slotted

spoon and strain the cooking

liquor into a glass jug or gravy

separator and allow to separate.

Carefully lift 2 tbsp of the

chicken fat on top of the juices

and place back into the roasting

pan. Add 2 tsp of flour and

cook out for a few minutes until

it looks russet brown.

Remove from the heat and

gradually add the chicken liquor

and the chicken stock.

Return to the heat and bring

slowly to the boil, whisking

all the time. Simmer for a few

minutes until the gravy is shiny.

Season to taste with salt and

black pepper.

Cut the legs off the chicken

and divide into thigh and

drumstick, trim off the wing tips

and cut the breasts in half.

Remember the old saying “you get what you pay for”? It’s particularly appropriate in relation to food. A whole chicken can cost as little as £3 but where has it come from and do you care? Do you choose free-range, organic or cage-free?

All these terms can be confusing.

If you’re concerned about the amount of antibiotics fed to chickens, purchase poultry and eggs labelled free-range and no-antibiotic-added. Cage-free means the brids were not kept in cages within a warehouse but does not mean they necessarily had access to outside areas. To ensure you’re purchasing meat and eggs from chickens that foraged in a natural environment, look for packaging indications that the chickens were pastured, or find poultry with the “Animal Welfare Approved” label.

The alternative is to buy locally from someone you know. As the recent horsemeat scandal proves, the label on your food may not be as truthful as you would like to think.

Whatever chicken you buy, you need to know how to cook it.

French roasting involves an inch or so of water, unpeeled garlic cloves, lemon wedges, and a few choice veggies, a few parsley stalks, twists of black pepper and flakes of salt. The chicken is turned about half way through to finish with the breast side up. Once the bird is cooked, the cooking liquor is used to make the gravy. English roast chicken tends to be cooked breast side up throughout and has stuffing in the neck cavity, and perhaps between the skin and breast. This keeps the breast moist and it absorbs the lovely flavour of the stuffing.

One of my favourite ways to prepare a chicken for roasting is to Spatchcock, or to remove the backbone, enabling you to flatten out the whole chicken. Use a good pair of scissors either side of the backbone and then place the chicken on a board and press firmly on the breast to flatten and slightly break the bones to make sure it remains flat. This helps it roast evenly and cook a little quicker. As all the chicken skin is facing upwards, it browns all over.

I prefer to cook my potatoes around the chicken and I pop them in about half way through, once I have par-boiled them. Cutting them quite small means they will cook in time and they soak up some of the delicious juices.

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