Happy Chicken

My sister has always maintained that chicken is a waste of a meal. I’m not exactly sure what that means but I think it has something to do with it being bland and boring. And true, if I go to one more wedding and see as my alternate drop main a stringy chicken breast with ” insert pesto/ semi dried tomato/balsamic glaze” here while The Hungry One tucks into a hearty rump I’m going to be tempted to eat the bridesmaid’s bouquet.

But there is something about roast chicken.

I have no idea how to carve it, the action of shoving something indelicately up the chicken’s rear end almost makes me feel I should be getting 5-7 without parole and I’m never completely sure I’m not going to give people salmonella and be stricken off the dinner party lists for life

– but there is something about it.

Everyone says you have to have organic, you have to have free range, you have to have a chicken that has a better work/ life balance than you do.

And I’m a complete sucker for foodie peer pressure. So when you combine a very zemchicken with a very happy stuffing and a Sunday night sitting round the dinner table with your Mum, sister , the Hungry One and the brother in law, a bottle or two of pinot gris and some beautiful salads you’ve got a happy tori.

And even happier still that she’s managed to prove her beloved sister wrong. Waste of a meal? Try this one at home.

Happy Chicken

Take one 1.5 kilo chicken, free range, organic, has just spent 3 weeks in the Maldives kind of happy.

Pre heat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Remove the extra fat from the cavity, delicately spread its legs and give it a good rinse inside and out. Pat insides dry with a paper towel and remember to book yourself into Family Planning for your 18 mthly appointment of similar.

Make a stuffing of 200 grams of ricotta, a handful of semi dried tomatoes diced, some toasted pine nuts, some shredded sage leaves, some basil shredded some salt, pepper, lemon zest and about 3 tablespoons of breadcrumbs. Mix it until it tastes good.

Separate the skin from the breast gently. Put a few tablespoons at a time of the ricotta mixture under the breast and slowly squelch them down until they’ve created a pillowy layer. Think of it like the chicken’s version of a big cream jumper that you wear under a winter coat when it’s really cold.

Make sure it covers the breasts and down to the thighs ( like a good winter coat).

Peel off with a vegetable peeler some long bits of lemon zest. Put them, the 2 halves of a lemon that’s been cut in half, 3 smashed garlic cloves and a handful of basil and sage up between the chickens legs.

Massage olive oil into the chicken and season it well with salt and pepper.

Put the chicken in a roasting rack in a roasting tray and pour 2 glasses of white wine underneath- the steam will help perfume the chicken and make a good base for a gravy.

Put the chicken in the oven for 20 minutes on 200 degrees to crisp the skin. Turn it down to 150 degrees and continue to roast until your internal thermometer tells you it’s 165 degrees and nearly safe to eat. It’s ok to take out if a skewer is inserted into thickest part of thigh joint lets the juice run clear.

Take it out of the oven, cover with foil and let it rest for 10 – 30 minutes. The internal temperature should be 170 degrees after it’s rested.

I find it easiest to carve Chinese style- get a cleaver, cut it in half at the back bone and then hack into pieces. It’s not elegant. The juices will run down your chin, but at least everyone gets some crispy skin and stuffing.

Serve with salads:
Button mushroom, fennel, zucchini, red onion and blue cheese- cut the zucchini, fennel and red onion into similar size pieces ( about half the size of a mobile phone). Put them in a baking dish, scatter some blue cheese and bread crumbs over the top and put it in the oven at 150 degrees while the chicken is resting. 20 Minutes is good.

Tomato, bocconcini and basil- as long as you’ve got ripe tomatoes, good bocconcini (no you can’t buy that from a supermarket) basil, olive oil, salt and pepper you’re fabulous

Rocket, shaved fennel, pear and parmesan.

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