I love French roasted chicken – chicken roasted with butter and stock – and I love chicken breasts stuffed with ricotta, so I combined the two and came up with a winner.
1 free-range organic chicken, 1.4kg (about 3 pound / size 14)
200g (7 oz) ricotta
3 Tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 Tbsp chopped rosemary, plus 4 sprigs (or use fresh tarragon)
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
250ml (1 cup) chicken stock (more if needed)
1 lemon, optional
½ cup white wine or verjuice
1 Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F) and have chicken at room temperature. Rinse chicken inside and out, removing any lumps of fat. Drain, then pat dry with paper towels.
2 In a bowl mix ricotta, breadcrumbs, garlic, chopped rosemary, ½ a teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Slip a finger or two between skin and breast meat of chicken to make pockets. Slip in the ricotta mixture, smoothing it out to reach right along each breast. Pull the skin down.
3 Tie a piece of string around the parson’s nose, then tie the legs together pinning the wings in place, bring the string back to the parson’s nose and tie it in a tight bow. Put the chicken in a roasting tin and pour in the chicken stock.
4 Melt 1½ tablespoons of butter and brush over the chicken. Squeeze on a little lemon juice and sprinkle with salt. You can add lemon halves to the stock in the tin if you wish. Roast chicken for about 1½ hours, basting often. The chicken should be kept moist during cooking; add more stock if it dries up. Stir any sticky goo that forms in the tin into the juices to ensure it doesn’t catch and burn. Once the top of the chicken is sufficiently golden, baste again, then loosely drape it with tin foil.
5 The chicken is ready when the juices run clear when pierced with a skewer – check the thickest part of the thigh, and when the legs are wiggled, they move freely.
Remove the chicken from the oven when it is cooked through to the bone and let it rest at room temperature still in the tin for at least 15 minutes, but up to 1½ hours, covered with a ventilated cover.
6 Tilt the chicken and let juices run out of the cavity into the roasting tin. Transfer chicken to a board. Carve chicken into joints and attended to the juices in the tin. Scoop fat off pan juices. Reheat juices and pour in wine or verjuice, and bubble up scraping up any sticky sediment. Taste and add a pinch or two of salt if necessary. Spoon over carved chicken and serve immediately.
The chicken can be prepared for the oven several hours before cooking. Keep it covered and refrigerated but bring it to room temperature before cooking. It’s a good dish for entertaining because the chicken rests at room temperature for 1-2 hours (don’t fret, it is perfectly safe cooling down naturally),
It’s not difficult to roast a chicken like this, but there must always be stock in the dish or any juices will catch and burn, and you don’t want that to happen because the juices are the basis for the jus which is an essential part of the dish.
And the size of the roasting tin is important too. If it is too big, the juices will evaporate too quickly as they are spread over a wider surface, and the gorgeous ‘goo’ which forms can scorch and burn ruining the chance of making a tasty jus. If the dish is too small, it makes basting the chicken difficult, and also turning it over during cooking is likely to result in stock splashing everywhere. The juices (stock and chicken juices) will not evaporate quickly enough for goo to form if the chicken is tightly packed in a dish. Choose a tin with enough room to easily turn the chicken during cooking.
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