Here's the blueprint recipe to produce a plump roast chicken with deep golden skin so tasty you'll find it hard not to pick at it while you carve the chicken, and juicy fall-off-the-bone flesh, nicely scented with garlic and herbs. The trick is to turn the chicken during cooking and to cook it with a small amount of stock to keep it moist.
1 free-range organic chicken, 1.4kg (about 3 pound / size 14) Butter Generous handful fresh tarragon (or fresh thyme) Flaky sea salt Freshly ground black pepper 250ml (1 cup) chicken stock (more if needed) 1 small lemon ½ cup white wine or verjuice
1 Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F) and have chicken at room temperature.
2 Remove any lumps of fat from inside chicken cavity. Put a nut of butter inside chicken cavity along with a sprig of tarragon and a pinch of salt. Slip some tarragon sprigs between the chicken breast skin and meat. 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 stock around chicken.
3 Melt 1½ tablespoons of butter and brush over chicken. Squeeze a little lemon juice over chicken and sprinkle with salt. You can add the lemon halves to the stock in the tin if you wish. Roast chicken for about 1½ hours, basting often; turn chicken over after 20 minutes, cook for a further 20 minutes, then turn breast uppermost again for the rest of the cooking. 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. If you have tarragon, strew it over the top of the chicken about halfway through cooking.
4 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 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. If you added tarragon transfer it to a separate plate to keep it crisp.
5 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 (see Recipe Notes below for more information). 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. The chicken can rest at room temperature for 1-2 hours (don’t fret, it is perfectly safe cooling down naturally), making it a good choice for entertaining.
It’s not difficult to roast a chicken this way, but there must always be stock in the dish or any sticky residue or juices which are the base for the jus will catch and burn.
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.
If tarragon is not available, use thyme, adding some to the cavity, but put it on top of the chicken for the last 5 minutes’ cooking only.
If there is a lot of liquid in the roasting tin, it can be poured off into a bowl or jug and skimmed of fat, or poured into a fat separating jug. Reheat roasting tin and pour in wine or verjuice to deglaze pan, then pour liquid back in and bubble up. Find out about verjuice here Verjuice
Finally, this chicken is simply sensational served with Warm Salad of Pan-fried Yellow Peppers & Peaches
And read more about making a jus or gravy here Making Jus & Gravy