Monday, 8 June 2009

grandma jeann's roast chicken

chicken being prepared for roasting
j and i roasted a chicken for monday night supper. the recipe we used came from the observer food monthly and is recommended by alain ducasse. it calls for a particular french hen which we cannot get in london so j went down to our local butcher and bought a rather plump medium sized free range hen. while j gave the hen a washing, i quartered three eye stinging red onions and partially peeled cloves from a whole head of garlic. the garlic cloves were stuffed in the cavity of the chicken and the onions were tucked into the sides of the roasting dish to secure it. the hen was rubbed liberally with salt and oil. once prepared it went into the oven at a hundred and eighty degrees celsius for an hour and a half. j and i deliberated briefly over the temperature and the sealing of the juices of the chicken by starting off at a higher temperature. in the end we decided to trust the recipe as it was. the recipe was also rather strange in that the roasting chicken had to be placed on its side, resting on its wing. however, it confidently maintained that it was this particular roasting position that makes for a really tender breast meat. j roasted potatoes for herself whilst i chose a granary roll with which to mop up the juices. we also boiled some peas.

making gravy in a slightly under-equipped kitchen was a little challenging. the chicken had to be transferred to our cookie tray so that we could cut it which of course made it difficult for us to capture the juices. we added a little bisto to help thicken the gravy and some wine to deglaze the roasting dish. once reduced we poured this over our carved hen, peas and roasted, slightly caramelized red onions. we then tucked into our food along with a new zealand sauvignon blanc.

outside a freak summer thunder storm reigned the sky accompanied by furious rainfall. inside, our kitchen was warm and smelt of salt and roasted chicken. true to the recipe, the breast meat was indeed very tender. here is the recipe as is appears in the observer food monthly.

one whole head of garlic
four large red onions
one free-range chicken from les landes (a region in south-west france)
three tablespoons goose fat 

heat the oven to 180°c. separate the garlic cloves and peel away the skin, leaving the last layer. peel the onions and cut into quarters. salt the skin and interior of the chicken. stuff the chicken with the garlic cloves. grease the skin of the chicken with the goose fat.

place the chicken on the dish, laying it on its side (not on the base, so the legs are top and bottom). surround the chicken with the onions. place the chicken in the oven and cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

the key to this dish is the position of the chicken during cooking. by placing the chicken in this way, it keeps the breast meat tender and mellow.