Monday, July 5, 2010

Sunday Roast Chicken

Sunday Roast Chicken
Home Cooking

Due to circumstances that I couldn't avoid, I bought an issue of the MasterChef Magazine. I'm embarrassed to admit that not because I think MasterChef is for losers (if so, I need to get a capital 'L' tattooed to my forehead) but because I've had a hard time avoiding MasterChef references in these recent posts. Everything I eat seems to have some kind of a MasterChef influence. I was really keen to prove to you readers that I have a personality and free will but surely, owning the magazine does nothing to help my cause.

It so happens that the magazine influenced my decision to have roast chicken only in a loose and roundabout way. I spotted a recipe in the magazine: it was Maggie Beer's lemon, olive and chicken pie with sour cream pastry. I thought it sounded amazing and instructed Byron that this is what we would be making on Sunday. He went along with it for a while, until the actual day when he decided it sounded too weird and that we should make a normal chicken and mushroom pie instead. This idea then got simplified to a plain roast chicken. I have NEVER had a home-roast chicken before (only the supermarket variety for me) so I jumped on that suggestion.

When I told my dad we were making a roast bird, he gave me the special task of cataloging any special tricks to make it work out. I'll just tell you right now that there weren't any. Byron literally put the bird onto a tray and right into the oven. No basting, no stuffing, no slipping secret compounds under the skin. As for the cooking process? No turning. No temperature adjustment.

Certain readers might be shocked at this point at the absence of herbs, seasoning, finicky steps and so on but I assure you the product turned out fine. Byron's explanation was that he had tried more complicated methods before and maybe it does improve the result but there's an effort/cost to result ratio that needs to be considered.

We're all for simplicity and cost-cutting.

Because there wasn't much in the way of 'steps', it's a bit pointless for me to do a proper recipe. I'll just summarize with a few pointers that he passed on to me.

Sunday Roast Chicken
Serves 3-4 normal people, or 2 pigs like us

1. Make sure your chicken is thawed. Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius and place the bird breast-side up on a roasting tray. Pop that in the oven and that's that.

2. For your roast potatoes, cut into wedges and par-boil until mostly cooked. Then, fry in some olive oil until the exterior starts to color. Add these to the chicken pan in the last 15-20min of cooking.
3. Our chicken was ~ 1.6kg and took all of Merlin to cook (yes, I gauge the passage of time with reference to TV shows) so that's about an hour. I asked 'how can you tell if it's cooked' and he said 'I don't know'. I guess it's an experience thing...? He then realized that 'I don't know' is helpful to noone and said that the part where the drumstick joins the body of the chicken is the part that's most likely to be undercooked. So if you're uncertain, cut into that join and pull the leg away to see the deepest portion of flesh within the chicken. If it's cooked, you're good to go.
4. Finally, the most important part of the meal: gravy. Byron prides himself of his gravy-making expertise. From what I can see, he transfers the liquids from roasting (i.e. chicken juice and fat) onto the stove top and puts it on low heat. A quantity of flour is mixed into water and this is added slowly to the fats with a constant whisking action. You continue to do this, adjusting the amount of water, until the gravy is well, a gravy-like consistency. Season with salt/chicken-stock/whatever.
Yup, not the most flattering photo... I was actually told "it might be a bad idea to photograph this stage" but I like to be warts and all

5. PLATE UP! We served the chicken with roast potatoes, baby peas and gravy. Mmm...

The chicken was juicy with a light, crisp and golden skin. The potatoes were delicious and great when dipped in the gravy. I like to save the best parts of my meal to the end but I couldn't decide what to save.

Sunday nights have the best TV (MasterChef, The Good Wife and House) so I always look forward to them, but this time made all the better with good food.

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