There are few dishes more fundamental than a good roast chicken, the basics of which follow two important principles. The first is to never overcook it. Chicken is full of flavour but it has a reputation for being dry because we’re terrified of under-cooking it, so we go way too far the other way. If you have to make a trade-off between crispy-brown skin and succulent, tender chicken, go for tender every time.
Second, gravy is key to a great roast. I prefer to boil vegetables separately rather than roasting them with the chicken because that leaves the pan free for caramelising the chicken scratchings for a delicious gravy.
A simple roast chook isn’t just a delicious meal, it’s a chance to create a family heirloom. Make your own variations. With a roast chook there is no right or wrong. Your style will be entirely your own, but this is how I do mine.
CLASSIC ROAST CHICKEN WITH BUTTERED VEGETABLES
The soy sauce helps to give the chicken skin colour and flavour when it roasts, so you don’t need to overcook the flesh in search of tasty skin.
• 1.6kg free-range chicken
• 2 tsp dark soy sauce
• 1 brown onion, roughly chopped
• 1 carrot, roughly chopped
• 6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
• 10 sprigs thyme
• 50g butter
• 1 bunch baby Dutch carrots, peeled and trimmed (with some stalk remaining)
• 2 cups frozen peas
Boil a kettle of water and place the chicken on a rack in your sink. Pour freshly boiled water all over the skin of the chicken to tighten it. Remove any papery dead skin.
Rub the skin with dark soy sauce and stand for at least 30 minutes (preferably 4 hours or longer), so the soy sauce dyes the skin and dries. (If leaving the chicken for more than 2 hours, keep it uncovered in the fridge, then return to room temperature for 30 minutes before roasting.) Heat your oven to 180°C fan-forced. Scatter the onion carrot and half the garlic in a roasting dish and place the chicken on top.
Season well with salt, inside and out. Place the thyme into the bird’s cavity with the remaining garlic and tie the legs together.
Roast the chicken for 55 minutes, then increase the heat to 220°C fan-forced and roast for a further 10 minutes until the skin is well browned and the internal temperature at the thickest part of the thigh reaches 65°C. Remove the chicken and rest for at least 15 minutes in a warm place, basting once with the collected oils to gloss the skin.
Do not discard ingredients and juices in the pan. For the baby carrots and peas, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the butter. When the butter has melted, add the carrots, return to the boil, then add the peas. Boil the vegetables for 2-3 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon. Serve the chicken and vegetables with mashed potatoes and chicken gravy.
Adam’s tip Cooking times will always vary depending on factors like the type of baking dish, the type and size of your oven, the size of the chicken etc. Try to always buy the same sized chicken, so you can work out the perfect cooking time for your oven.
CULTURED MASHED POTATOES WITH CHICKEN GRAVY
The yoghurt in this mash adds a little sourness, making it a perfect complement to the savoury richness of the gravy.
Cultured mash potatoes with chicken gravy. Photo: William Meppem
• 1.5kg all-purpose potatoes
• 75g cold butter, cubed
• ¼ cup milk
• ¼ cup plain yoghurt (or an extra ¼ cup of milk)
• 1 tsp salt Chicken gravy
• pan from the roasted chicken, complete with juices
• 2 tbsp flour • ½ tsp Vegemite (optional)
• ½ cup white wine
• 1½ cups unsalted chicken stock
• ½ tsp white wine vinegar
Peel the potatoes, quarter and soak in cold water for at least 15 minutes. Place soaked potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with more cold water. Bring the water to the boil, then boil for 15 minutes, until a sharp knife penetrates the potatoes easily. Drain well and return to a low heat for 5 minutes to remove any remaining moisture. Keeping the potatoes over the heat, mash until all lumps are removed.
Add the butter, milk, yoghurt and salt and beat with a wooden spoon until the mashed potatoes are light and fluffy. Keep warm until ready to serve.
For the chicken gravy, place the chicken roasting pan over medium heat and scatter the flour into the pan, scraping it around until it forms a brown paste and starts to fry. Add the Vegemite (if using) and stir to combine. Add the white wine and chicken stock a little at a time, continuing to stir until a gravy the consistency of pouring cream is formed. Add any juices collected from the resting chicken. Remove from the heat and strain the gravy into a jug, pressing the vegetables to extract any last juices. Keep warm until ready to serve.
Serve the potatoes in a bowl with some of the gravy poured over the top. Finish by stirring the white wine vinegar into the remaining gravy and serve with the chicken and peas.