Woohoo, here we go - my first cooking tutorial! The irony of someone such as myself, a relative newbie in the kitchen, providing any kind of tutorial related to cooking is amusing and embarrassing in equal proportions, but this roast chicken has garnered such rave reviews from friends and family every single time I have made it that I am not as mortified as I should be at sharing it with you all.
The recipe derives from a mish-mash of sources, both in terms of inspiration and the scientific principles behind cooking times, method of preparation, etc. For example, sticking the chicken in the fridge for a few hours prior to roasting is a tip I learnt from Heston Blumenthal's Perfect Roast Chicken, and it does indeed guarantee extra-crispy skin. Rubbing some sort of fat, seasoned with salt and herbs, between the flesh of the chicken and its skin is something advised by many cookbooks and bloggers, and it makes such a difference in terms of helping the chicken meat to retain its moisture. The fact that there is such a variety of "contributors" to this recipe makes me extra proud of it.
So, without further ado, here's my very first cooking tutorial:
How to make the perfect roast chicken!
Get yourself a medium to large raw, whole chicken, around 1.5-2kg. Free-range and/or organic is always best when it comes to poultry. It's also expensive, unfortunately :( Anyway, remove the pad of fat that is sometimes present inside the cavity of the chicken. If it is there, keep it because we're going to use that later!
Wash the chicken thoroughly under cold, running water. Make sure you clean inside the cavity as well. If the chicken is extra-dirty, with some hair still attached, you can use a coarse-grained salt to "scrub" the chicken. Just rub it vigorously over the skin and and inside the cavity, and rinse off with water. Pat dry with a paper towel.
Now, prepare the fat mixture that we're going to insert under the skin. Jamie Oliver used butter in his roast turkey. You could do the same here, but I personally don't like the smell of melted/cooked butter (but okay with it in finished, baked products ;P). So, I use animal fat instead. So far, I have tried rendered Wagyu lard (which I found at Victor Churchill) and, on this occasion, goose fat. Both gave good results.
Into three, generous tablespoonfuls of your fat of choice add: 2tsp of dried garlic granules, 2tblsp of dried herbs (I used a pre-mixed blend of thyme, rosemary, marjoram, basil, oregano and sage, but feel free to play around with different ratios of these and/or other herbs.), 1/2 tsp of ground (black or rainbow) peppercorns, and 1-2tsp of salt.
The line-up; salt not pictured.
Put all the aforementioned ingredients into a bowl.
Mix everything together to form a paste, and set aside.
Okay, moving onto the chicken. We now need to separate the skin from the underlying flesh. Remember that Maggie Beer episode from this year's Masterchef Australia where all the contestants were gingerly prying the skin off the chicken at a snail's pace, terrified that the whole thing would rip apart without a moment's notice? That sent me into a state of paranoia the first time I did this, but guess what? The skin of a raw chicken is almost impossible to rip apart with your bare hands. It's incredibly tough and elastic, and as long as you don't have inch-long nails, or a pre-existing tear in the skin, there is nothing to worry about.
Begin by inserting your fingers (oh, here we go...) between the skin and flesh. Then just...sorta splay your fingers out and wiggle them around, breaking apart all those connective tissue fibres. Assist the process with your other hand by pinching away the skin.
It's not what it looks like. Please, I can explain...
Do the same with the other side of the chook. Once that highly pleasant experience is over and done with, you need to salt the chicken all over. Simply sprinkle salt over the skin of the chicken, and inside the cavity, really rubbing it in.
Salting the inside of the cavity.
Remember that pad of fat we removed at the beginning? Insert that now under the skin over the breast of the chicken. The reason I do this is because I reason that the breast, being the leanest and therefore most likely to dry out portion of the chicken, needs the extra insulation.
Placing the fat pad under the skin, over the breast of the chicken.
Now take the mixture of fat and seasoning and stuff it under the skin. Use roughly equal amounts for both sides of chicken, reserving about a 2tsp-worth for rubbing over the skin later.
A scoop of the fat and seasoning mixture, about to be stuffed under the skin.
Inserting the fat and seasoning mixture. Make sure it covers most areas under the skin.
Remember to do this for both sides of the chicken! With the remaining two teaspoons of fat and seasoning, rub over the skin of the chicken, on both sides. This will ensure that your chooky has a nice sheen once roasted, and that the skin will be extra crispy.
Gratuitous blogger pic!
Make sure you rub the fat over the drumsticks and wings as well.
Now it's time to truss the chicken. This step is optional, but it does make the chicken look a lot nice after roasting. More importantly though, it makes the chicken easier to maneuver when you flip the chicken onto its other side half-way through roasting. I am, by no means, an expert at trussing birds. I just sorta played around with the string until everything was bound together.
String for trussing.
Okay, this goes over and that end under...
Tuck the wings close to the body and keep them in place with another loop of string:
Another optional step: I like to use a toothpick to pin together the ends of the skin over the hole where the neck of the chicken used to be. I'm not exactly sure what effect (if any) that has on the flavour, but it does make for good presentation.
Soaking the toothpick is water beforehand stops it from burning in the oven.
That's one less hole to worry about.
Excellent, we're almost done! All you have to do now is pop the prepped bird into the fridge and let it chill for 3 hours minimum. As I've said before, the fridge will dehydrate the bird so that the skin, once roast, gets super crispy. Yum.
Excuse the fridge mess.
After chilling, take the chicken out 30 minutes prior to roasting. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius (392 degrees Fahrenheit). We will be using a roasting pan with a rack to cook the chicken. Something that looks like this:
Mine isn't nearly as pro-looking like this. Feel free to improvise using a cooling rack over a normal roasting pan.
This allows the juices and fat from the chicken to drip down, so the chicken doesn't have a soggy side.
Roasting times, according to weight, can be found here.
Flip the chicken onto its other side halfway through roasting. Once done roasting, remove from oven, and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Carve, shred, or rip the drumsticks off with your bare hands and go at it cavepeople-style...doesn't matter how you serve it, it's delicious hot and cold. I'm salivating as I type this!
So, I hope you've found this tutorial helpful! Do try, and let me know how it turned out! :D
Recipe for the Perfect Roast Chicken
Preparation time: 3.5 hours in total (1/2 hr for prepping the chicken, minimum 3 hours chilling in fridge.)
Roasting time: Depends on the weight of the raw chicken; for a 2kg bird, roughly 1.5 hours.
1 x medium- to large-sized bird (around 1.5-2kg)
3 generous tablespoons of fat of choice (butter, animal lard, etc.)
2 teaspoons of dried garlic granules
2 tablespoons of dried herbs (I used a pre-mixed blend of thyme, rosemary, marjoram, basil, oregano and sage)
1/2 teaspoon of ground black or rainbow peppercorns
1-2 teaspoons of salt (to be used inside the fat and seasoning mixture)
1 teaspoon of salt (for salting the skin and cavity)
(optional) Extra salt if you want to scrub the chicken beforehand to clean it before rinsing it off
1. Remove the pad of fat from inside the cavity of the chicken (if it's still in there by the time you get the chicken). Save this for later.
2. Wash the chicken thoroughly under cold, running water. Make sure you clean inside the cavity as well. If the chicken is extra-dirty, with some hair still attached, you can use a coarse-grained salt to "scrub" the chicken. Just rub it vigorously over the skin and and inside the cavity, and rinse off with water. Pat dry with a paper towel. Set aside while you prepare the fat mixture.
3. Prepare the fat and seasoning mixture that will be inserted between the skin and flesh of the chicken. Combine the fat, garlic granules, dried herbs, ground peppercorns and 1-2 tsp salt in a bowl and mix to form a paste. Set aside.
4. Separate the skin from the underlying flesh, on both sides of the chicken.
5. Take the fat pad that was removed earlier and insert it under the skin over the breast meat of the chicken.
6. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of salt over the skin of the entire chicken, and another 1/2 tsp into the cavity of the chicken. Rub well with fingers.
7. Spoon out two-teaspoons' worth of the fat and seasoning mixture and set aside to use later for rubbing over the skin of the chicken. Divide the rest of the fat mixture into equal portions. Insert one portion under the skin over the breast side of the chicken, distributing it evenly so that it covers that whole side. Insert the other portion under the skin over the other side of the chicken, distributing it evenly.
8. Rub the reserved 2 tsp of fat mixture over the skin of the entire chicken, making sure you cover the drumsticks and wings as well.
9. Truss the chicken with string, and use a toothpick to "stitch" up the hole over where the neck used to be.
10. Place the trussed chicken into the refrigerator and allow to chill for a minimum of 3 hours.
11. Take the chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes prior to roasting. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit).
12. Put chicken in a roasting pan with a rack and roast for an amount of time as specified here, according to the weight of the uncooked chicken.
13. Remove from oven after done roasting, and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Eat, and enjoy!