It was our daughter’s 9th birthday yesterday and she asked for roast chicken as a birthday meal, and what a comfort it was on a bleak rainy Sunday. My favourite thing to do to chicken is stuff it under the skin before cooking. The most popular under-skin stuffing recipe, made in restaurants all over the world, is a mixture of butter and chopped herbs but our family use cottage cheese, garlic, lemon zest and herbs; a guarantee of moist, tasty meat and crispy skin with out so much fat. The skin becomes particularly crispy as the stuffing separates from the flesh as it cooks. The herbs I prefer are tarragon, which goes with chicken so naturally, perfuming the flesh and lemon thyme (why use any other thyme!) I also squeeze the zested lemon over the bird, cut it in half and stuff one squeezed half into the cavity.
This alternative stuffing to herby butter has been a recipe in our family for years
125g cottage cheese
20g fresh tarragon
5g lemon thyme (regular thyme is ok too, if you must)
2-3 cloves of crushed garlic
salt and pepper
HERB STUFFED ROAST CHICKEN
- Take a pestle and mortar and GRIND the garlic with the salt, add the, lemon zest and herbs and crush them lightly and SCRAPE the resulting mixture into a medium sized bowl. Alternatively use a garlic crusher to crush the garlic then add the herbs and salt to the small bowl.
- Mix the crushed herbs, garlic and salt with the cottage cheese and set aside.
- Now take the raw chicken, and place it on a large, clean chopping board.
- Get a colander, place the chicken inside it and RINSE the chicken under a running tap of cold water for ONE MINUTE
- Now you have a clean chicken shake off any excess water in the sink, pat dry with some kitchen towel and place it back on the board
- Check inside the chicken for a bag of GIBLETS (neck, liver and heart in a small plastic bag) not all chickens are sold with these but if you forget to remove it, your roast chicken will become a plastic infused disaster area and will have to be thrown out uneaten. So remember to check and REMOVE GIBLETS when you find it.
STUFFING CHICKEN UNDER THE SKIN
- First place the bird on the chopping board with the legs pointing towards you.
- Starting at back, insert your four fingers of one hand, palm side down into the cavity between the skin and the chicken breast meat GENTLY PULL THE SKIN TOWARDS YOU WITH THE OTHER HAND, trying not to tear the skin. Loosen the skin from breast and legs by gently pushing your hand under the skin and against the meat. Use your index finger to loosed the skin around the drumsticks. Remove your hand and turn the chicken around and repeat the process from the neck end also.
- Take a teaspoon of the cottage cheese mixture and using your fingers, gently PUSH the mixture into the pockets under the skin. Remove your hands from the bird and massage it down. Take some more and repeat making sure you get some onto the tops of the drumsticks too. When you have used up all the stuffing remove your hand, place the chicken on the roasting rack, in the roasting tin and tuck any loose neck skin under the bird.
- Take your zested lemon, cut it in half, SQUEEZE it over the chicken and stuff the squeezed half into the chicken cavity.
- Finally, brush or drizzle a little olive oil or melted butter over the chicken. Season with salt and pepper and pop it in the hot oven 220C /GAS 7/425F
- and WASH YOUR HANDS.
I like to crisp up the skin of the chicken in a hot oven to seal in the juices and then turn the oven down a bit for a slower, moister finish. There are many other ways to roast a bird but this is simple and it works. I usually turn the bird on to its breast after the crisp up and then turn it back about half an hour before the end. Finally, I add 3 tablespoons of water/white wine to the bottom of the roasting pan, to start the gravy
Chicken Roasting Timetable with an oven temperature of 220C /GAS 7/425F then turn the oven down to 180C/Gas4/350F
The timings are based on an un-chilled, un-stuffed chicken in an open roasting pan (stuffed chickens take 20 to 30 minutes more).
20 minute hot crisp up then
25 minutes per 500g
so 1kg = 1hr and 10 minutes
REST the chicken for 20 minutes before serving.
To check it is done, take the chicken out of the oven and place it on a heat-safe surface in good light. Taking a knife and fork, gently cut down the join between the breast and the thigh and pull it open a little with your fork. Juice will run out, if the juice is clear it is done, if the juice is bloody then it need to go back in. Check it again in another 10 minutes.
Set the TIMER FOR 20 MINUTES.
- After twenty minutes turn the oven down to 180C/Gas4. Take the chicken out of the oven using oven gloves and place it on a steady heat resistant surface. Using a long handled spoon, baste it, with any juices that have collected in the bottom of the pan. Put the chicken back in the oven set the timer for 30 MINUTES (this is when I turn it over onto the breast). When the timer goes off baste the chicken again and set the timer to the end time of your cooking.
- When ready test if the chicken is done using the method above.
Now remove the chicken to a warm plate, cover it with foil and rest it for 20 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute through the meat. If you eat it immediately lots of the moisture in the chicken will be lost in a puff of steam as you cut into the hot surface of the bird. Just imagine, you worked so hard to get the perfect roast chicken and you have just lost half your effort into the atmosphere. DON’T’ DO IT, LET IT REST. And while you do; you can make the gravy.
- Now WEARING AN OVEN GLOVE AND PLASTIC APRON to protect yourself, (I mention this because my friend once accidentally poured the juices down his front wearing only jeans and it was, as you can imagine, a nasty, painful experience). Take the hot chicken baking tray pour off any fat (pour into a jug as it is easier to separate) pour back the tasty bit into the tray. There should be lots of lemony, herby juices.
- Now transfer to a secure position on medium heat on the hob. Take a long wooden spoon and scrape up any bits and pieces that have fallen from the chicken.
- Stir in 1 tablespoon of flour, stir for the count of 10, add stock/wine, whisk with a small whisk or fork, to break up any lumps = gravy