No this is not a discussion on the age old philosophical question, this is about the humble chicken. My sisters and I have often discussed what our last meal on earth would be and we generally agree that roast chicken is the business. Not only is it delicious, it is so versatile. Spring, summer, autumn or winter you can roast a chicken to match the weather, use up all your seasonal vegetables and you have a meal fit for a king.
On many an occasion a roast chicken has been used to mend a broken heart, rescue some of us from insanity after a busy week or it has been a reason to bring the family together to have a good old natter and bonding session. When entertaining you can pimp out your chicken with sauces, rubs, butters, herbs, the opportunities are endless. It can take on a life of its own and be a fantastic centrepiece. The crowning glory of a weekend meal. You can roast chicken in the oven, on the barbeque with a beer can up the bum, you can even pop it in the Weber with some wood chips and smoke/roast it to perfection. Stuff, don't stuff. Baste, don't baste. What more do you want? How much more versatile do you need your protein to be?
If you are feeling that way inclined have a browse on Google there are even poems dedicated to the humble roast chicken. Poems about roast chicken? I may feel lyrical from time to time but not lyrical enough to write prose about poultry.
I have roasted a large number of chickens in my lifetime and my recipe changes every time. It changes according to what is in the fridge, how much time I have to fiddle and how big the chicken is but my all time favourite roast chicken thus far has been my truffle butter roasted chicken with wild mushroom stuffing. Use it or not but let me know what you think if you do. Oh and mix it up a bit, chop and change. The key is to remember there are no absolute rules. Make it your own. I lie there is one rule...Please use a chicken that is certified free-range or organic and not battery farmed. A: your chicken will have led a happier life and been able to experience the outdoors and forage B: it won't have been pumped with hormones or water and C: they may be slightly older but they yield a better texture and more flavour, according to the Larousse Gastronomique. Look for the RSPCA logo or Organic certification in the UK or a similar endorsement in your country.
Above all enjoy!
With all my love,
Truffle Butter Roast Chicken with Wild Mushroom Stuffing
1.3kg - 1.6kg free range or organic chicken
2 tsp truffle paste or truffle oil - you can get white truffle paste at Waitrose or a local specialist deli such as Spoonful Cafe in Barnes
If you would prefer to use an actual truffle do use sparingly and shave it finely - the stuff is potent and extremely expensive
Approx 100 grams salted butter at room temperature
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large handful of mixed mushrooms - these can either be from your local farmers market, get a good selection or buy a selection of forest and field mushrooms from any supermarket
3 cloves garlic, peeled and squashed
1 bunch of picked herbs - thyme, rosemary, basil or sage
1 free range or organic egg
Zest of 1 lemon
3 slices of day old bread
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees, 180 degrees fan assisted, 390 fahrenheit
Clean the inside of your chicken using some kitchen towel, remove the giblets if they are still inside. Most butchers or supermarkets remove the giblets. If you get your chicken from a farm shop or traditional butcher they may leave the giblets in a little bag for you. These are great when used in other recipes. watch this space. Snip off the pope's nose (the little oil gland no one likes to look at) and some of the extra fat or skin at the opening of the cavity.
Using a dessert spoon, slide it under the skin of the chicken and gently lift the skin from the flesh. Try to do this without tearing the skin. The main area you need to lift is the side with the breasts. Mix your butter with your truffle, add the truffle a little at a time until you think it is just right. Remember truffle is potent but oh so delicious and truffle oil is stronger than the paste. Once it is all mixed together gently lift the skin and using the same dessert spoon spread as much of the butter as you can under the skin and as far around the chicken as you can. You will see pockets of butter under the skin which is fine as long as you have lifted the skin this will not be a problem. Drizzle the chicken with a little olive oil and then sprinkle just a touch of salt and pepper over the outside - this helps the skin crisp up despite the butter.
In a food processor combine the garlic, mushrooms, herbs, lemon zest and bread. Blitz until you have fine crumbs. Add the egg, drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper then combine. You should have a ball of stuffing but it shouldn't be too wet or too loose. Then push the stuffing into the cavity of the bird, if there is a lot of stuffing it doesn't matter it can hang out a little.
Place your stuffed chicken on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side up and cover with tin foil. Place it in the middle of the oven and set the timer for 1 hour. After an hour remove the foil. The skin should be bubbling with the butter but will need some time to become golden and crisp. Place the chicken back in the oven for a further 30 minutes. The rule of roasting a chicken is 15 minutes per 450 grams plus an additional 15 minutes. After the 90 mins you can check to see if the chicken is cooked through by inserting a knife into the fattest part of the bird. if the juice runs clear you are good to take it out of the oven. if not pop it back in until you have clear juice.
Take the chicken out, cover with the foil and set it aside to rest for 10 minutes whilst you make your gravy. You can deglaze the roasting pan with a little boiling water and thicken with cornflour, bring to the boil and keep stirring to prevents lumps.
Ask the man of the house to carve the chicken and stuffing and serve to the table with a selection of your favourite vegetables. We always have crispy roast potatoes and as the chicken will be quite rich I would recommend some simple steamed greens such as kale or wilted chard and carrots.
Eh voila, a feast!