While I was typing up my notes for the preliminary stages of the Great Jerky Experiment Round 2, I had another little project going on in the oven. Lately I’ve fallen in love with the very simple but very rewarding delight that is a perfectly roasted chicken.
Now, it’s taken me a while to get to the point where I can happily say ‘I know how to make perfect chicken’. The biggest stumbling block in my experience (other than the chef) is the oven. I’ve had mine for 3 years and I’ve really only just started to get my head around which setting works best for which type of food. Often this means ignoring the recipe (such as with this really lovely Garlic Ginger Chicken I made the other day – the recipe called for a temp of 425F/220C, and I knew this would be too high and set mine at 205C but I really should know better – it did end up a little more charred than I’d have liked but still tasted spectacular). 190C is the perfect temp for cooking chicken in my oven on its conventional setting. The reason I’m making such a point of this, is that it’s really important to know what works for you not just what works for the person writing the recipe. I’m actually the sort of person who cannot follow a recipe. I always change something, whether it’s because I don’t have all the ingredients listed, or I don’t like some of them (I left the fish sauce out of the Garlic Ginger Chicken) or I reckon adding a bit of something else would work wonders; and it generally tends to work out really well. What I find doesn’t work for me, is when I really do try to follow the recipe – this is a sure-fire way for me to totally bugger things up. I prefer to cook by ‘feel’ and go with my gut (which is really the best indicator cause that’s where the food is going to end up!) and experience.
So, while I use an oven temp of 190C, this works for my oven on its conventional setting. It may not work for yours. If yours doesn’t run ‘hot’ like mine, you might be best using a higher setting i.e. 220C/425F. Keep an eye on your food – check it every 20 mins or so. If after the first 20 mins your chicken has a light golden appearance, then you’re doing fine. If it’s still really white, you might want to increase the temp. If it’s already quite brown, then it’s probably too high. Check it again in another 20 mins and if necessary adjust the temperature accordingly. Your goal is to have a bronzed/golden chook at the end of it (see picture below), not white, and definitely not black.
I like to use the best ingredients I can find. In this instance I started off with a 2.5kg Organic Free Range Inglewood Farm chook. In my experience these are really juicy beautiful chickens. I also really like using their drumstick packs for roasting too. Same recipe, just lessen the cooking time to about 40 mins for 6 drumsticks.
I salted and olive oiled the skin a little before cutting a small slit at the top of each drumstick, near where it meets the body. I also loosened the skin from around the breast.
I smooshed all the following ingredients together with my fingers/hands then stuffed under the loosened skin on the breast and into the little pockets under the skin on the legs (via the slits created earlier – don’t be afraid to poke around to make sure you get it all the way down – just try not to tear the skin)
50g chopped organic butter (or organic ghee)
2 tsp ras el hanout
1 tsp harissa paste
4 cloves chopped garlic
I usually end up with a few pieces of butter that have fallen on the outside of the chooken – I like to rub these extra bits into the outside of the skin. In this instance I had a lovely light red spice colour on the chicken skin before I even started to cook it, thanks to the harissa.
I added a little more salt to the skin (I prefer to use too much rather than too little, as the more salt there is, the more crispy the skin ends up) and gave the chicken a little massage (just with the olive oil and butter residue from earlier) and then it put into the oven for 70 minutes. I’ve used smaller 2kg chooks before and these have only needed 50 minutes.
Once I’m happy with the golden appearance of the chook, and the drumsticks appear to be pulling away from the carcass, I then turn off the temperature and leave the chook to ‘rest’ for at least another 40-60 minutes in the oven. This is very important as it lets the chook cook through completely but without the direct heat that would cause it to burn. You should end up with lovely crispy skin and really moist flesh, swimming in a pool of spiced buttery garlicy goodness.
You can either eat straight away, or do as I do, and pull it apart to have for lunch/dinner/post workout meals for the rest of the week. Save the buttery goodness for gravy or use to cook up some vegies later on.