This week, some friends of the family lost their father. It re-stirred a lot of emotions in me having lost my father five years ago. I know that when I lost my father, the last thing I wanted to do was cook for the family. I felt the urge to send over a hot, nutritious meal that may bring them some comfort and perhaps reduce that one stress for a short period of time. What I chose to send over was a hot freshly roasted free ranged chicken with baked vegetables. And I must apologise for not having any photos of the end product as it was whisked straight out the door from the oven but it may serve as a guide on how to dress a chicken for roasting.
1 free ranged chicken
¼ cup softened butter
2 cloves minced garlic
1 – 2 tablespoons mixed Italian herbs
drizzle of olive oil
seasoning to taste
1 – 2 cups dried bread crumbs
½ – 1 cup water
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon mixed Italian herbs
Methods and Observations.
When I have a fresh chicken, I carefully look around the opening for any fat that can be easily removed. Removing any excess fat is generally a good idea for health reasons. Sometimes, baking the chicken on a piece of bread will help absorb this excess fat if you are worried about the fat content. This particular example though was made for comfort so it is higher in fats than I would normally allow.
If I am stuffing the breast with anything, I gently use my fingers to lift the skin away from the flesh. In this example, I mixed butter, garlic and herbs together before using a spoon to pack it between the skin and breast flesh. As it melts, the butter works its way through the breast meat. Other alternatives for stuffing breasts range from using mango cheek flesh, and butter with fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme and garlic. In the photo above, you can see the breast is a different colour because it has been stuffed with butter and herbs.
If I am stuffing the cavity with “stuffing”, I will mix bread crumbs, garlic, herbs and water until it is a slightly moist but firm consistency. Using your hands, stuff this into the cavity. Other alternatives for stuffing combinations include cranberries and breadcrumbs, and fresh rosemary, thyme and breadcrumbs.
Using a splash of olive oil, I make sure I coat all parts of the outside of the chicken with my hands. This helps stop the skin from drying out and gives the herbs a surface to cling to.
Use the flap of skin at the cavity entrance to stick the legs through to form a rough seal. This will allow the flesh and any stuffing to remain moist. If this skin is broken or missing entirely (bad butchering) then use some butchers string to tie the legs together. See photo below.
Baste your chicken ever 30 minutes. Get it out of the oven quickly to avoid losing oven temperature and use a spoon to ladle the juices back over the bird. Take care to make sure it runs into all the little crevices and redistributes the herbs evenly.
My oven is hotter at the back than the front. To compensate for this, I turn my bird and vegetables each time I baste it so it gets even heat throughout the overall cooking period.
Just use your imagination with your stuffings and follow that theme through to the other elements of the dish such as the roast vegetables. In this meal, I used Italian herbs in the breast butter mixture, in the stuffing and the vegetables to tie it all together. The vegetables can be organised in the same fashion as the bird. Use your hands to coat all the vegetables in olive oil in a large bowl before adding any herbs, salt and pepper. Baste your vegetables every half hour, adding any oils as needed. Avoid over crowding your vegetables to stop them from broiling rather than baking. Finally, remember that your vegetables will cook in less time than your chicken, so allow 20 minutes of roasting time to elapse before putting your veggies in the oven. See photo below as a guide for vegetable choice, size and spacing.
Cooking times will vary depending on your oven. As a guide, allow 20 minutes of baking per 500g of chicken. This chicken was a size 18 (making it a 1.8kg bird) and took roughly 75 minutes to cook.
A very important part of roasting a large piece of meat like this is to rest it. This allows the muscular tissue to relax, making it more tender to eat. To rest your freshly roasted bird, remove it from the oven and transfer it to a plate. Cover the meat and the plate with aluminium foil and allow to stand for 20 minutes before breaking or carving the bird.
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