If you don’t know how to prepare a beautiful roast chicken, make it the very next thing to master on your cooking odyssey. A well-roasted bird is the gift that keeps on giving: not only do you get to enjoy it for dinner, there’s usually plenty of meat left over for a salad or a sanga the next day and then, after all the meat is gone, you can use the carcass for a stock. By Paul West from River Cottage Australia appearing on Foxtel’s LifeStyle FOOD. Serves 6.
1 free-range chicken (around 1.8kg is a good size for a family)
Oil, for frying
1 large brown onion, cut in half vertically, skin on
Salt and pepper
Small bunch of thyme
Knob of butter, softened.
Remove the chicken from the fridge an hour before you intend to cook it.
Preheat the oven to 200°C and place your roasting tray in the oven.
Heat a little oil in a frypan over a medium heat, add the onion cut-side down, and fry until the bottom is nicely browned. Remove the two halves from the pan and put to one side.
Generously season the bird both inside and out. If your knife skills are up to it, remove the wishbone. This isn’t essential but it does making carving a lot easier later. Stuff the caramelised onion halves into the cavity with half the thyme. Gently separate the skin from the breast meat by working a couple of fingers between them, starting at the neck cavity and pushing up towards the drumsticks. When the skin is loose, massage the softened butter and a few sprigs of thyme into the breast meat.
Then, a simple way to truss the chicken is to take both of the wings and tuck the tips under the body. Next, make an incision in the skin just below the knuckle of one drumstick, so that the knuckle of the other drumstick can be tucked over the first and through the incision. This tucked-up, cannonball shape will help your bird cook evenly. If you buy a chicken and the skin has been cut off below the knuckle, you can truss it by tying it with string.
Put the chicken on the hot tray and roast it at 200°C for 15 minutes, until the skin is starting to brown. Now turn the oven down to 160°C and cook for an hour. Turning the temperature down like this will allow the bird to cook gently without drying out.
To check if your bird is ready insert the tip of a knife into the deepest part of the thigh joint. If a little blood comes out, pop it back in the oven for a while. If the liquid is clear then you are good to go.
Remove from the oven, cover in foil, and rest for at least 15 minutes. This allows the juices to evenly distribute back through the flesh. Carve and serve with lashings of homemade gravy.Don’t throw out those onions either – they make a great side for your roast.