Perfect Roast Chicken

Preparing and roasting a chicken that is falling-off-the-bone tender and loaded with flavour is an easy task that demands only a little preparation and assembly, the rest of the time requires nothing more than patience (which is usually slightly more difficult than the small amount of chopping and arranging that is needed.) The not-so-secret tip I have for the roast chicken hopeful is to brine the bird from anywhere between 24 and 48 hours before roasting; this will ensure the meat is not only incredibly juicy but also sweet and savoury throughout and all the way to the bones – this is especially important if you are choosing to remove the skin after roasting. Because the bird will have been immersed in a very salty solution for a long period of time I have found that the pan drippings are somewhat unsuitable for pan gravy, instead I would treat the drippings as if they were a gravy concentrate and would use a much smaller amount than with an un-brined bird. To brine a chicken you will need a lidded bucket that can hold at least 8 litres of liquid; it is equally important that you have a space cleared in your fridge that can accommodate a container of this size (I have had to resort to using my backyard or balcony in the winter on more than one occasion.) I like to baste roasted chickens with a mixture of melted butter and honey, although I should give you fair warning that this makes it very difficult to completely discard the golden brown skin. Whatever you do, if you’re looking to cut fat out do NOT roast the chicken without its skin; not only would it be an ordeal to skin an intact chicken it would emerge from the oven dry and without any of the flavouring that the skin helps to contain. January 1st was my 8th anniversary with Ian and we had a perfect day of lying around in our pyjamas doing nothing at all – this roast chicken tied into the “do nothing at all” theme with ease; I paired it with some potato and parmesan pancakes, a dry rosé, and copious episodes of Community.

perfectly roast chicken:

1 roasting chicken, trussing and any giblets removes

for the brine:

6 litres of cold water, or enough to cover the bird in the bucket

2/3 cup of kosher salt

1 cup of granulated sugar

1/2 cup of honey

1 orange, the peel left on and sliced into 6 wedges*

1 red onion, peel and papery husk left on and sliced into 6 wedges

2 tsp. whole black peppercorns

1 cinnamon stick or several smaller pieces of cinnamon bark

4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme

4-5 fresh sage leaves

Broken off ends taken from a bunch of parsley

*Or other citrus fruit – tangerines, lemons, and clementines all work well

1. Score and pierce the chicken several times across the breast and legs, this allows to brine to penetrate the meat. Don’t make the cuts too big as they will expand as the chicken soaks  in the brine.

2. In your large bucket stir the water, salt, sugar, and honey with a long handled wooden spoon until everything is dissolved. Add the chicken and all of the other ingredients. Stir around a couple of times and then put the lid on and place in your fridge. Allow to sit for 24 to 48 hours in the brine solution, gently agitating the bucket whenever you think of it.

for the roast chicken:

1 Tbsp. of canola oil

1 or 2 large red onions, sliced into thick onion ring-sized pieces

1 carrot, sliced into 1-inch pieces

4-5 large fresh sprigs of thyme

4-5 fresh sage leaves

1 lemon, halved

Parsley, to taste

1/3 cup of salted butter

1/4 cup of honey

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Remove the chicken from the brine and allow to come to room temperature for about an hour; dab with a paper towel to get rid of any excess moisture.

2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

3. In a 9×13 roasting tin spread 1  Tbsp. of oil across the surface to cover. Lay the onion slices across the entire bottom of the pan, saving some to stuff in the cavity of the bird. Scatter the carrots, a sprig of thyme, a few sage leaves, and a small handful of parsley directly onto the spot where the bird will be placed.

4. Arrange the chicken so that it covers the vegetable and herb nest you have made. Stuff the cavity of the bird with the remaining red onion slices, the lemon halves, parsley to taste, thyme, and sage. Stick some small thyme and sage pieces into the areas that you pierced before brining. Generously season with salt and pepper.

5. Over medium-low heat melt together the butter and honey. Baste the entire chicken with about a quarter of this mixture. Place the chicken in the oven and roast for 20 minutes.

6. Take the bird out to give it another baste and to tent it with foil to prevent it from browning too quickly. Turn the heat down to 375 degrees and baste every 20 to 30 minutes with the remaining butter and honey mixture. The correct roasting time for chicken is determined by weight so I always follow this guide in addition to checking the internal temperature of the chicken to make sure it’s fully cooked (you’re shooting for 165 degrees but since the chicken is brined it is very forgiving if you have it in for a few extra minutes.)

I really, really, really love this beautiful song. If any song makes me wish I had some modicum of singing talent it would be this one. Almost without fail I begin listening to massive amounts of  Cocteau Twins at the beginning of the new year, even in high school I would obsess over them for at least a month (which would lead to a very Mahogany/dreampop musical theme until the spring at least.) I always get a feeling of renewal from their music which must be very innate for me as many of their songs don’t contain any actual existing words. I think this is interesting because Sigur Ros has the exact same effect for me, another band that uses mostly made up words and always seems sweeping and orchestral. So yes, lots of Cocteau Twins for me right now, this song just happens to be my favourite at the moment.

Cocteau Twins – Summerhead

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