There’s something special, to me, about a whole roast chicken. Well, any bird in the oven, really. I roasted my first turkey last year for Thanksgiving, in a snug little cottage on a windswept and storm battered peninsula in Newfoundland and it was just wonderful. I mean, the dinner was lovely and all, but the moment, the coup de grace, was bringing that bird, golden brown and steaming hot, to the table. It’s hard not to smile in anticipation when the bird is brought to the table. Whole roast birds say Holiday and Celebration to me in a way a frosted martini never could. A golden bird on the table tells tales of friends and family gathered together to share a meal and be satisfied. So, every now and then the ever epicurean Mr P and I throw a bird in the oven, regardless of occasion or lack thereof, and have ourselves a little feast for two. A chicken, I’ve found, is just about the right size for the two of us to have an impressive dinner and leave enough left over meat for at least two pasta sauces and a chicken mayo sandwich or two.
Also, quite frankly, I love a roast because it’s just so easy and so little fuss. Great for entertaining, one can prep the bird and veg in advance pop it in the oven at the right time and then not only does your house smell simply divine by the time the guests arrive but you don’t have to spend the evening stirring pots and checking the sauce on the stove while missing out on the juicy chit chat over cocktails with the company.
When buying a bird I always buy organic, free range if possible. I do the same with my eggs. I don’t want to go into the politics of industrially reared animals and the inhumane conditions they’re kept in. Other than it being the socially responsible thing to do, organic free range chickens just taste better. An animal carries it’s lifestyle in it’s flavour at the end of the day, not to mention it’s nutrition.
I only recently started doing a roast with a thermometer (instead of the juice-runs-clear method) and, for me, there’s no other way to go. It’s not let me down yet!
Roast Chicken with Garlic and Dijon
and a Sun Dried Tomato Stuffing
1 large, organic chicken
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp prepared Dijon mustard
salt and pepper (about a teaspoon of each)
10 cloves garlic, just peeled
for the stuffing:
¼ cup bread crumbs
6 – 8 sun dried tomatoes, drained (if in oil) and chopped
1 large onion, chopped coarsely
2 large cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
¼ cup white wine
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt
– take the bird out of the fridge an hour before cooking it, to let it warm up to room temperature.
– preheat your oven to 400˚ F, with the rack in the middle.
– rinse the bird, inside and out, and pat dry.
– mix all the ingredients for the stuffing in a bowl.
– whisk together the Dijon, oil and salt and pepper. They won’t want to mix very well, that’s okay.
– with your fingers, gently separate the skin on the breast from the meat. I find it quite easy to start at the neck end and carefully work a couple fingers between the skin and meat.
– stuff 3 of the garlic cloves down each breast, between the skin and the meat.
– at the thickest part of the tight, make a deep slice with a sharp knife, cross ways to the length. Push 2 garlic cloves into each gash.
– now stuff the cavity of the chicken with the sun dried tomato mix.
– Tie the chicken up with kitchen string. instructions here if you need them.
– rub the oil/Dijon mix evenly over the skin of the chicken.
– place the chicken, breast side down, on a rack in a roasting pan. I put my potatoes, if we’re having, in with the chicken, but I usually roast other veg (like carrots, onions, sweet potatoes and parsnips) in a separate dish.
– roast the chicken this way for 10 or 15 minutes, then take it out the oven, turn it breast side up and roast again for about 30 minutes, checking often, until the juices run clear or a thermometer inserted between the body and thigh is at 165˚ F.
– if you notice that the skin is getting too brown before the bird is cooked, put a loose piece of tin foil over the top of the bird to protect it.
– when the bird is done, remove from oven, place a piece of foil and a tea towl on top of it and let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving.