The Simple Things

23 Jan

In grey and grim January, most of the time I’m in the mood to cook slow, elaborate dishes like curries to drive winter back from the door. But some days I want to make something where I get maximum flavour for minimum effort. These are the days when I roast.

Roasting brings out amazing depths of flavour in even the most innocuous of food, taking humble root vegetables like potatoes and carrots to another plane of deliciousness. It turns joints of beef into the food of kings, to be carved at the table with oohs and aahs. But my favourite thing to roast is something thoroughly ordinary: chicken.

This particular recipe by Lauren Shockey attains what T calls the Northwest Passage of roast chicken: crisp skin with moist breast meat. And without obscene quantities of fat, too! The trick is to brown the chicken all over on the hob first – this means that you can roast the chicken in the oven for less time, meaning its breast won’t turn into a miniature model of the Mojave Desert. If you’re not a tarragon fan, you could substitute another hardy green herb, such as rosemary or thyme.

Unlike a stew or a curry, this is not the time to buy inexpensive meat. If you roast, there is nowhere to hide if your meat is not high quality. Moral and ethical arguments aside, free-range chicken just tastes better, and I will use it every time over a cheap bird that had an unhappy life. And if that means I have to eat roast chicken less frequently, I will savour it much more when I do. Also, you can get multiple meals out of one bird. For example, I’ll eat the legs roasted one night, turn the breasts into salad for lunch, and simmer the carcass for soup.

Roast Chicken with Tarragon (adapted from Four Kitchens by Lauren Shockey)

Serves 4

1 1.5-2kg free-range chicken
1 bunch tarragon
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon coarse salt (I used Maldon salt)
a few shakes of ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 210C. Remove any innards from the chicken. Gently lift the skin away from the breast. Pull the leaves off 4-5 sprigs of tarragon and mince them, then push them between the skin and meat of the breast. Take the rest of the tarragon and the garlic and shove them inside the chicken’s cavity. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper.

Prepped Chicken

Over a medium-high flame, heat the oil in a pan big enough to hold the chicken (I used my Dutch oven). When the oil begins to smoke, place the chicken breast-side up in the pot and cook until the skin is is a medium-brown colour, approximately 4 minutes, Turn the chicken and cook in the same way on the other three sides. The whole process should take just over 15 minutes.


Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting tin and roast for 20 minutes. Then take the heat down to 180C and roast the chicken until its juices run clear when you prick the thigh with a knife.

Note: My 1.3kg chicken needed 40 minutes more (for a total cooking time of 1 hour); if your chicken is bigger, it could need an hour after the initial 20 minutes.

When the chicken is done, take it out of the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before you carve.

One Response to “The Simple Things”


  1. Fit for a Queen « Tomatoes and Radio Wire - March 5, 2012

    […] breasts or chicken thighs, shredded (from a store-bought rotisserie chicken, or you can make your own awesome roast chicken) 200g/1 cup plain Greek yogurt 1 Braeburn apple (or another sweet and crisp fruit), cored and diced […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: