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Finding Comfort: Damn Good Roast Chicken and Roast Potatoes
I have an unassailable soft spot for roasted chicken. It may not be the most exciting of meats but when done properly and paired with a generous helping of good roast potatoes there is little that can beat it as comfort food to my mind. The smell alone is something I think many would find hard to pass by without at least a slight sense of yearning, and this is all aside from the fact that I view roasting as the finest end to the life of a potato – crispy, golden perfection. Together they are divine.
With this in mind, my partner (a fellow food obsessive) and I were intrigued by the fantastic Thomas Keller’s brined roasted chicken with waffles – made when he appeared on Saturday Kitchen a few weeks ago. I can’t say I was totally sold on the waffles – though this is something I’d like to try in future – but the chicken itself seemed worth a shot to see if his methods could elevate my normal roasted birds to something greater.
I can tell you now, they did, and I bored friends and colleagues alike with my impassioned account of this piece of poultry. The chicken was supremely tender, with what I can only describe as a more intense ‘chicken’ flavour than any I have eaten before. The brine’s aromatics gave a subtle but lovely depth to the meat whilst retaining their fresher notes, having penetrated it fully over the afternoon and the skin was perfectly golden and crispy – not something I’m usually all that fussed about eating but this time I couldn’t resist. The chasseur sauce recommended was a great accompaniment and a little different from your usual gravy (though if you’re short on time or hands then gravy would by no means be a lesser alternative), with well-balanced hints of sweetness from the carrots and shallots and sharpness from the fresh tomato and wine, followed by a deep umami finish from the chicken juices and mushrooms. Simply put, it was rather good indeed.
Be warned, the chicken needs to brine in the fridge for 6 hours, plus an hour’s drying time before it’s cooked, so if you plan to make this for dinner you’ll need to start before lunch the same day to give it time. For those six hours though, you can disappear and get on with something else and rest assured it is worth the wait.
We didn’t follow the recipe to the letter, but then we rarely do. Rather, we stuck with the core principles and left out those parts that looked to have less of an effect on the end result, and for a Sunday afternoon would have taken more care than we could spend when we were busying about. We skipped fully trussing the chicken and starting it off in a pan on the hob. We also added the pan juices and extra wine to the sauce as this gave it richer colour and fuller flavour which was just to our tastes.
For the real deal, Keller’s full recipe can be viewed at BBC Food but our tweaked version is as below.
Thomas Keller’s Brined Roast Chicken
Prep time: approx. 7 hours (brining and drying)
Cooking time: 20mins per 450g (1lb) plus 10-20 mins extra – about 75mins for a 1.5kg bird as we used
For the Brine
2.5 litres water
87g kosher salt
6 bay leaves
6 garlic cloves, skin left on, smashed
2 tbsp black peppercorns
5g fresh rosemary leaves
5g thyme leaves
25g flat-leaf parsley
1 lemon, zest (big strips work best) and juice
For the chicken
1 Chicken (2-3.5 lbs)
Salt and pepper
2 tsp chopped thyme
50ml White Wine – added to the tray after cooking to deglaze the pan and add to the sauce.
For the chasseur sauce
2 tbsp olive/rapeseed oil
3 shallots, cut into medium dice
1 carrot, cut into medium dice
3 garlic cloves
25g/1oz button mushrooms, cut into medium diced
1 fresh tomato, cut into medium dice
50-150ml White Wine (to taste, and dependent upon how much sauce you lie to serve – we went for the top end of this amount)
1 sprig fresh parsley
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
10 black peppercorns
150ml chicken stock
1. First things first, prep your brine. Rather than boil it as Keller does, we put all of the ingredients bar the water into a large pan and then poured the 2.5 litres of boiling water over before leaving to cool. The brine needs to be cool before you add the chicken.
2. Rinse your chicken thoroughly inside and out and then place in the now cool brine. It needs to stay in there, completely submerged for 6 hours in the fridge – use a plate to hold it down if you need.
3. Once the six hours are up, remove the chicken from the brine, rinse, and dry off with kitchen paper. Place your chicken on the tray it is to be roasted in and leave the out at room temperature for 30mins (though up to 1 hour will be fine).
4. Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas 8
5. Season the chicken inside and out and put an onion inside the cavity. Then transfer to the oven; for a 3lb (1.5kg) bird 75 minutes in the oven should cook it perfectly. Check the bird every 15-20 minutes and baste if you wish (we did this just once during our cooking time after adding a little white wine to the pan in the oven)
6. About 30 minutes before the bird is to come out of the oven, start your chasseur sauce.
7. For the sauce, heat the oil in a pan over a moderate heat and add the shallots, carrots, mushrooms and garlic. Fry these together until all are lightly coloured.
8. Add the tomato and wine and reduce until most of the liquid is gone.
9. Add the stock and herbs (and a little more wine if it’s to your taste) and simmer for 30mins.
10. When the sauce has about 10mins left to simmer the chicken should be about ready to come out of the oven so take it out, add the thyme leaves to the tray, baste with juices from the pan and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
11. Once rested, take the chicken out of the roasting tray and carve – as Keller does, we cut the bird into four pieces to serve two people and then picked any meat missed from the bones.
12. To finish off the sauce, deglaze the roasting tray with wine and pour all of the wine and juices into the sauce. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve into a clean pan and taste for seasoning. Leave on the heat.
13. Serve the chicken with plenty of the sauce and your choice of accompaniments; we went for roast potatoes (what else!) and greens.
The bones from this make a fabulous stock so don’t let them go to waste!