A whole chicken for one?
Lately I’ve been experimenting with roast chicken. I have to admit roasting a whole chicken was a bit intimidating at first. Maybe because since I can remember mama K never cooked a whole chicken; she preferred chicken pieces. But after reading a few cooking books it seemed pretty straightforward. I roasted my first chicken inspired by Mr N’s cooking, covered with tin foil for 3 hours at 160°C – it was extremely moist and tasty. Mr N uses the oven to cook almost everything, covered at a low temperature. He then he uses the grill for crunchy crusts and the results are always delicious.
After some more reading yesterday and with some very exotic (for greek standards) veggies like turnips and parsnips in my fridge from my last trip to the UK, I decided to alter Mr N’s method a bit. I’ve made some amazing discoveries dear reader! Pay attention, there are two key points when roasting a chicken: moisture and crunchy skin.
To keep the chicken moist, many books recommend inserting a whole lemon in the bird’s cavity. I found the taste of the lemon too intense when doing so. Other books recommend some pieces of onion and lemon wedges. That seemed to work better. I didn’t use fresh lemon but a small lemon ice cube instead. Lemon ice cubes are an amazing inspiration my parents had years ago: When lemons are in season, they buy in bulk, squeeze out all the lovely juice and freeze in ice cube trays to store for future use. Back to our chicken, don’t forget to insert a bunch of fresh herbs in the cavity (such as thyme and bay leaves) or dried herbs if you wish and season with salt and pepper.
Now we come to the skin. An amazing piece of advice from a French cooking book: Pat dry the chicken with some paper towels before seasoning. By removing all moisture the skin roasts better, creating a crunchy skin like you’ve never tasted before! Season the chicken with herbs, salt and pepper. I’ve created my own rubbing mix using dried thyme, oregano, mint, sea salt (1 tablespoon of each), black, green, pink and white peppercorns (1 small teaspoon of each). Using a pestle and mortar grind everything together for a perfect texture. Mix with some olive oil or butter and rub the chicken thoroughly. Another alternative that also gives excellent results is to loosen the skin (you need to be careful though not to break it) and place fat and seasonings under the skin.
Place the beautifully prepared bird above a bed of roughly chopped vegetables (carrots, celery, onions, garlic) so that it doesn’t burn underneath and roast at 200°C, covered for 20 minutes per 450 grams, plus another 20 “for the pot” as they say when it comes to tea. If you want to parboil some veggies and potatoes now is the time. 5-7 minutes will do. Let them steam in a colander and roughly “throw around” the potatoes-this helps them become nice and crispy. Season and mix with some olive oil and place them neatly around the chicken (preferably in one layer) an hour before finishing up the cooking. During the last 20 minutes you can remove the tin foil but be careful not to burn the bird, the temperature is quite high!
Now that you’ve mastered the art of cooking a whole chicken make sure to invite some guests to enjoy it with you, for I am left with so much chicken I need to spend the week eating nothing but that!