I was delightfully surprised about a week ago by my Austrian cousin, Nasrien, who came to visit me – not from Austria, LOL – but from Durban. I’d never cooked for her prior to this occasion, so I was really worried that she needed to enjoy herself and feel comfortable while she paid me a visit. She also had expressed to me in our lengthy telephone conversations that she was trying to be healthy. So I had my work cut out for me in figuring out what to serve her that would be healthy, homely and comforting all at the same time! Luckily, my saving grace was that she has a sweet tooth, so I gave myself free reign to turn up the heat (and sugar content!) with the dessert.
This was the menu that I prepared for Nasrien:
Garlic butter & bread crumbs stuffed mussels
Sweet potato & pumpkin velouté (with coconut cream)
Polenta with olive oil, rosemary and parmesan
Chickpea salad with a homemade orange salad dressing
Salted caramel apple crumble with fresh custard AND whipped cream
I’m sure you can tell that I totally over-extended myself for one day – I invited the poor girl for lunch and had to call her at lunch time to let her know that I was far from ready! We ended up eating everything for dinner. I just hope that she thinks it was all well worth the wait… Sigh…
By Nasrien’s standards, the chicken and it’s skin were “perfectly cooked and flawless”. I’m sure you can imagine how pleased I was to hear that she was totally satisfied with the final product! I’m really paranoid when it comes to cooking chicken with the skin on – I’m sure that goes for like, almost everybody out there… It’s really a delicate balance of cooking it enough so that the skin is crisped and golden, but you need your chicken to be cooked through, yet not too dry and chewy. I absolutely love to butter baste my chicken, but I know if butter is all that I throw on the skin, it’s not going to get that amazing crisped texture which everybody dies for. So I like to stuff the butter right under the skin of the chicken and then pat the chicken with olive oil – which is sure to get the skin sizzling!
I started prepping the chicken early in the morning and put it into the oven by 11 am, covered with foil that just had a few little slits in the corners of the roasting pan. I left it in there to semi-slow roast at 150° C for like an hour and 15 minutes, in it’s golden juices. I even let the skin of the chicken (breast-side up) crisp, uncovered for about 15-20 minutes afterward, at 180° C… But then, instead of turning the chicken over for the skin to get done on the other side, I actually just removed it from the oven and left it to sit, warm and covered by the foil until I was ready for Nasrien to arrive. I put it into the oven about 15 minutes before serving, with the undone side turned up, and the skin also crisped up nicely. It’s as though the chicken tasted like it was a rotisserie-style bird, all because I had left it sitting in the warm juices for the entire afternoon! Strange, but true.
Anyway, I guess the real moral of this story is definitely to plan time properly – and not to mention, pace yourself – when you are having special guests over. You would probably want to be spending more time with your loved ones, instead of spending lots of precious time in the kitchen!
And without further ado, I give you my secret favourite roast chicken recipe. I hope you enjoy the sweet, buttery, herby, zesty flavours that you get with this! It’s really just perfect for Easter Sunday, in my opinion.
1 whole chicken, skin on and innards removed
100g organic butter
1 tbsp finely chopped french chives
1 tsp garlic, crushed as finely as you can get it
2 -3 tbsp olive oil
80 ml golden syrup
About 2 tbsp Worcester sauce
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
2 sprigs of rosemary
Salt & pepper to taste
1. Wash your bird thoroughly and pat dry before you start on your chicken-roasting quest!
2. To start, preheat oven at 150° C and then get cracking on your butter for stuffing under the skin. I used salted butter so I didn’t have to season it. Add the butter, chives and garlic to a bowl and mix it up well. Lift the skin off the chicken breasts gently, but with a firmness thats going to softly tear the skin from the meat. Try to be as neat as possible when you’re doing this!
3. Stuff the butter under the skin of your bird and let sit. Reserve like a tbsp of garlic butter to just rub into the insides of the rib cage, and place the two sprigs of rosemary in the cavity so that it infuses with the meat.
4. Pat the chicken’s skin all over the top with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Remember that you are seasoning a whole bird – so try to salt it just a little extra, instead of less.
5. Mix up your remaining ingredients (golden syrup, Worcester sauce, cayenne pepper & lemon juice) in a little bowl. Pour this entire mixture over your bird and rub generously for a few seconds to get the flavours in. Be careful not to let the rosemary or butter fall out while doing this.
6. Let your bird rest in a greased roasting pan (breast-side up) for at least ten minutes before sending it off to the oven. Get a small ladle and basting brush ready during that time and maybe relax with a cup of coffee. It was at this stage that I franticly started preparing the stuffing for the mussels, but if you’re learning from my mistakes, maybe just a normal side of roasted potatoes will do 🙂
7. When you are ready, cover the roasting pan well with some heavy-duty foil. Just make a few slits around the corners or edges of the foil. You can leave the bird in the oven like this at 150° C for about an hour and 15 minutes. I found that this temperature worked well because it was not too high and thus kept the meat tender, whilst also cooking it sufficiently.
8. When the time is up, remove the pan from the oven and crank up the heat to 180° C. If the skin still seems thick and white in colour, adjust the temperature to 200° C to ensure the skin will melt in the oven. Remove the foil without tearing it (because you’re going to use it again later).
9. Do your pouring and basting of the juices over the chicken and place it back in the oven for the skin to start crisping up. I left it in for 15 – 20 minutes at the most. You don’t want the meat to become tough and chewy, but you’re looking for that crispy, golden brown hue.
10. Remove from the oven when you’re happy with the results, cover chicken again and let sit until half an hour before serving.
11. Once you’re ready to serve, turn the chicken onto the other side, with the breasts on the bottom of the pan. Let this side get done in the oven at 180° C for another 10-15 minutes.
AND SO NOW YOU HAVE THE RECIPE OF THE MOST AMAZING EASTER SUNDAY ROAST CHICKEN EVER. Well, according to me, anyway 😀