There's nothing quite like the flavour of a whole roasted chicken. Though often thought of as a dish deserving of more than a spot on the weekday dinner roster, it is an incredibly easy one to prepare and is infinitely better value than buying prepared chicken breasts.
Even if you are only cooking for two, as I most often am, don't shy away from cooking a whole bird. Take what you want for your evening meal then delight in the plentiful bounty of leftovers for packed lunch salads and sandwiches, tomorrow's risotto or some other chickeny dish.
Ingredients: Serves 2 (with generous leftover for a couple of lunches and dinners) or 4-6 for dinner.
1 4 1/2-5lb whole chicken
1 large lemon
2 whole bulbs garlic
Small bunch each of: tarragon, flat leaf parsley, chives & dill.
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper
Small knob of butter (2 or 3 tablespoons)
All of the prep- work for this dish is at the beginning, once readied for cooking and thrown in the oven, you've got just over an hour for other evening activities without having to keep one eye on a pan.
The advantage to spatchcocking a chicken is two fold: firstly it allows for a more even roast and a slightly faster cooking time than a traditional bird. Secondly, as all the skin is exposed to the heat of the oven you get an all round golden, roasted bird with crispy skin for all.
It's always prudent to be extra careful when handling raw chicken As this recipe calls for quite a bit of moving about of the whole bird which can invariably lead to some chicken splashes here and there, it's best to get all your herbs, garlic and lemons ready prior to starting the chicken prep. This will reduce the chance of contamination.
Take about 1/4 of each bunch of the Summer herbs, finely chop and set aside, these will be use in the herb gravy later. Slice the whole garlic bulbs through their 'equator' and the lemons in half. Have all these flavour makers close at hand but pop the chopped herbs up away somewhere away from the chicken prep area.
Turn your chicken upside down so that it's resting on its breasts, and its spine is facing upwards. Using a hefty pair of kitchen scissors or a large carving knife (I went with the serrated knife option after hunting EVERYWHERE for the scissors and failing to find them) cut alongside the spine, right through the ribs of the chicken all the way from the top of the cavity open to the bottom.
Scoop out the giblets, you won't use them for this recipes but you can freeze them for use in other gravies. Flip the chicken back over and press down firmly, breaking out the joints so that it lies flat on the pan.
Stuff the cut lemons and garlic under the chicken after rubbing the skin with the cut side of the garlic and squeezing out the lemon juice over the bird. Take the uncut herb bunch and twist them so that they bruise but do not tear, this will bring out the flavour but reduce the amount of 'bits' to scoop out of the gravy later. By keeping the herbs whole it also means they can be tucked right up underneath the cavity of the bird without escaping and burning in the heat of the oven. You want to them to impart a fragrant flavour by steaming within the chicken, if they burn they will taste bitter.
Once the chicken is tucked in with the herbs, lemon and garlic, drizzle with a little oil, salt and pepper then pop into a preheated oven at 350F for about 1 hour and 20 mins.
Your chicken work is done! The only thing that needs doing during the cooking time is splosh a little (about 1/4 cup) water into the pan at about the 45 minute mark . Go about your evening business, clear down and put your feet up with your favourite tipple- you've got enough time to watch a whole episode of OITNB!
Take out the chicken after and hour and twenty, pierce a knife into the fattest part of the thigh to check the juices run clear and the meat is cooked. If the juices have any red in them return the bird to the oven for a further 10 mins and repeat. When cooked, throw in the butter, cover with foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
Transfer the bird to a plate for a moment then use a fork to squash the, now soft, garlic and lemons into the juices and whisk in the melted butter. Tip the juice into a small saucepan, using the fork to hold back the large chunk of garlic, lemon and stringy herbs. Heat until simmering and throw in the remaining chopped herbs, turn down the heat and mix in.
Serve up your chicken with a generous slug of the herby gravy, this also goes really well with roasted corn cobs which can be thrown in the oven at the same time as sploshing in the water into the chicken pan- easy peasy, corn and lemon squeezy!