simple roast chicken with sticky onions
“Please,” said Koji, a desperate look in his eyes, “No more roast chicken.”
My face was a sea of confusion.
“I thought you liked it.”
“I do! It’s just… I’ve had roast chicken for four meals this week and three meals last week and I just don’t think I can do it again.”
“Oh. How about the week after then?”
“Sure. Week after sounds great.”
I’ve been (as you may have guessed by poor Koji’s complaint) roasting a bird almost every week since winter hit. And after numerous attempts, recipe tweaks, timing tweaks and experimentations with bird sizes, I think I’ve got it. The bird you always wish was on your table on Sunday nights.
We’ve had it with family for dinner and with my family for lunch. Shared between the two of us (with two meals of leftovers) for three weeks running, and then with his housemates a couple of weeks after that by popular demand (and humble, pleading request).
We’ve turned leftovers into chicken salad. Into chicken and mushroom risotto. Into the best chicken sandwiches ever and into lunch boxes that have narrowed eyes with envy.
“The boys” he messaged me, at about 2 o’clock one Wednesday, “are standing behind me as I eat my roast chicken lunch. I think they are hoping I will share. I’m not going to.”
Oven roast chicken will do that to a friendship.
The key to this chicken is two-fold. First, spatchcocking (or splitting it down the middle and flattening it) reduces the cooking time by almost half, leaving no space for the breast to become over cooked and dry.
Second is the addition of everyone’s favourite ingredient – a good handful of herbed butter that is not-so-delicately shoved between the skin and the meat to keep it moist and protected against the heat of the oven.
Third, and I know I said two-fold but let’s consider this a bonus, is the layer of lemon and onion the chicken is cooked on, which provide flavour and moisture during the roasting process.
And when that is done, you will have the most crisp skin, the most tender breast and the most succulent legs you’ve ever pulled out of your oven.
(With a bonus side of sticky onions, because who doesn’t need something warm and savoury to stick on top of their bird?)
Also featuring on this plate is a serve of my famous crisp brussels sprouts, which will be popping up on the blog later in August. Famous, because I’ve been eating them almost three times a week. Also because they’re that damn good.
As a not-too-subtle aside, have you seen the state of this blog? It’s beautiful! And shiny! And new! Please push all of the buttons and explore all of the things. It’s been a real labour of love that started way back last September and it’s been a real slog on Koji’s behalf over the last four or so weeks getting it built.
Much love to Koji who coded the entire darn thing, made me work on the design when I wanted to quit, gave me ideas and encouragement and let me cry when I accidentally deleted things. Also to Josh and Lisa who looked over the final design and gave me great pointers. And finally (but not in the least!) to my cousin Sue-Jane who is an amazing designer and made me the cow that started it all.
There’s still a couple of glitches in older versions of internet explorer, but we just couldn’t wait to share with the rest of you – we’ll fix them up quick smart. Promise!
- 1 lemon
- ½ bunch of parsley (a good handful at least)
- one whole raw chicken (about 1.6kg)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt & pepper
- 2 brown onions
- 200ml white wine (or chicken stock)
- Chop the parsley finely – you can chop the leaves and some of the finer stems, but avoid the really thick ones. Zest the lemon. Add the parsley and lemon to the butter in a bowl and mash with a fork until it is all mixed in together nicely.
- Take the chicken and pull any stray feathers out. Turn it breast-side down on a chopping board or plate. Holding the parson’s nose (or chicken bum as we call it in our house) to make sure you’ve got it right side up, use kitchen shears (or really good scissors) to cut a line up each side of the chicken’s spine. (See the above picture for reference).
- Turn the chicken cut side down and place on hand on the breastbone. Using the other hand, press down swiftly and firmly. You will hear the wishbone crack and the chicken will now be flat.
- Grab the bird and rinse the insides under some running water, pulling out all of the bloody bits around the spine. They aren’t inedible, but i don’t particularly like the flavour (or sight) of them on the plate. Pat the bird dry.
- Starting at the neck end, wriggle your fingers underneath the chicken skin to form a cavity. It will look (and feel) quite rude, but please persist. Don’t worry too much about tearing the skin – if you have a good fresh, nicely raised bird, it will be rather resilient. Starting from the cut side of the skin near the thighs, wriggle your fingers beneath the skin until the maryland is only loosely covered in skin.
- Take about ⅔ of the butter mixture and shove it into the gap between the chicken breast and the skin. Squish it down through the skin so that it is spread evenly across the bird. Split the remaining butter in half and shove that between the skin and the chicken thighs, spreading evenly through the skin.
- Tip the oil over the chicken and rub it well into the skin. Grind salt and pepper over the top and rub that in really well too.
- At this stage you should pre-heat your oven to 230C. Yes, it’s quite hot. That’s alright. Don’t freak out.
- While the oven is heating, grab a baking dish that can go in the oven and also on the stove top. Peel and slice the onions into rings or half rings and scatter them all over the surface of the baking dish. Slice the (de-zested) lemon and lay the slices across the onion. Finally, Pop your bird on top of everything and throw the spine in too while you’re at it.
- Roast the chicken for 30-35 minutes, checking if it is cooked at the half hour mark by sticking a knife in the thickest part of the leg and pressing down to see if the juices run clear. (Clear juices = cooked, pink juices = likely food poisoning). If your chicken is bigger, it will take longer. I cooked a 2kg bird a couple of week ago that took around 45 minutes before it was done.
- Take the pan out of the oven and pull the bird out to rest on a board or plate. Remove the lemon slices and the spine and tryto pour most of the clear fat off the top.
- Put the pan over a high heat on the stove and cook the onions, stirring, until they are dark brown and starting to stick. Quickly pour the white wine in and stir madly to release all of the goodness at the bottom of the pan. When the liquid has reduced to a glaze, pop the onions into a bowl to serve with your amazing chicken.