If you missed last blog, check out how to make Spaghetti Bolognese.
This is the meal I usually make if I have friends or family coming over for dinner, or even lunch.
Samantha’s Roast Chicken Dinner is the perfect meal for a Sunday, or a holiday. I always roast a chicken, but you could use this same recipe for a turkey too. Although it will take longer to cook of course. Size really does matter!
There are so many versions and methods to roasting a chicken and it might seem like a boring thing to cook. But I think, when it’s done well, there is nothing finer or more delicious than a roast chicken dinner.
The first thing to consider is what chicken. These days there really is no excuse to not buy an organic bird. The taste difference is tremendous and if you are still eating meat, especially chicken, you have to eat organic and free range. Even farm-raised if you can find it. I usually get the heritage chickens from Trader Joe’s. They are fresh, not frozen and very good. Remember if you buy an organic, farm-raised chicken, they are always smaller, so plan accordingly. You could always roast two if you have a lot of people to feed. There is nothing more depressing than running out of meat. And believe me, if you roast this chicken well, people will be fighting over it.
Once you have the bird, prepare it by rinsing it under the tap and then patting it dry with paper towels. Put it in a pan, I usually use a Le Creuset circular skillet because it makes such excellent gravy, but you can use any roasting pan or even a big dish. Although I think stainless steel or cast iron are best for roasting. That way you get all the sticky stuff nice and delicious on the bottom of the pan for the best gravy. Once the bird is in the pan you have choices. Stuffing or no stuffing. I don’t stuff. It slows down the cooking and it’s more work. Save the stuffing for the holiday roasts. Instead, I put either half a lemon and a fist full of whole garlic cloves, or half an apple and the garlic. You can put an onion in, but I like the fruit. It gives a lovely edge to the gravy…I’m always thinking about the gravy. I do add a couple of shallots to the pan, skin on, because it adds to the deliciousness. I drizzle a good amount of good olive oil over the bird. A tablespoonful roughly. Then sprinkle with kosher salt and ground pepper. I season a lot. About half a teaspoon of salt and pepper. You have to season liberally. It makes a huge difference in the flavor. Don’t be afraid to season. I like kosher salt because it dissolves well and I like the flakes, but you can use sea salt, just don’t grind it. If you only have regular salt that’s fine too. But you should always have good sea salt or kosher salt in your kitchen. Your oven should have been already set to 350. I like to cook at this temperature, some go hotter, but I like to let everything have its time in the oven and I hate burning off all the juices that you will need for…you guessed…the gravy.
A regular-sized organic chicken at 350 should cook for about an hour and a half. Check it at an hour, you don’t need to bast it, but some ovens run hotter than others. Once it’s cooked, take it out and let it rest. All meat needs to rest before eating. About 30 minutes. I cover mine in foil to keep it warm. While this has been cooking you will have other things to do! The vegetables. My go-to veggies for a roast are carrots and sweet potato roasted and new potatoes – or small golden-boiled potatoes. To roast the carrots and sweet potatoes peel the sweet potatoes and dice to the size of a big marsh mellow. The carrots you do not need to peel. I lay the carrots on a large baking sheet on one end and the sweet potatoes on the other. Then drizzle liberally with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. They take 45 mins roughly, so they go in after the chicken. The potatoes you don’t need to do anything much to, boil them in salted water, I add a couple of fresh mint leaves…it’s an English thing, which makes them more delicious. I also love to have some excellent cabbage with a roast. We need something green and cabbage takes absolutely no time to cook and is lovely and crunchy alongside the sweet carrots and sweet potatoes. Gorgeous in the gravy too! I like savoy cabbage, but whatever you prefer! If you like red cabbage that’s lovely too, but it cooks for longer and my mum always added sliced apple, which I only really understood when I started making it myself. It’s divine!
I also usually make a ratatouille. No, this is not just a Disney rat…it’s a gorgeous French vegetable stew. Every town or village has its own recipe, this is mine, via my mum and dad.
It’s so simple and a wonderful addition to a roast dinner. It just balances perfectly with the richness of the gravy. In a saucepan start with a tablespoon of olive oil, add chopped garlic, about two fat cloves and one shallot diced. You don’t have to have the shallot, but I like to. Chop one zucchini, one medium eggplant and one red pepper and add to the pan. Then add one large tin of whole tomatoes. About a glass full of red wine, salt and pepper and give it a stir, add a fresh bay leaf, put the lid on and let simmer for about an hour. Yum!!
Once you take the chicken out of the pan and set it aside, I put mine in a dish and keep it covered with foil on top of the stove, it’s time for the gravy. So there are many different ways to do this, but I will tell you mine, passed down through my family and the absolute best way to make gravy that will blow your mind. Begin with the pan you roasted in. Put in on low heat. You will need some good bouillon, about a teaspoon and you add this to the now sizzling juices in the pan. You will have left the shallots in there and anything that fell off the bird. So its all cooking away. Using a wooden spoon stir in the bouillon, then add to this about a tablespoon of flour, heaped in the middle of the pan. Using your wooden spoon work your way from the outside of the flour pile in, gently stirring it into the juices, making a roux. Once it’s mixed in you add about a cup of red wine, all at once. This deglazes the pan, so it will sizzle up and cook off the alcohol while it gets all the bits stuck to the pan into your gravy. Now you add the chicken stock, a little at first and then enough that you are happy with the amount of gravy you have. I usually use about 2/3 of a pint. I like to use a whisk at this point. To make sure all the flour is dissolved. I don’t mind lumpy gravy, I just want the lumps to be bits of onion or chicken, not flour. The gravy needs to cook now, so turn it to low and let it simmer. Keep an eye on it though, burnt gravy is a disaster!! I also add a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a splash of soy sauce. But that’s to taste.
When you are ready to plate up the chicken you will have more juices that have oozed out of it, I always add that to the gravy…yum. The cabbage takes five minutes, so do that right at the end, carved at an angle from the head so you end up with feathers of cabbage, the potatoes take about 20, depending on how many. I have a trick though. Once they are done, firm but forgiving to the prick of a knife, drain them, put them back in the saucepan and put about a tablespoon of butter and salt and pepper, stir them gently and put the pan lid on and leave them on the stove, heat off. They get so delicious and stay hot. You will thank me!
In the accompanying picture you will see dauphinois potatoes. You may mistake them for scallop potatoes, they are not…these are French and about the best thing you will ever eat. I usually have to make double the amount a small army requires as my kids insist on going home with the leftovers.
Peel and slice golden potatoes. You could use white or russet, but golden potatoes are buttery and the best for this dish. Take a large dish, something like a lasagne dish and scatter a hand full of chopped fresh garlic in the bottom. Then layer about half an inch of the sliced potatoes. Then garlic again and salt a pepper then more potatoes and so on until you reach the top of the dish. Season again then pour over thick whipping cream. Enough to almost reach the top of the potatoes. Usually a little under a pint. You don’t want to go all the way to the top because it will boil over in the oven and make a horrible mess and burn on the bottom of the stove. It will take about 45 minutes to cook and then you can test it with a knife to make sure all the potatoes are done. Try not to eat it right out of the oven, it will burn your tongue and you won’t be able to enjoy the lusciousness of it.
So there we have it. My traditional Roast Chicken Dinner. This makes a lovely Christmas dinner too of course, although you might want to add the stuffing for that! I dare you to create anything more divinely delicious than this dinner. It has made me many lifelong friends and broken many many hearts when every last scrap has finally been devoured.
Make sure you take your time, cooking this is almost as much fun as eating it….almost.
And remember, food is life and life is good.
1 organic free-range chicken
2 lbs golden potatoes or small golden potatoes for boiling
1 head of garlic
I large shallot
1 red bell pepper
I tin good whole tomatoes
I medium eggplant
1 medium zucchini
I pint of whipping cream
Salt and pepper
I lemon or apple
1 lb of large carrots
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 medium green cabbage
1 pint chicken stock
2 glasses of red wine