Short-cut roast chicken with gravy – a gift from the goddess of love
Anyone who is in a tearing hurry, or is not keen on endless slaving at the kitchen stove, or is perennially lazy; or, like me, all three of those, will view a short cut way of roasting chicken as a gift of love.
And this method really is a gift of love. It comes from Aphrodite, a very appropriately named lady, via Skye McA;pine’s also appropriately titled A Table Full of Love.
It gets hoovered up, every scrap, with unanimous enthusiasm; and it really does require minimum effort.
Essentially it’s a chicken with a fork-pricked lemon placed inside, atop a bed of thinly sliced potatoes, which is roasted… couldn’t be simpler.
But alas, when I first tried this, the Chief Taster immediately pointed out two seemingly insurmountable flaws.
Replacing the roasties
First was the impossibility of replacing roast potatoes with any other type of potato.
There’s no doubt that roast potato enthusiasm is almost a kind of religion. Its followers all have their own way of worship – some swear by dustings of semolina, others by Marmite. There’s a schism over the optimum fat. But all agree that a roast anything minus roast potatoes is a mere shadow.
Alleluia though! These gunky, some-caramelised, some-soft potatoes, anointed with the juices from the chicken as well as a generous slosh of dry vermouth, are able to overcome even the most ingrained of prejudices and beliefs. The method for cooking them is loosely modelled on Potatoes à la Lyonnaise, so a few touches of onion in addition to the garlic don’t go amiss – you can snip in some spring onions, or chives, or even nigella seeds to achieve this.
Making way for the gravy
The second problem is also relatively easily solved – simply take the offending potatoes out and keep them hot on one of the plates you’re warming. Also, roast the chickens in a rectangular roasting tin (not a round one as McAlpine does) because it’s much easier to make gravy in a rectangular tin… it can be rounded at the corners.
Another short cut regarding the green vegetable
And then, if you are being particularly slutty you can add some frozen peas to the roast about ten minutes before you take out the roast.
You can prepare this up to four hours before you begin roasting.
- 10 potatoes
- 120 ml/½ cup of olive oil
- 2 small, good-quality chickens
- 2 lemons
- Fresh woody herbs – rosemary and thyme
- 4 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with textured salt – or you can simply crush, still in their skins
- Freshly ground black pepper or a pinch of Urfa pepper flakes
- 120 ml/½ cup dry vermouth
- Snipped spring onions, chives, or nigella seeds – optional
- Couple of chicken stock cubes – again, the better quality the better
- Preheat the oven to 210°C (use the Aga roasting oven). Warm your plates in a cool oven.
- Oil the bottom of a big roasting tin.
- Thinly slice the potatoes (don’t bother to peel them) and arrange them, overlapping slightly, on a layer in the bottom of the roasting tin. Be aware that the thinner you slice the potatoes the quicker they will cook.
- Drizzle over some of the olive oil. Season heartily. Tuck in some sprigs of the woody herbs (retain a good two-thirds for stuffing the chicken). Distribute the garlic over the potatoes.
- Prick the lemons all over with a fork and stuff each chicken with one of them. Stuff the chickens with the rest of the herbs. Drizzle a bit more of the oil over the chicken and season the skin, again, heartily.
- Now put the whole lot in the oven. After about half an hour, take out and add half the vermouth. Snip over the spring onions, or the chives, or the nigella seeds if you’re using them. Baste. About half an hour later, take the chickens out again to see if they are done. Their skin should have turned golden and, if you put a skewer in between thigh and breast, the juices flowing out should be clear. If they’re not done (if you are roasting larger chickens they won’t be), put them back in the oven until they are, perhaps another ten minutes or so. Thereafter keep them in a warm oven until you’re ready to make the gravy.
- When you’re ready to make the gravy, tip the chickens up to drain the juices into the tin, and then put them on a carving board, cover with foil and leave them to rest. Scoop out the potatoes, using something slotted, onto one of your warmed plates, and return to the cool oven.
- Make the gravy by adding the remaining vermouth (or any hooch you are wanting to use up – cider, mulled wine, marsala, dregs from last nights’ glasses – all will do) to the juices, and a couple of stock cubes. Add a bit more hooch or water. Scrape any sediment off the bottom of the tin. Put it on the hob and bring the lot to the boil. It’s also good with a squirt of tomato paste if you have any to hand.