In life, there are many pleasures. Some of them are over-the-top and elaborate and others are simple and humble. Proper, good roast chicken is one of those simple pleasures in my life and I have to tell you, I would choose a good roast chicken over an elaborate pleasure, any day of the week. I don’t know what it is about roast chicken that gets me the way it does but there are few foods I am as loyal to, as I am about roast chicken.
Nigella Lawson once said “A kitchen doesn’t feel like mine until I’ve roasted a chicken in it” and she also said “You could probably go through life without ever learning to roast a chicken, but why would you want to.” I mean, isn’t that just the words of a culinary genius? Well, in my mind it is anyway. And I suppose the real appeal of a roast chicken is the homeliness of it. The fact that most moms have their own roast chicken recipe and it is instantly comforting and most people only like the way their mom cooks a chicken. I know that for me, when I smell a chicken flavoured with garlic, lemon and herbs roasting in the oven, I feel like I’m home. Due to this intense obsession with roast chicken, I am always looking for ways to enhance it, better it and find new ways to make it.
This version was inspired by another of my food loves, Sean Brock. If ever there was a man that could make me go weak at the knees simply by talking about food, it is Sean Brock. His passion and knowledge inspire me and when I got his book, Heritage, as a Mother’s Day gift, I was over the moon. I have been ravaging the pages and have been left overwhelmed and massively inspired by his fierce love and loyalty to everything Southern. Reading his stories of how his mom and gran shaped him into the excellent chef he is today warmed my heart and when I stumbled upon his recipe for Skillet Chicken, I fell in love. His chicken is served with confit garlic and sauce made from the pan juices and looked to good to be true. I adapted his recipe to make my pan roasted chicken and served mine with a lemony, garlicky, parsley-y butter sauce which I added all the pan drippings and juices to. Man alive, I could eat the stuff by the spoonful. So intensely flavoursome and just the perfect partner to the juicy chicken. You could serve this with rice or mashed potatoes but honestly, a good piece of crusty bread to mop up the buttery goodness is more than enough and will have you craving more.
- 1 free-range chicken (approximately 1.5-1.7kg)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- salt & pepper to taste (I used smoked salt)
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- small handful fresh sage leaves
- 150g butter
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
- juice of 1 lemon
- handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°c.
- To prepare the chicken, cut the backbone out of the chicken using sharp kitchen scissors, to spatchcock the chicken and then carefully cut through the breastbone to produce two halves. (If you are squeamish, ask your butcher to do this bit for you.)
- Heat a skiller or large oven-proof pan over high heat.
- Drizzle the chicken with olive oil then season with salt and pepper.
- Place the chicken, breast and thigh side down in the hot pan and press down with another frying pan or foil-wrapped bricks to allow it to brown sufficiently. When the chicken is golden brown, flip it over and add the fresh herbs to the pan.
- Allow to brown on the other side then place the chicken in the oven and allow to roast for 20-25 minutes until cooked through.
- Remove the cooked chicken from the oven then transfer to a plate and cover with foil to rest.
- Place the skillet on the stove over medium heat. Melt the butter in the pan then add the garlic. Allow to butter to simmer very gently, taking care to not burn it, and allow the garlic to soften and cook.
- When the garlic is cooked, add the lemon juice and parsley and stir through. Add any of the chicken juices that might have accumulated on the plate.
- Serve the chicken with the garlic lemon butter and crusty bread.