Roast Chicken with Roast Potatoes and Fine Beans
When our sons were younger (OK when we were all younger) I used to enjoy playing the role of paterfamilias and I would order a large, free range Norfolk bronze turkey as the centerpiece of our festive feast. These days both of our sons have graduated and are vegans and work in hospitality. It is an each-way bet whether either will be home for Christmas and if they are (which would be lovely) they won't be interested in turkey. In a way that is a relief, as it was a hell of palaver to cook the thing and a smaller, less showy meal feels more in keeping with these more measured, if less flamboyant, times.
So, I've willfully down-graded our menu to a chicken but will procure a decent, organic one and roasting chicken is something I have done so many times that it is almost a soothing ritual. I require no texts or measurements, can 'half' listen to the radio as I potter around the kitchen with a glass of something to hand.
Ingredients: (Serves 2 to 5 people)
Organic, free-range chicken x 1 [circa 1.5 kg]
Small white onions x 4
Head of garlic x 1
Unwaxed lemon x 1
Bottle of red wine x 1
Potatoes x 1 kg [More than necessary but we like roast potatoes].
Fine green beans x 200g
First off, I wash the chicken in cold water. All modern texts say not to do this but I was taught to do this in my youth and cannot break with the tradition. I then pat it dry with kitchen roll. Pre-heat the (electric fan) oven to 180 degrees C. Whilst the oven is heating up I peel then rinse the potatoes and leave them to drain in a sieve. Put a good splash of olive oil in a roasting dish and add the chicken to it.
Place 4 to 5 cloves of garlic and a whole (fork pricked) lemon in the chicken's body cavity and seal it with a thin, disposable, wooden skewer. I cover both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper and then turn it breast side down in the roasting dish before adding it to the oven for 30 minutes.
While the chicken is having its first half hour in the oven I chop the potatoes into 3 to 4cm pieces and dice the onions into quarters, I'll also 'top and tail' and rinse the fine beans. When the first 30 minutes are up, take the roasting dish out of the oven turn the chicken breast side up, add the onions to the dish with a small glass of red wine and put everything back in the oven.
Put the chopped up potatoes in a second roasting dish, dress them quite generously with olive oil, salt and pepper, then shake them about, then add them to the oven on the lower shelf below the chicken. Cook the chicken and potatoes for a further hour, but after the first 30 minutes of that I'll open the oven to turn around the potatoes for even cooking and turn the chicken roasting tray around too. I'll probably add a second glass of wine at this juncture and ensure none of the onions are burning too.
I then have nothing to do except boil the beans for 10 minutes before turning them off and 'refreshing' them briefly with cold water. Warm the plates in the cooling-down oven and drain the wine, chicken gravy and onion juice as un-thickened sauce. If, as is standard practice, my sister is visiting I'll get her to make and bring bread sauce as she is better at it than me and (I believe) enjoys contributing. I'll carve and serve but won't be in a rush. Usually we'll precede the main meal with some sparkling wine and smoked salmon and perhaps a bit of gift giving and receiving.
I can't believe I'm looking forward to being down-graded, but I am.
I like red Burgundy with roast chicken – perhaps a very lightly-chilled glass of Domaine François Gay's Aloxe-Corton. The gothic label alone is a delight.