Roast chicken is a classic, and one that can’t easily be improved upon but we’ve found a way which means you still get a classic roast but with a bit of a twist, and the moistest chicken ever! This could make a lovely alternative Christmas dinner for a smaller family or a special dinner any weekend. The chicken sits on a bed of sliced fennel, onions and celery covered in white wine which you can then turn into a delicious sauce at the end. We used a small-medium chicken here so obviously adjust the cooking times if you’re using a bigger one – this recipe is forgiving, you can cook it for a little longer than you should and still have lovely chicken, with no hint of dryness. We served ours like a traditional roast dinner but this would work really well with mashed potato and vegetables or in the summer with bread and salad.
- 1 free-range chicken
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 bulb of fennel, chopped into 1cm strips
- 1 large onion, chopped into 1cm strips
- 2-3 sticks of celery, chopped roughly
- 1 large glass of white wine (about 200ml)
- Salt and pepper to season
Heat a large oven-proof casserole dish over a medium heat. Preheat the oven to 180C. Pour the oil into the casserole dish and when it’s hot add in the thyme. Then pop the chicken in, breast side down to start colouring the skin to encourage it to go nice and golden in the oven. You’ll have to tilt the chicken and move it around, we found that using your hands is the easiest way to do this, just watch out for hot oil! After about 5 minutes the skin on the breast should be lightly golden so take the chicken out and pop it back on it’s plastic tray while you put the vegetables in. Put all of the vegetables into the pot and stir over the heat for a few minutes until they start to cook, but you don’t want them to colour. Pour over the wine after this time and then put the chicken back on top, breast-side up this time. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and rub with a little extra olive oil if needed.
Put the dish in the oven, leave the lid off for around half an hour to help the skin crisp up, then put the lid on and leave for 1 hour. Check the fluid levels occasionally and top up with a bit of water if necessary, there should be around 2-3 inches of fluid in the bottom at all times. After the hour take the lid off and leave to brown for another 10-15 minutes and then take out of the oven.
Put your chicken to rest on a board, loosely covered with foil, and then you can make a gravy out of the wine/stock if you wish, or you can just serve it as it is. It would be perfect left as it is for a light summer lunch with bread and salad… you could pop the sauce into a bowl for people to dip their bread into! We decided to thicken ours slightly as we were serving it in more of a traditional roast dinner style. To do this simply place about 1 tsp of butter in a small sauce pan, add 2 tsp of plain flour and a little of the stock, stir to make a paste. Then keep adding the stock slowly, making sure it’s completely incorporated before adding the next spoonful. Cook this for around 10 minutes to make sure the raw flour taste is completely gone. You can make it to whatever thickness you fancy, we wanted quite a thick sauce this time so didn’t add too much of the stock and then let it reduce well.
And that’s it! Carve the chicken and serve with whatever you fancy. Here we have roasted potatoes, parsnips and carrots and some leeks and cabbage which were braised together in a little water and butter and of course some of the deliciously soft fennel, onions and celery. Even though this chicken was only supposed to feed 2-4 there was so much meat left on it, we boiled up the carcass to make soup which made at least 5-6 portions – you can’t get much better value than a chicken!