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TV chefs are always telling you how wonderful their recipes are, so when Karen Martini of Australia's "Better Homes and Gardens" TV show said, "This will be the best roast chicken you've ever made!" I was sceptical. "Well, it looks pretty good, but I don't know about Roast Chicken without a nice rich gravy," I thought. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a try. Now I can honestly say, "THIS WAS THE BEST ROAST CHICKEN I HAVE EVER MADE OR EATEN" - and boy I've eaten some roast chicken in my time! Now, I must confess to having amended Ms Martini's excellent recipe a bit. Her idea of 'rustic' is to just chop up all the garlic without peeling any of it, throw in the onion with the peel still on, and add the herbs still on their woody stalks. I wasn't keen on the idea of spitting out bits of papery garlic peel and burned bits of stalk as I ate, so I peeled most of the garlic and stripped some of the herbs from their stalks before adding them to the chicken. If you want to be authentically rustic, by all means, just whack everything in with no preparation - it will certainly save a lot of time. The other change I made to the recipe was that I boosted up the sauce a bit. I like LOTS of sauce, and although the chicken yielded a good amount when it was cut, I wanted lashings, so I topped it up with some chicken stock and another good squeeze of lemon juice. Again, whether you do this is entirely up to you. All I can promise is that if you make this chicken the way I did, it should be the best roast chicken you've ever had. Oh, and by the way, although it's wonderfully flavoursome and succulent served hot - it's almost better cold because the garlicky lemony flavour seems to come out even more! Did I mention I love this recipe? Oh, shut up, Kooka and tell the people how to make it!
- 4 -6 medium potatoes (or one potato per person)
- 2 small brown onions, peeled and thickly sliced
- 1 large roasting chicken (mine was 1.7kg, around 3 1/2 lbs)
- 50 g butter, cut into small cubes
- 1 bulb of garlic, broken into cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 bulb of garlic, broken into cloves, unpeeled and roughly chopped
- 1 bulb of garlic, broken into cloves, unpeeled and unchopped
- 1 bunch fresh thyme
- 1 bunch fresh oregano
- 1 large lemons or 2 small lemons
- olive oil
- sea salt
- black pepper, freshly ground
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1⁄2 lemon, juice of
- Start by preparing the potatoes. This can be done well in advance. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the potatoes, whole and unpeeled and boil, uncovered, for 25 minutes or until very soft. Remove potatoes from the water to a plate until needed. It doesn't matter if they get cold.
- Now, divide each bunch of herbs roughly into four: one quarter to go between the skin and the breast; one quarter to go in the cavity; one quarter to scatter over the chicken; and one quarter reserved for garnish. Strip the leaves from one quarter of the oregano and one quarter of the thyme discarding any woody stalks. Leave the remaining herbs intact.
- Now, wash the cavity of the chicken with cold running water and dry the chicken very well, inside and out, with paper towels. Using a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp pair of scissors, trim the wing tips from the chicken as these will burn at the high temperature you're going to cook at.
- Preheat your oven to 240C or 230C fan-forced and make sure there's a rack in the centre, or just below the centre and plenty of room above for the chicken.
- Place the chicken on a plate and, carefully, working from the neck end, slip your finger between the skin and the flesh on the right breast of the chicken, breaking through the membrane and separating the skin from the flesh, being careful not to pierce the skin with your fingernail. Try to wriggle your finger down near the drumstick and separate some of the skin from it too. Repeat for the left breast.
- In a bowl, roughly mix together the butter cubes, the herb leaves you've stripped from their stalks, and the chopped, peeled garlic.
- Using your fingers, push this mixture carefully into the pockets you've formed between the skin and the flesh of the chicken breasts and, if possible, a little way down towards the drumsticks. It doesn't matter if a bit falls out, you can just shove that into the cavity later.
- Put the chopped, unpeeled garlic and one, 'one-quarter' bunch each of the oregano and thyme into the cavity of the chicken. You should now have two bunches each of the oregano and thyme left, and one bulb of unpeeled garlic cloves.
- If using a large lemon, cut in half and squeeze the juice from one half only. If using two small lemons, squeeze one whole lemon. Drizzle the lemon juice over the top of the chicken, and place the squeezed portion/s of the lemon into the cavity.
- Thinly slice the unsqueezed large lemon half, or whole small lemon, and set slices aside.
- Line a large baking pan with silicone (baking) paper. (Be sure to use a pan that will withstand a high heat. Non-stick pans are probably not suitable for this as you may ruin the coating.) Lining the pan is optional, but it makes washing up a lot easier and stops stuff from sticking.
- Place the sliced onion in the base of the pan and place the chicken on top.
- Now, arrange the lemon slices over the top of the chicken, and scatter the unpeeled garlic cloves over the top, being sure to tuck some of the garlic and the lemon slices down between the breast and the leg.
- Sprinkle generously with sea salt and cracked black pepper.
- Now, take the potatoes you cooked earlier and, using a potato masher, push down on each one gently until the skin splits and the potato inside breaks up a bit. Don't worry if they fall apart a little bit. It's supposed to look rustic! They should look squashed but not flattened.
- Now, arrange the potatoes around the chicken in the baking pan and sprinkle them with salt and pepper, then drizzle the potatoes and the chicken generously with olive oil. By all means use extra virgin olive oil if you like it, but it's not essential, ordinary olive oil will do.
- Finally, scatter the remaining herbs over the chicken and the potatoes.
- Spoon four tablespoons of water into the baking pan then place it into the pre-heated oven on the centre shelf.
- Roast for at 240C or 230C fan-forced, for about 50 minutes to 1 hour or until the chicken is cooked.
- Remove chicken from oven and place on a plate to rest for 10 minutes.
- If potatoes are not quite crisp enough, place them in another pan and return to the oven while you prepare the sauce.
- Now, pick out any obviously burned bits or herb stalks from the baking pan, as well as the onion rings and any bits of lemon that have fallen off the chicken. Discard these bits.
- Using the back of a teaspoon, squash any unpeeled garlic cloves which are still soft and extract the soft garlic pulp from inside and discard the papery bits. Transfer the garlic pulp to a heat proof jug.
- Now, pour the drippings from the pan into the same jug. Don't worry if you haven't got a lot of liquid at this stage, you'll get quite a bit when you cut the chicken.
- Add the chicken stock to the jug.
- Allow this mixture to stand for a few minutes then skim or spoon the excess oil off the top.
- Now, check the potatoes if they're still in the oven and remove if ready, or leave them there if you want them even crispier.
- Now, dust off any burned bits of lemon, garlic or herbs on top of the chicken, divide the chicken into serving portions and pour off any liquid into the jug.
- Add extra lemon-juice, salt and pepper to the jug to taste.
- Heat the sauce in the jug in the microwave until hot.
- Serve chicken, drizzled generously with the hot lemony, garlicky sauce, along with the crispy smashed potatoes and garnish with the reserved herbs.
- A Greek Salad is a perfect accompaniment to this meal.
Beautiful!! I added a yoghurt and mint dip to go with the greek salad on the side and it really added a light and fresh accompaniment.
My family love this recipe. Everyone fights for the potatoes.