Pesto Roast Chicken with Grilled Yellow Pepper Sauce

An ordinary chicken can be transformed really simply by putting pesto beneath the skin before roasting. With its smoky-sweet yellow pepper sauce, I find this an ever-popular dish for serving to family and friends at Sunday lunch. Accompany with new, sautéed or roast potatoes and a green vegetable.

Ingredients

  • 1 large chicken, weighing 2.5 kg/ lb
  • 2-2½ tablespoons pesto sauce
  • knob of butter, at room temperature
  • 1 medium yellow pepper
  • 350 ml/12 fl oz chicken stock
  • 1 dessertspoon sherry vinegar
  • 6-8 fresh basil leaves
  • 25 g/1 oz chilled butter
  • 3-5 pinches cayenne pepper
  • salt

Method

Gently loosen the chicken skin by gradually easing your fingers between it and the flesh. If you are careful you can loosen the skin over the legs as well as the breast. Spoon the pesto sauce under the skin, then press the skin down on top to spread the sauce evenly over the flesh. Leave at cool room temperature for 1 hour before cooking.

To roast, preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5. Smear the knob of butter all over the breast and legs. Put the chicken in a roasting pan with 4 tablespoons of water and cook for 2-2¼ hours, basting fairly often — the bird is cooked if the juices run clear when you insert a small knife close to the bone and the legs feel loosened from the body.

While the bird is cooking, cut the pepper in half, remove the seeds and stem and put the pepper halves under a hot grill, skin-side up, until blackened. Then wrap them in a plastic bag or tin foil and leave to cool. When cool, peel off the skin, put the pepper into a food processor with the stock and sherry vinegar and whizz until it is as smooth as possible.

Slice the basil leaves thinly across. Cut the chilled butter into small pieces and put it back in the fridge.

When the chicken is ready, turn off the heat, open the oven door a little and leave for 20 minutes to rest. Then remove the chicken from the roasting pan, emptying out any juices from inside the bird into the pan. Put the chicken on a carving board. Put the roasting pan on top of the stove over a high heat and bubble up the pan juices for 2-3 minutes to reduce them slightly. Then stir in the yellow pepper purée and bubble again for a minute or two. Finally, remove from the heat and whisk in the chilled butter, a few pieces at a time. Season to taste with the cayenne pepper and salt, stir in the sliced basil leaves and pour the sauce into a jug. Carve the chicken and serve with the sauce.

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