My wife swore that if she heard me mention this dish one more time, she’d shove it where the sun don’t beam. Well, words to that effect. Because this was such a staple of my youth, I roll it out any time anyone asks if my mother is a good cook – which is pretty much all of the time. She is, although she was always less bothered with the cakes, puddings and pies side of things: anything that requires exact measurements. Which was fine by us. All my sister and I really wanted was Findus Crispy Pancakes and Ice Magic chocolate sauce. Sadly, we had to seek those illicit pleasures elsewhere.
This is a classic recipe, cooked in the top right-hand oven of the Aga. I’ve adapted it for normal ovens. My mother insists that chopping off that dangly bit above the cavity and putting it on top of the bird improves the flavour. As it releases about a ton of schmaltz, or chicken fat, I’d agree. Buy the best chicken you can afford. Rather eat one decent free-range than four of those flabby imported beasts with all the depth of a puddle.
Season the bird with salt and pepper, inside and out, then massage the butter all over it.
Meanwhile, for the gravy, spoon excess fat from the roasting tin, but leave a little in the tin. Put the tin over a high heat. When everything starts bubbling, deglaze with the white wine. Simmer while the alcohol cooks off, then add the stock, stirring all the time. Tip in any juices from the resting chicken. Boil to reduce a little, then strain through a sieve into a warm jug. Serve the chicken with the gravy.
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