The simplest of all chicken recipes, this is one of the best. Basting with butter produces a richly flavoured bird, with a burnished, appetizing skin.
Remove excess fat from the body cavity of the chicken. Lightly season the bird inside and out, and put the bay leaf, lemon zest and parsley stalks inside the cavity. Carefully ease the skin away from the breast, and with your fingers spread the butter over the flesh under the skin. Place the bird on a rack in a roasting tin, lying it on one side of the breast, and pour over the wine, if using. Roast in a preheated oven at 200°C / 400°F / Mark 6 for 20 minutes. Turn the bird over on to its other breast, and return it to the oven for a further 20 minutes. Turn the bird breast-side up, and continue roasting for another 20 minutes or so, until the juices run clear when a skewer pierces the innermost part of the thigh. Strain the cooking juices into a pan, bring to the boil, add further wine or water if necessary, and simmer gently while you carve the chicken. Serve as a simple gravy with the chicken.
For an oriental flavour, you can rub the chicken, before roasting, with a mixture of crushed garlic, fresh ginger, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil and five-spice powder.
A fragrant roast chicken is made by inserting fresh herbs under the skin instead of the butter. Tarragon, chervil, coriander, thyme, savory and bay are particularly successful. Allow the chicken to stand, covered and refrigerated, for 48 hours to allow the scent of the herbs to permeate the flesh. Because of this waiting period, you must use a very fresh chicken. Roast as above, smearing the butter on the outside of the chicken before putting it in the oven.
Try the chicken with oyster stuffing to create a more festive dish. Remove the crusts from six slices of bread, and then tear the bread into small pieces. Trim and dice two celery stalks and peel and dice two shallots, and blanch them in boiling water for 2 minutes. Chop up six shelled oysters and a little fresh dill, and mix these together with the vegetables, bread and oyster juices. Mix in an egg yolk, season, and spoon the mixture into the cavity of a seasoned chicken. Pack well in, and close the end with cocktail sticks or thread. Roast as above, smearing the chicken with melted butter and lemon juice before cooking.
© 1995 Frances Bissell. All rights reserved.