What is it about roast chicken that is just so satisfying? Is it the anticipation – the gorgeous smell wafting through your house while it cooks to crisp-skinned perfection? Is it all the tastes and textures you get as you work your way from light moist breast through dark, meaty thighs to sticky, chewy, caramelised bits like the wings? Or maybe it’s just the ease of it: what could be simpler than popping a chicken in the oven for supper – and with what splendid results!
For me, though, it has to be the anticipation of left-overs. Being a small household with only two (slightly greedy) gobs to feed there are always pieces remaining the next day. Does life get better than cold roast chicken sarnies with crusty white bread, great swathes of mayonnaise and slivers of crisp lettuce? Not in my book, unless, of course, there’s roast beef instead…
When I was growing up Mondays would always feature something along the lines of chicken in cream sauce, which I keep meaning to make, maybe out of nostalgia. Comfort food at its finest – we would dig pits in our mashed potato and bury lumps of butter to make golden pools.
Coleslaw is a wonderful accompaniment to roast chicken and this winter version is stylish and yummy, packed with cranberries and pecans. A tarragon butter gives wonderful richness to the bird; don’t be put off by the herb’s raw smell – it mellows wonderfully when cooked.
Roast chicken with tarragon butter and winter slaw
Ingredients (Serves 4-5)
- 1 chicken approx 2kg (preferably free range or organic)
- 1 lemon
- 2 cloves of garlic
For the tarragon butter
- 50g butter
- 2 tbs chopped fresh tarragon
- zest of 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper
For the winter slaw
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 medium parsnip
- 200g white cabbage
- 1 medium red onion
- 150g celeriac
- 2 handfuls of dried cranberries
- 1 handful pecans
- a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley
For the dressing
- 150g Greek yoghurt
- 3 tbs mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Pre-heat your oven to 180°C. Take the chicken out of the fridge an hour before you need to cook it. This will ensure even cooking. Mix together the ingredients for the butter with a fork. Work your fingers up under the skin along the chicken breast, taking care not to tear it. Separate the butter into two and push each half under the skin of each breast. Smooth the butter along the length of the breasts. Cut the lemon in half and bash the garlic cloves with the flat of a knife. Put them inside the chicken. Place the chicken on a roasting tray and cook for around an hour to an hour and a half. Once cooked, let it rest out of the oven for at least 15 minutes. This will allow the flesh to relax and make it much easier to carve.
To make the slaw, peel and grate the carrot and the parsnip. The insides of parsnips can be very woody – if so, just go in as far as you can and leave the rest for a soup or stock. Finely slice the red onion and cabbage on a mandolin if you have one, or else with a sharp knife. Grate the celeriac or cut it using a mandolin. Mix the vegetables together and throw in the pecans and cranberries. Finely chop the parsley and add this. Combine the ingredients for the dressing and stir through the slaw thoroughly. Serve with the roast chicken – just remember to leave some for tomorrow!