You walk towards your new work station and slide your hand along its smooth, clean surface.
Next to it sits the grill, a molten hot pit, growling like a dragon’s mouth covered in cast iron prison bars.
You pick up the nearby wire brush and push it coarsely over the bars. Small particles of carbon drop into the flames and catch into a satisfying fountain of sparks.
You’ve waited a long time to be here.
A gruff voice interrupts your day dreaming
“Take this chicken, remove the wishbone and truss it”
“Chicken?” you say reservedly, letting your gaze wander over to the hot coals of the grill
“Hey, look at me” Grillardin looks serious “there will be plenty of time to work on the coals, don’t be in such a rush to scar yourself”
He pulls up his sleeves to reveal a gnarled and welted arm. One of the burn blisters is so big and pronounced there’s a small worm like creature living inside it. It eyes you fearfully and you wonder how it got there.
“It’s the duty of every citizen, if they are to truly be a citizen of the world, to be able to cook for themselves and, at a push, those around them. This is the mark of…”
You’ve heard this speech before, several times in fact, you begin mouthing along. Absent-mindedly you pick up the chicken like a fleshy marionette and puppet it to look like it’s giving the speech. Its wings tapping its chest and gesturing to some imagined, unseen audience. Presumably made up of smaller chickens.
It’s hilarious, or so you think.
Slam!! Grillardin’s hand connects hard with the work surface. The small creature in his blister is thrown terrified around in the swirling pocket of fluid on his arm.
“Give it here” he says sharply. You do so, sheepishly. There’s a pause, his face and voice softens.
“Listen, this creature’s life was forfeit so we could further ours”
He very gently lays the chicken breast side up and begins to arrange its limbs being deliberately careful to preserve the integrity of the meat.
“We literally owe it some of our life, we should respect that and treat it with no less reverence and nobility than we crave for ourselves. It is important to give thanks and homage, every time we dine on the flesh of another creature. It’s more than just an ingredient.
Do you understand?”
“Good, now let’s roast this f**King chicken”
As a great man once said;
“If you can’t properly roast a damn chicken then you are one helpless, hopeless, sorry-ass bivalve in an apron.”
I take a lot of cooking inspiration from the late great Anthony Bourdain and highly recommend all his books.
I have been roasting chickens for as long as I’ve been cooking and there are a millions ways to do it. For this recipe I’ve tried to bring it down to its most simplistic. Sure you can add herbs, onions, stick a lemon in the cavity if you want. Some people mount theirs on a beer can or brine the thing. You can stuff it with herb butter, cover it in myriad rubs both wet and dry but before you do any of that you should know what it takes to just roast the bird and to experience what chicken, just chicken, tastes like.
I also meant what I said in the story about respecting the creature you’re eating. The business of farming and eating animals is a highly complex affair, one I certainly won’t get to the bottom of here.
From the troubling intensive farming process to how we as individuals view our food is a mine field of conflicting ideas and, for me, one of the fundamental things we as a species are getting wrong. Here in a nut shell are my thoughts on the matter. Please don’t think of these points as definitive or immune to rebuttal or change.
- Factory farming is bad and must be changed to be more ethical.
- Much like my health care, I don’t want the processes my food goes through to run at its most efficient, I want it to run at its highest possible standard.
- Being vegan or vegetarian is a fine and noble choice. I have learned a lot from them but I don’t hold it up as a global necessity. Personally I like to be vegetarian 70% of the time. Even then, I make my own stock and will add that to things because it tastes amazing.
- Animal rights activists should turn their attention to the big guys and stop going after niche products like frois gras looking for an ‘easy win’. I would like to see their efforts rally against intensive chicken, cattle and dairy farming practices.
- We as people need to accept what we’re eating is an animal and resist the urge to buy products that disguise that fact. If all we eat is “100% pure chicken breast”, what happens to the rest of the bird? The nugget is thy enemy, the wing, your humble saviour.
- The fact I can leave my house now (or indeed anytime), walk less than 100 yards and purchase two chickens for less than a tenner is troubling at best.
- I am poor and cannot afford to buy organic, corn fed chicken from a butcher at £8.50 per kilo.
- If we all got the most out of the creatures we are eating (make stock), respected where they come from, how they were treated and didn’t eat meat every day, a lot of this would be solved.
- However much we can do as individuals, real change has to be governed centrally as it would most likely mean an end to farming for profit (huge can of worms). A dietary change ensuring we view meat as a luxury item to be had twice a week. A societal change to ensure folk have more time to cook a meal each day for themselves and others. In short, a return to the kitchen table centric, family ideals our European cousins value so highly
Right, on with the recipe.
So this will be the simplest form of roast chicken. Next time, I will put together a post on how to make the “perfect” roast dinner. This will be more of a blueprint of how to cook several things at once. It’ll have recipes for the trimmings and outline the timings so you will be able to smash out a Sunday roast in 90 mins.
Say whaaaaa? 90 mins! Sounds quick huh? You’ll also have time for a sit down and a glass of wine while it’s happening.
Stick with me kid, I’ll make you a star!
Roast Chicken. Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time 1 hour (depending on size)
1x medium chicken (approx. 1.5 kilo)
Salt & pepper
Pinch of Thyme (dried, fresh or not at all, it’s not essential)
Turn on your oven to 200° gas mark 6 and allow it to come up to temperature. Ensure your chicken is at room temperature, remove any packaging and binds.
LORE: All meat must be cooked from room temperature.
When you cook it from cold, it cools down your oven or pan, affects the timings and ultimately the quality of the result.
Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat dry.
Remove the wishbone (optional) this will make carving easier. There’s several videos online showing how this is done but essentially you make incisions with your paring knife along the outside of the bone, scrape away the meat on the inside exposing it and pull it out.
+3 XP Knife skills
+1 XP Warrior
Liberally sprinkle salt and pepper all over the bird, inside and out. If you opted for thyme, sprinkle on the breast.
Now truss the bird. You’ll need a length of kitchen string, 60cm should do. Start by tucking the wings under the body. Then making a figure eight around the legs with the string, pull it tight and draw around to the other end, tie into a double knot near the neck.
Again. There are some great videos online to help with this. The idea is that the bird has a uniformed shape so that it cooks evenly.
Now, put it in a small roasting pan and put it in the oven. No oil, no nothing, just let it cook. Have a glass of wine, something white and crisp.
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After about 45mins, check the inside temperature of the chicken with a meat probe. Once the leg meat hits 75° and the juices run clear, it’s ready.
Remove from the oven and let it rest. Let it rest for at least 10 mins, AT LEAST.
At the bottom of the thigh, the skin may be bulging where some juice has gathered. You may pierce the skin and collect this liquid in the pan. Then remove the chicken and rest it on a clean board.
So, pan full of juices huh? Whatever shall we do?
Turn on your biggest hob, place the pan over it and crank the temp up. Once the liquid starts to bubble, add a glass of white wine. Let it continue to bubble and reduce. Maybe scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula, get any bits of sticky chicken off.
Let it reduce until it thickens. Pour through a sieve into a jug. Congratulations, you’ve just made a basic gravy. If you wanted to be fancy, you could emulsify this with butter. What??
Add some cubes of butter, stir until they melt then whisk gently to give the gravy a glossy finish, season to taste.
+1 XP Pyromancy
+3 XP Alchemist
There you have it, simplest thing you’ll ever do with chicken. Maybe just eat it with some crusty bread? Is there any more wine hanging around?
Love a roast in winter? Here’s the definitive winter dishes from Paul Flannery, the Role Play Gourmet: