A roast chicken has become a common occurrence in my house. I can start it before Nell’s night time routine and it’s done by the time she’s settled. It also gives me lunch the next day, and the start of stock which carries me forward to other meal ideas. I’ve been trying a few roast chicken recipes to see which one give me the most tender meat with the crispiest, tastiest skin, and I’ve settled on Ina Garten’s aptly named Perfect Roast Chicken. I usually use olive oil to give the chook a good layer of fat pre-cooking, but Ina uses melted butter. The result is crispier, more golden brown skin that wraps around perfectly tender, juicy breast. Delectable.
Since the roast chook has been on high rotation, I’ve been considering its flexibility. It’s a trans-seasonal staple that can be served hot or cold and is happy to be paired with any old thing from crisp, bright salads to luscious, sweet roasted vegetables. I’ve decided to challenge myself to share a roast chicken recipe for each season over the next year. I want it to celebrate the produce of the season and reflect the current mood of the sun as it streams in my kitchen window. It will take me a year to rotate around, following the sun and the seasonal produce to produce four roast chook recipes.
So here I am, in the depths of winter. The clouds have parted approximately three times in the last week, seemingly preferring to stay close to the earth, wrapping us in a dark, wet dreariness. The winter chill is keeping me indoors by the fire, and I only want to eat warm things. A warm, hearty, roasted salad is what will complement my winter chook.
Fennel is a bright light on the farmers market tables, nestled between tough greens and potatoes, and it’s delicious roasted. This aniseedy vegetable forms the basis of the warm salad in this recipe, teaming up with slightly crunchy lentils and sweet roast onion. The roast chicken, some thyme, garlic and the oven do all the work to flavour the vegetables. The juices from the roasting pan and roasted lemon wedges form the salad dressing, helped along with a splash of red wine vinegar as lentils love a bit of acidity.
The result is a wintery celebration of texture and flavour that is crowned by the golden chicken. Adding some fresh lemon wedges and sprigs of parsley to serve remind everyone that spring will eventually come, but for now, let’s enjoy winter.
Winter Roast Chicken with Roast Fennel and Lentil Warm Salad
- 1 red onion
- 1 large fennel bulb (or 2 small ones)
- 1 lemon (plus another for garnish if you like)
- 10 sprigs thyme
- 1 happily-raised chicken, 1.8-2kg
- 1 whole garlic bulb
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 cup puy lentils
- 3 cups water
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 210c/425F.
Prepare your veggies…
Cut your onion and fennel into thick wedges (removing the core of the fennel first). Cut your lemon in half, reserve half for the chicken, and slice the other half into wedges. Place vegetables and lemon into a roasting tin, add 4 sprigs of thyme, salt and pepper and a glug of olive oil and toss to coat. Spread across the bottom of the tin.
Prepare your chicken…
Slice the garlic bulb in half crossways and pick one clove of garlic out to reserve for the lentils (peel that clove). Pat chicken dry with paper towel. Salt and pepper the cavity of the chicken then place half a lemon, the garlic bulb (top and bottom) and 6 sprigs of thyme inside the cavity. Brush the outside of the chicken with the melted butter and season the skin liberally. Tie the chickens legs together with kitchen string. Place chicken, breast side up, on top of vegetables.
Cook for an hour and 15 minutes, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and a thigh. If you notice the vegetables getting too crispy, stir them around a bit during the cooking time.
Remove chicken from the oven when done and rest it and the vegetables, covered, for 20 minutes.
While the chicken is resting…
Place lentils in a saucepan with 3 cups of water and the reserved garlic clove. Bring to a rapid simmer then reduce heat to a normal simmer. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until the lentils are no longer crunchy. Add more water if you need to.
Place lentils in a large bowl and mix with the roasted vegetables and the pan juices. Remove the lemon wedges, but make sure to squeeze out the juice and pulp into the salad because it’s delicious. Add parsley and red wine vinegar and toss.
Serve chicken with the warm salad adding fresh lemon wedges and parsley sprigs for garnish.
The treatment of the chicken is from Ina Garten’s Perfect Roast Chicken