Roast chicken (and burnt cabbage butter)
Try the grey stuff, it's delicious...
Welcome back and thank you for joining me here!
This week I want to share the technique I use to make the juiciest, most perfectly seasoned roast chicken. And I’ll also be telling you about a butter flavoured with burnt cabbage that adds a completely delicious and deeply roasted flavour to whatever you cover it with.
I suggest you put it with the chicken but frankly even an old boot would taste good smothered in it…
Anyway, let’s go…
“Dry brined” Roast chicken
I couldn’t touch raw meat until I was about 15 years old.
Up until that point, because I was1 an absolute tart who was pampered by family, it was one of my three sisters that skinned the chicken breasts for our Thai green curry.
Have you ever seen a film called Withnail and I? Uncle Monty is something of a kindred spirit of mine.
I mention this, not because all recipes are obliged to begin with some passing reference to lost youth, but because it is that “wetness” of a chicken wrapped in plastic for a week that also gets in the way of good cooking.
Chicken skin shouldn’t be wet
A roast chicken is rare treat for me these days. That’s why I enjoy taking the small but meaningful steps required to make that chicken as special as I can. I want flavoursome, tender and juicy meat draped in skin as golden as late autumn sun.
And the first step to getting this is to do something about that water-logged skin.
When I first worked in a restaurant kitchen, I spent a lot of time scraping the fat from the back of chicken skin with a blunt knife. That chicken skin was destined to be roasted and turned super-crispy as part of a chicken liver canape. The fat needed to be removed because it slowed down the process of getting the skin really crispy.
It’s the same for when we’re roasting our chicken. And starting that process when the skin is fresh and wet from the packet makes this process even longer.
The trick is to get your chicken out of any packaging a day ahead of when you’re cooking it and to leave it in the fridge uncovered to dry out.
This also happens to be how long we need to take care of the aforementioned “dry brining”.
Dry brining is the process of rubbing what seems a very generous amount of salt all over your chicken and leaving it for some time (I leave a 1.5kg bird 24 hours) uncovered in the fridge before cooking. For a 1.5kg chicken I use about 15g of salt. I work it all over the legs, under the body, and most importantly under the skin of the breast as well.
There’s no need to rinse it off later. Over those 24 hours the salt penetrates deeply into the flesh. Brining this way helps the meat retain moisture during cooking as well. It’s a fantastic technique and something we did in various forms with our proteins from salmon to pork belly to turkey breasts across all the restaurant kitchens I worked in as a line cook.
After 24 hours of dry brining, the skin of your chicken will, as promised, be dried out and taught across the still juicy flesh like the skin of a drum. This is the state a chicken really should be in to get the crispy golden skin that your roast deserves.
For that 1.5kg chicken I cook it at 230°C for 20 minutes before turning down the oven to 180 for a further 45 minutes. I then follow Simon Hopkinson’s advice and turn the heat off and let the bird sit in the cooling oven with the door ajar for 15 minutes to rest.
Meanwhile, let’s talk about that butter…
Can I ask a favour? Though the newsletter is free to read, you can support me by becoming one of my first paid subscribers. Click below…
Burnt cabbage butter
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Recovering Line Cook to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.