Kitchen Witch Wednesday: Easy Roast Chicken Dinners

I can hear the screams in the background. Roast dinners aren’t easy!

Yes, they are. Pick the right roast, and it’s actually easier than cooking a mid-week meal.

All you need is a bit of planning, and a desire to not spend the entire day in the kitchen. It’s traditional to have a Sunday roast dinner around these parts, but I generally cook mine on a Saturday. With leftovers for lunch on Sunday, and the rest in a soup or pie on Tuesday. Roast dinners can be easy and economical.

Nan’s Roast Chicken Dinner

Around this house, the most requested roast dinner would have to be a chicken roast. Chicken is a reasonably easy meat to cook, but it has a reputation these days for being tasteless and dry.

That’s because what most people cook these days is one of the factory produced, antibiotic laden, battery hens which has been injected with water and the Gods know what else before it arrived on your supermarket shelf.

So, your first step in creating a really good roast chicken dinner is to find a really good chicken. Get the best you can afford, and since you’ll be getting more than 1 meal from this bird, don’t worry if you spend a bit more than you would normally for a single meal. I like a free range, corn fed chicken myself.

Look for a chicken which is first and foremost, free range and hopefully organic. After that, it should have plump thighs and a good pad of fat over the breasts. If you can find one sold by a local farmer, all the better!

This is a whole roast dinner though and not just a chicken, so a bit of planning is in order.

When I make roast chicken, I like to serve it with roast potatoes, one or two fresh seasonal vegetables, and a bread sauce. Sometimes, we’ll have a stuffing as well.

When cooking so many things you need a time schedule. Sit down to start and work out when you want to eat. Since at my house we generally eat dinner around 7:30PM, that’s where I’m going to start.

7:30 – Serve dinner

The cooking time for chicken is 25 minutes/pound + 25 minutes, or 25 minutes/500 grams + 25 minutes. If you stuff the bird, don’t forget to include that in the total weight!

The chickens I buy tend to be around 2 kg (500 grams X 4), stuffing would add another 500 grams plus the extra 25 minutes. Giving my chicken a cooking time of 150 minutes  (2 hours 30 minutes).

Counting back from 7:30, this means the chicken needs to be in the oven by 5pm. I don’t usually worry about resting times, but if you want to rest your chicken before serving move that time back to 4:45.

Make sure to preheat the oven.

Prep the chicken, stuff it if you’re wanting, and place it in a roasting tin. Cover with foil and seal the edges.

 

4:45 – turn oven on to Gas Mark 6/400F/200C

5pm – chicken in oven

7:30 serve dinner

 

I like to stuff my chicken with a Parsley, Lemon and Thyme Stuffing.

parsley lemon thyme stuffing

Parsley, lemon, and thyme stuffing in roasted chicken

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces white bread
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • lemon zest from 1/2 large lemon
  • 4 ounces suet
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • milk, if needed

Method:

  1. Put bread in a food processor, finely process.
  2. Add lemon zest, parsley,and thyme; pulse a few more times.
  3. Add the suet; pulse briefly.
  4. Add the egg, large pinch of salt and a pinch of black pepper.
  5. Pulse until it all comes together.
  6. Add a bit of milk if necessary.

Use a food processor and you can put this stuffing together in under 10 minutes.

4:30 Make stuffing and form into a cylinder shape

4:40 Clean chicken if needed and place stuffing into abdominal cavity

4:45 preheat oven

5:00 chicken in oven

7:30 serve dinner

 

Once the chicken is tucked up in the oven, you can focus on the rest of the meal. You’ll want to remove the foil and baste the chicken with about 45 minutes cooking time remaining.

Fresh vegetables can usually cook up in under 10 minutes. So prep those and either put them in a steamer, or in a saucepan and cover with water then place on the stovetop for later. Turn the heat on under those around 7:15.

Now you can focus on the Bread sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces fresh bread crumb

    bread sauce

    Nan’s Bread Sauce

  • 1/2 pint milk
  • 1 shallot
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 peppercorns
  • pinch salt
  • a knob of butter (about 1 ounce)

Method:

  1. Prepare the bread crumbs in the food processor, place them in a small bowl and leave to dry out.
  2. Plae the milk in a small saucepan. Stud the peeled shallot with the whole cloves and place in the pan with the peppercorns and salt.
  3. Put over medium heat and bring just up to boil. Immediately remove from the heat, cover and leave in a warm place to infuse near the cooktop until 5 minutes before serving the dinner.
  4. Put the saucepan back on a low heat and add the breadcrumbs plus the ounce of butter. Stir constantly until it starts to bubble and the bread is completely absorbed.
  5. Serve over the chicken.

 

 

4:30 Make stuffing and form into a cylinder shape

4:40 Clean chicken if needed and place stuffing into abdominal cavity

4:45 preheat oven

4:50 Start making bread sauce

5:00 chicken in oven

5:01 prep vegetables

6:45 – remove foil from chicken and baste

7:15  put heat under vegetables or turn on steamer

7:20 reheat infused milk and finish making bread sauce

7:30 serve dinner

 

Once the milk has been left to infuse for the bread sauce, you can focus on the roast potatoes.

Allow 1 medium or 2 small potatoes per person. Peel (if you want), clean and cut either into quarters (if using a medium sized potato) or halves (if using small). Place in a pan and cover with cold water. Place on the stove top over a med-high heat. Bring up to the boil and let boil for about 1 minute (or less). Drain off the water and leave until they’re ready to go into the oven.

These take about 45 minutes to cook.

roaste potatoes

Nan’s Roasted Potatoes

There are two ways to cook roast potatoes. You can either preheat a tray with fat or oil and place the potatoes on that, or you can coat the potatoes in olive oil and place it directly in the oven without preheating. I prefer the former method, and tend to use either lard or goose fat. No scoffing in the back row! For the absolute best roasted potatoes, golden brown and cunchy outside and soft and creamy on the inside, you can’t beat duck or goosefat. It’s also expensive though so I tend to use lard.

Place about 2 tablespoons fat on a shallow baking tray, place in the oven on the very top rack. Move the rack up if necessary. Leave until it gets really hot. You should hear it spitting in the oven and it should be smoking a bit.

Remove from the oven, carefully place in the potatoes. Any residual water on the potatoes is going to make the fat spit so be careful and have any curious kidlets stand well back. Turn over once using a pair of tongs or a couple forks to coat all sides and place in the oven on the top rack. After about 20 minutes, check and turn over to cook the other side.

4:30 Make stuffing and form into a cylinder shape

4:40 Clean chicken if needed and place stuffing into abdominal cavity

4:45 preheat oven

4:50 Start making bread sauce

5:00 chicken in oven

5:01 prep vegetables

5:10 prep and parboil potatoes

6:35 – place tray with fat in oven

6:45 – place potatoes in oven; remove foil from chicken and baste

7:05 – turn potatoes, return to oven; check chicken and rotate the roasting pan in the oven if necessary to allow the other side to brown

7:10  put heat under vegetables or turn on steamer

7:20 reheat infused milk and finish making bread sauce

7:25 – check chicken for doneness – a skewer inserted into a leg or the breast will release a clear fluid. Remove to a carving platter

Strain cooked vegetables

Remove roasted potatoes from the oven

7:30 serve dinner

 

That’s it! The rest of the time, you don’t even have to be in the kitchen if you don’t want to be. I suggest pouring a glass of wine and reading a good book or listening to some favourite music. If you have trouble keeping track of time, set a timer to remind you when you next need to be in the kitchen.

Save up your leftovers and the bones, you’ll be able to make lots of other meals with those!

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