Jenny Chandler expounds on the benefits of batch cooking as a way of saving time and money, through cooking one ingredient in bulk and using it for myriad recipes. This time: roast chicken
Why would anyone ever choose to roast a small chicken? If price is the consideration then think again, since a larger bird will require a bit more cooking, but the oven is already on and that extra meat could provide two or three meals during the rest of the week. Larger, older birds tend to have so much more flavour, too—industrially farmed fowl are often bumped off after just 33 days, whereas slower-growing free range birds are more likely to be 60 days plus. You’ll find superb 80 day and 100-day old birds at Wyndham House Poultry and Ginger Pig—why not give them a go? The higher price tag can easily be justified once you savour that taste and plan lots of glorious meals.
When it comes to roasting my bird, I’m a true disciple of Simon Hopkinson. After all, his most celebrated book does go by the title of Roast Chicken and Other Stories. I slather my chicken with 110g butter, season well and squeeze over the juice of a lemon before stuffing it into the cavity with a crushed clove of garlic and a good sprig of thyme (I tend to forgo the suggested tarragon since, although delicious, it gives a rather distinctive flavour to the chicken which might not work as well in leftover dishes later in the week).
For a bird around the 2kg mark, kick off at 230C for 15 mins, baste and then turn down to 190C for a further 50 mins-plus—basting occasionally—until perfectly browned, the legs are wobbly and juices run clear. If you do buy a particularly slow-grown bird with leaner meat then you may prefer to roast it low and slow. Do ask the butcher for advice, that’s just one of the bonuses of shopping in the Market.
Rich, buttery juices
Be sure to serve a mountain of seasonal vegetables with your chicken, the more the better, so that you can be quite frugal with your servings—we share just one breast between the three of us. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it's a big bird and the buttery juices are so rich that it's plenty.
Remove the remaining meat from the bird, picking the carcass carefully and not forgetting those succulent little cushions of flesh, the oysters, tucked next to the backbone. Set the meat aside in the fridge and get your stock on. I keep an ever-amassing bag of parsley stalks, carrot trimmings, onion skins and ratty looking bits of celery in the freezer for stock, so I can just throw the veg in with the bones, a few peppercorns, a bay leaf, and cover with cold water. Nowadays I’m a fan of the slow cooker as it can be left simmering gently overnight, otherwise a minimum of 4 hours on the hob will do just fine. Freeze the strained stock or refrigerate and use within 4 days.
Here’s what to do with your leftover chicken:
—Cold: chicken sandwiches perhaps with a tarragon mayonnaise, left over stuffing (that I cook apart from the bird) or the classic coronation chicken.
—Salads: a little shredded chicken can go a long way. Take it out of the fridge at least 30 mins before serving to really appreciate the flavour. Serve on top of a traditional caesar salad or with a crunchy winter slaw. An autumnal salad with puy lentils, nuts, blue cheese and grilled pears is a winner.
—Hot: It’s worth remembering that the chicken is fully cooked, so make it a last-minute addition to soups, pastas, pilaffs and risottos, otherwise you’re in for cardboard.
—Soups: the stock will up your game with any vegetable soup and a few strips of chicken could be added as a garnish. Asian spiced broths with noodles and barely cooked veg are a favourite in our house—throw in the chicken just before serving. When the winter really sets in, try a pot of seasonal veg with pearl barley.
—Risotto or ‘speltotto’ with your stock, lemon zest and thyme and maybe a garnish of chicken with the parmesan.
—Pilafs, with their Middle Eastern spicing and buttery juices, are a perfect way to stretch that chicken—you could try this recipe.
—Pies are the only time my leftover chicken is re-cooked, protected from the oven heat by a blanket of pastry, mashed potato or, in the case of tamale pie, cornmeal. Do give it a go. The classic chicken and leek or chicken and mushroom pie is hard to beat too—be sure to make a really juicy filling mixture so that the chicken does not dry out.