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FOOD Succulent roast chicken with a crispy skin

Try soaking a chicken overnight in salted water, and rubbing butter under its skin before cooking, for a succulent chicken with a crispy skin.
Try soaking a chicken overnight in salted water, and rubbing butter under its skin before cooking, for a succulent chicken with a crispy skin.

Try new things with an old favourite

Redmond Cabot

With winter the message is simple: Adapt or die! If you take a positive approach to the Irish winter, you’ll see it as a great opportunity to try and learn new things. Why not put that extra time you have on your hands in the evening to good use? There is no better time to try some recipes you didn’t get around to during the busy summer time.
It is always worth dipping into recipe books and reading articles for ideas. I was reading Nevin Maguire’s recipes recently and was impressed by his detail and understanding of mixing components. At one end of the scale you can have cookery books that are simple too sloppy and unimaginative, while at the other end of the spectrum you can have too many tiny details. He strikes a balance.
Maguire’s recipes show a love and understanding of food. They come with a long list of instructions, but once you have them right, the next meal you prepare will be created confidently and naturally from your hands.
Where do you fit in the scale? Do you like a recipe like a nuclear scientist’s handbook or just like the general gist and you fill in the points between?

Nevin’s thyme and butter roast chicken
It was from a Jamie Oliver recipe some years ago that I picked up the idea of rubbing butter, or butter with herbs, between the skin and the meat of a bird. It is easily done, and makes for a delicious crispy skin, while delivering flavours and succulence directly to the white meat.
Here is a simple roasting recipe that incorporates a new method of chicken preparation advised by Nevin Maguire, who was inspired himself by Heston Blumenthal. Maguire’s recipe inspired me to give it a go.
For this recipe, Nevin covers the chicken in salted water and leaves it overnight in the fridge. By brining the chicken this way, you tenderise the meat and are guaranteed a moist and juicy chicken every time. As soon as I read his recipe, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, of course … yum, yum!’.

What you need
  • 1 good-sized chicken
  • 250g sea salt in four litres water
  • 75g butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 lemon

What you do

Place chicken in a large container and leave covered with the salted water overnight in the fridge. Remove the next day and wash, patting dry.
Remove the thyme leaves by pulling your closed fingers down each stem, striping the thyme. Mix with softened butter.
Work your fingers under the chicken’s skin – it comes away fairly easily – and rub the butter mix all over bird. Hand-squeeze the juice of one half of the lemon over the prepared bird and place the other half inside the cavity.
Pre-heat your oven to a very hot temperature of 230 degrees. This means the bird will crisp up first on the outside. Lower the temperature to 200 degrees after five minutes, allowing a more normal cooking heat that pervades and cooks the meat inside. Cook for around an hour to an hour and twenty minutes, until meat is tender and cooked through, basting with its juices once or twice.
Let the chicken rest for ten minutes with a foil cover, while you use the tray to make gravy. Just add stock or veg juice to your roasting tray over a good heat, use one thinly chopped onion, add some red wine, and thicken if you need to with some cooked potato or flour. Always stir with wooden spoon, add freshly ground black pepper and salt to season.
Serve your deliciously succulent chicken with winter root veggies.

Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm, and Newport Street Market on Fridays, 11am to 4pm.