The Nameless Chicken.
Do you ever cook sometimes and have no idea what you’re doing? I don’t mean in a scared, frantic and confused way – I mean that you have a general idea of what you want to eat but at the same time you are completely making it up as you go along? This was that recipe for me. I knew what I was craving, kind of knew where I was going to start but had no idea what I was going to do along the way.
This is the kind of cooking that a domestic cook should thrive on. That kind of ‘pinch of this’, ‘dash of that’, ‘dribble of this’ style cooking that really allows you to make a dish your own. Nobody is there giving you money and nobody is there asking for a receipt – it’s your Kitchen and your rules. Take the pressure off yourself and allow your natural instinct and your palette to determine what is going on the plate. Within reason, of course. Don’t go adding random bottles in the back of your cupboard because you can, have some refinement, but don’t constrict yourself.
This recipe had to be done twice. There was no original before or after picture. I had come home from a day of driving around and running errands with my friend and we found ourselves at 6pm with no real concrete dinner plans. He wanted to order a pizza but I had two chicken legs in the fridge as well as a Chinese takeaway tub of cheesy mash that had about six hours left before it needed to go in the bin.
That’s when I decided I would do a mini chicken and mash combo to use up both ingredients. I knew I wanted a gravy of some kind to sop up with the mash but the flavour bases I would use would come to me as I went. I was doing what I do a lot which was absent minded cook. My friend will sit on the stools at my breakfast bar and chat to me while we drink wine and I just go about my cooking without any real plan. What we ended up with was delicious.
The chicken had a salty crispness too it yet was aromatic, juicy and shreddable on the inside. The gravy was light yet deep in flavour layering and was airy that it was able to soak right into the mashed potatoes without anything feeling too heavy. Not only was this meal requested again a few weeks later, but it has since become quite the staple in our eating routine, to a point where I’ve mentioned it to friends a few times and was asked “Well, where is it on your blog?”.
Now this is where as a food writer, I struggle. I set a rod for my own back by doing those ‘before’ pictures because it does limit a lot of the creativity I have to do as I please when I cook but alas, I had to think out exactly what it was that I cooked so that I could present it to you accurately and honestly in this blog post.
But unfortunately my creativity has failed me. The fact that this chicken dish has creeped up so often in my weekly eating routines means that it has gone under the radar and has no name. The recipe literally has no name. Chicken and Gravy is too basic but essentially that’s what it is? There’s not enough mustard to justify calling it a mustard gravy either? And mustard gravy doesn’t sound appealing? Therefore in the spirit of creative laziness, I decided not to name it.
Preheat the oven to 200C. In a bowl place a small dab of butter before placing in a microwave and melting down for roughly 10 seconds. To the small pool of melted butter squeeze in the juice of a lemon before grating in a clove of garlic and adding some dry rosemary needles.
Take a chicken legs and place in a small roasting tin before peeling back the skins. Pour over ¾ of the buttery mix before pulling the skin back over the chicken. Pour the rest of the butter mixture over the top of the skins before sprinkling with some sea salt. Place this in the oven for 40-45 minutes.
This will be the perfect time to make any accompaniments you want. This is an awful thing for me to say but I don’t have any recipe specifically here because what I used to go along with this chicken was some leftover mash that I tend to keep (which is just cut and peeled potatoes boiled until tender and mashed with warm milk, butter, Parmesan, nutmeg and some salt). This is heated in the microwave, shamelessly.
Once the chicken has had its sufficient cooking time (or until the juice run clears from the meat connection between the drumstick and the thigh) place the chicken on a plate and cover with foil. Crumble a chicken stock cube in a jug and add boiling water, stirring with a fork. Place the empty roasting tin on the hob on a low heat where all the herbal, buttery chicken juices will begin to bubble and simmer. Carefully pour in a small drop of the chicken stock and using a wooden spoon, scrape any brown chicken bits that have sealed to the pan.
This will create a thick, brown syrup. Add a tiny pixie like teaspoon of mustard to this syrup. Gradually add the chicken stock and continue stirring until you reach the desired gravy consistency, but I like to keep mine fairly wet and more on the liquid side than the sauce side so that I can lavishly pour it over the chicken and mash – and sop up with bread, because I’m gross. Once your gravy consistency has been achieved, take your foil off the chicken, add your mash and then pour over the gravy from the pan.
If you’re not the biggest fan of mustard, you’re welcome to not include. I have done a version of this pan-juice gravy and added a small teaspoon of mint sauce (from a jar), or a teaspoon of Marmite or even nothing at all and just allowing the chicken juices to boost the flavour.I also recommend substituting the chicken stock for some white wine or Vermouth, if you want a really deep tangle of flavours.
It really was an accidentally perfect dinner. The kind you eat at the table, but not with any formality. I’m pretty sure I was on my laptop and he was watching TV, but it was the perfect meal for such casual dining. Not everything needs to be a grand affair and not every recipe needs to be followed to the last punctuation. It’s only Saturday night, eating with your elbow on the table and with the TV on in the background. Just relax. It will taste great, I promise.