While there is something of a celebratory nature to eating a chicken, I’m always comforted by how easy one is to cook.
I believe when people think of roasting a whole chicken, the thought of having to cook a full Sunday roast goes with it which brings on a slight sense of panic and distortion. It suddenly seems like an effort and that 70% of your day will now be revolving around an oven.
Relax, it’s just a chicken.
Sometimes I’ll throw a whole chicken in the oven in the morning while I do a few house chores and when I’m done, so is the bird and I’ve got dinner sorted for 2/3 days and all I have to worry about is some accompaniments.
A chicken is reassuring. It’s uplifting. It’s familiar grounds, which has the capacity to give you a warming sense of comfort in the eating process but also in the knowledge that dinner is covered for a few days relieving you of any looming stress.
From curries or cold sandwiches made of shredded breast meat to wings eaten cold from the fridge, by hand and drenched in hot sauce – the aftermath of a cooked chicken provides endless source of sustenance for when your nerves can’t face the kitchen.
This particular recipe couldn’t be easier. The quickest rosemary and garlic spiked butter you’ll ever make gives the chicken an amazingly crunchy skin but also seeps down into the flesh keeping it moist and flavouring the meat while it cooks.
And the grapes are a revelation. The grapes burst and turn into a wobbly, velvety sauce under in the of the oven, like a robust and daringly deep sweet but moreishly bitter take on cranberry sauce.
Get a medium sized chicken (mine are usually roughly 1.5kg) to room temperate (leave it in its packet on a countertop for a bit) and preheat your oven to 220c (yes… it’s hot).
In a small bowl, combine roughly 50g of unsalted butter with half a tablespoon of regular olive oil and take the fronds off of 3 strands of fresh rosemary. I do this by running my fingers along the strand, going against the growth direction of the fronds. Finely chop the fronds and put into the butter bowl.
Grate a garlic clove with a microplane grater into the bowl and then mix everything together.
Once the chicken is room temperate, remove it from the pack and using your hands, smear the rosemary butter all over the skin, making sure to get into the crevices. Butter the bird inside and out.
Using your fingers, super gently lift the skin from the breast and push some of the garlic butter under the skin. Massage the chicken all over firmly but gently, get that butter all over the damn thing.
Halve a lemon and shove it in the cavity of the bird along with two halved garlic cloves and any whole strands of rosemary you’ve got left.
In a very small pan, throw in a big handful of black seedless grapes before drizzling with olive oil and scattering with some salt. Don’t worry about overcrowding the grapes. Overcrowding causes lots of juice to drain out, but this is a good thing as it will help the grapes braise a little.
Sprinkle a hefty amount of salt and a nice twist of pepper over the chicken. Slide the chicken and the grapes into the oven and after about 15-20 minutes, turn the oven down to 200c and leave to cook for a further hour.
During this time your chicken will bronze up to become all crunchy and sexy but still dense, buttery and soft on the inside. Take the chicken and grapes out after the hour and 20 minutes and cover the chicken with a little foil and leave to stand for 15 minutes.
Run a fork carefully through the grapes just to loosen them and help the thick purple juices amalgamate.
Once the chicken has rested, carefully lift and tilt it slightly so any excess water can run from its cavity (gross right?) before plonking on a serving plate and pouring over the grapes and any sticky purple gravy left behind in the tin.
You could of course literally do away with any of the nonsense and just serve it up with some boiled potatoes and a salad, this chicken has enough dribble inducing flavour and melting softness to it you won’t need much else with it.
Although having said that, I did serve it with a Cider & Stilton Gravy which I am willing to share the recipe with you soon… keep your eyes peeled on the blog…