Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Sometimes Simple Pleasures Take Some Work

Simple & seasonal, with Jersey Royals & asparagus
well worth the prep
I don't know about you but I love roast chicken, I mean I really love roast chicken!

The smell of it cooking, the juiciness of the wings when they are yanked off just after cooking as a naughty chef's treat and then, the main event, that glorious white meat (or in my case I prefer the brown meat) nestled amongst some greens and roast potatoes, the crackle of browned skin, the addictiveness of reduced pan gravy... I could go on but I'm making myself hungry and I've only just had lunch!

However, there is always that between the crispy skin and juicy meat isn't there? Well, not any more! If you follow this recipe you'll have no dilemma, just gloriously juicy chicken AND crispy skin. And thank you Heston, once again, for inspiring this method of cooking.

Firstly, you'll need to start the prep 24 hours in advance but it's so ridiculously simple to do that you'll not break a sweat, even in this lovely weather!

Secondly, mix it up by all means, there's no real limit to what you can put in a brine in my experience, the only thing I do recommend is that you don't use aggressively hopped beers, they are just too bitter and counteract that delicious sweetness you want from the chicken and mess up the gravy.

Thirdly, don't over-do it on the salt, the reason why this works is that it is on the lower end of brining and means you can not only use a small amount of the brining liquid in your gravy but also that you don't have to spend ages and, let's face it currently precious water, to rinse it for an age when it comes out of the brine.

Finally, the great thing about this is, and I rarely hint at the healthy thing because, frankly, I'm more interested in flavour, but this does save stuffing a load of flavoured butter under the skin like I used to. (Although, if you don't have time for this method it's still a damn tasty way to go!)

Frying pan
Non-metallic bowl big enough to hold chicken
Sharp knife
Brined and ready to go
Chopping board
Roasting pan with trivet big enough for chicken
Meat thermometer
Oven thermometer
Kitchen towel
Small saucepan
Fine sieve/muslin

Ingredients for Brine:
1 bottle of Chimay
Handful of coarse sea salt - crushed/milled
Mild green chilli - pierced several times
Just out of oven
(browner than it looks!)
Bulb of garlic cut in half horizontally
Onion roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
6 cracked peppercorns - dry pan fried quickly
Handful of fresh thyme

Other Ingredients:
1 free range (or organic) chicken
1 lemon - pierced several times
Garlic from brine
1 pint of brown chicken stock
1tbsp dried tarragon
1 tsp sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp honey
Ladle full of brine


  1. Give chicken a rinse, if it's trussed then untruss it and remove wishbone for easy carving
  2. Put all brine ingredients into bowl, stir until salt dissolves
  3. Place chicken in brine & then top up with enough water to cover, leave in fridge overnight
  4. When ready to cook, heat oven to 90 degrees C
  5. Whilst oven is heating take chicken out of brine, reserving a ladle full of liquid and the garlic and place the chicken on a plate on a bed of kitchen towel and also place some kitchen towel on top of skin to dry it, remove after a few minutes and allow chicken to come to room temp, around half an hour should do it
  6. When chicken is no longer cold to the touch pop your lemon and the garlic from the brine in the cavity, place  on the trivet in your roasting tray in the middle of the oven and leave for around 3.5-4 hours depending on the size of your bird, keep an eye on the oven temperature every so often
  7. Check internal temp after 3 hours and every 15 minutes or so from there, and when the thickest part of the breast has hit 60 degrees turn the oven off, leave the door open for five minutes and then allow to rest in the warm oven for around half an hour
  8. By this stage I generally find my skin has crisped a bit, but if you want it browner take chicken out of oven and transfer to another baking dish/tray
  9. Whack temperature up to 200 degrees C 
  10.  Whilst your oven is heating up, put your baking tray on the hob and heat, then deglaze with some chicken stock, scrap all the gooey goodness out and then transfer to your saucepan, add your ladle of beer brine and the tarragon, reduce to your taste of thickness
  11. When the chicken is browned, open oven door and leave to rest for 15
  12. Strain off gravy through sieve to lose dried tarragon, add your honey and vinegar to taste for the gravy, whisk in, heat for a few more minutes and then carve, serve, enjoy!

Drink Match:
I am actually drinking the Thatcher's 2011 Vintage I planned to have with this as I type, but something light and fruity, soft and blonde would be perfect. A great quality lager, like Brooklyn, Freedom or Pilsner Urquell or a light ale like Adnams Explorer, Camden Wheat, St Austell Clouded Yellow or Little Creatures Pale Ale would be delightful.


Publican Sam said...

Great recipe ... but have to say that your advice to rinse the bird first is against all advice I have received ... especially the cavity ... perhaps you should seek advice from a food safety expert to clarify the position ...

Jonathan@TheBeerBoutique said...

That sounds fantastic, will have to give it a go on the weekend if I have time.
Is there a preferable Chimay to use?

Melissa Cole said...

@Publicansam the advice on chicken is because the powers that be seem to think you're too stupid to wash a chicken without then waving it all over the place and spreading germs.

Personally, I like to give it a rinse to get rid of old blood and the like, personal preference.

@Jonathan Sorry, I will amend it to say Blue, my bad, you can also use something like Brakspear Triple or any of the other dark strong Trappists or something of a similar ilk.

Johnson said...

Great idea - I've never tried preparing a chicken like this - a beer-based brine sounds like a great idea. I have some Brakspear Triple, so I'll put it to good use.
90 degrees, though? My oven doesn't even go down that low!

Melissa Cole said...

Hey Johnson, it's likely that I you put it on 100 most domestic cents don't heat as well anyway so with an oven thermometer you should be able to finagle it! :)

Gary Gillman said...

Chicken and beer go well together, I like the northern French way of stewing an older bird in a sauce of beer, cream and mushroom, or beer, bacon and onion, there are many variations.

It always surprises me you don't see chicken cooked with beer on more restaurant menus, it's quite rare I think.

The brining approach is very interesting. Hams were cured in the North and Scotland using a brine of beer and sugar or honey, mutton legs too; this is probably all in the past now.