Joyfully, two of our close friends recently had a lovely baby – and on these occasions, our church family like to provide the new family with a month of home-cooked meals. My favourite thing to make is a chicken pot pie, with roast chicken and lots of veg in a stock-enriched sauce and topped with flaky pastry. The night before we hand over the pie, we’ll have roast chicken for dinner – and for a few nights after we’ll have clear golden chicken soup (the sort that jellifies in the fridge in between meals), with noodles, chicken shreds and slices of pak choi and topped with croutons, spring onions, and chopped coriander and spring onions.
Recipe: Roast Chicken with Potatoes (and Chicken Soup)
This poaching-roasting idea is from the Guardian – not only does poaching provide a base for the stock, it helps guard against the chicken drying out, whilst the dried, butter basted skin crisps up beautifully.
2 free range chickens
2 Tbsp butter
150g potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1.5 cm cubes
Serves 2-3 with enough leftovers for chicken pie
Start by preheating the oven to 200C and put a full kettle of water on to boil
1. Spatchcock the chickens; untie each bird and untangle it from whatever yogic position it’s been packaged in. With the breast side down, push the heel of your hand down hard on its back; the ribs should crack. Then using kitchen scissors and strong hands cut along either side of the backbone and put the backbone in a slow cooker. Cut off the wing tips and knobs below the end of the drumsticks and add to the backbones. Finally, cut out the fat deposits at the opening and place in a roasting tin. Put the tin with the fat into the oven to heat up whilst you get on with everything else.
2. When the kettle is boiled, put one of the chickens in a cast iron casserole, add the boiling water, a tablespoon of salt and bring to the boil, before lowering the heat and simmering for 15 mins.
3. Whilst the first chicken poaches, cube the potatoes and add to the roasting tin in the oven (with the chicken fat, which will melt into lovely schmaltz to roast them in). Then start chopping the onions into smallish pieces.
4. When the first chicken is ready, retrieve it from the water and replace with the second, poach for 15 mins. Splay the first chicken on a rack over the potato cubes in the roasting tin, and finish chopping the onions. Add the clean onion trimmings to the chicken bones in the slow cooker.
5. When the second chicken is poached, drain the poaching liquid into the slow cooker over the bones and onion trimmings and add the chopped onions to the casserole dish. Anyway, you should have one chicken splayed over onions in a cast iron casserole and one over potatoes in a roasting tin, plus a slow cooker of liquid and bones. To the slow cooker, add a pinch of salt, a grind of pepper, bay leaf and simmer on a low heat.
6. Rub a tablespoon of butter over each chicken (it should soften or melt on the hot skin), and grind over some salt and pepper.
7. Place both chickens in the preheated oven and after 5 minutes turn the heat down to 180C. Roast for about 1h depending on size, shaking the potatoes and basting if necessary. If one chicken is crisping more than the other, they might need to be switched round.
8. Check that thigh juices run clear and place the potatoes on a warm dish, then put both chickens on the roasting tin, tent with foil and rest for 10 mins or so. Meanwhile, put the onions in the cast iron casserole over the heat. Add half a glass of white wine if you happen to have a bottle open, or else a splash of cooking sherry, and let the soft onion bubble away in the meat juices, thickening with a tablespoon of flour (mixed into a paste with water) to make the gravy.
9. Carve the chicken by removing the wings and legs, then separating the thighs and drumsticks. Cut along the bones to remove the breasts and slice them against the grain.
Serve chicken, potatoes and gravy with a green salad or other vegetables.