If you've never read the webcomic Achewood, then the title of this post will be lost on you, as will the fact that the idea behind the recipe comes via a cartoon cat. Such is my love for Achewood and food, I'm attempting to make all the meals mentioned, save a few ridiculous/totally unaffordable/horrifically unethical recipes. See here for this one's namesake.
Brining is a fairly new technique to me, the only other way I have implemented it is in the making of salt beef. The idea behind this isn't very different, you're simply soaking your chosen meat in saltwater. The soaking time was much shorter, however, as you are not using the brine to preserve the chicken. What you are doing is enhancing the flavour of the chicken and giving yourself a much juicier result. Do be careful on what sort of salt you buy- all the bags of salt available in my local supermarket had an anti-caking agent (sodium aluminosilicate) added. You'll have more luck in a health food shop, where they sell sea salt with no additives in large bags, cheaper then buying tubs and tubs of Saxo.
I've had successful results of making a sauce to go with roast chicken by putting white wine and marsala in the roasting tin and sitting the bird on a rack above it. Butter and juices from the chicken drip in, making a gorgeous savoury gravy- I find it difficult to roast chicken any other way now. It's not the most revolutionary technique, but I'm proud of it. You can just roast the chicken without this step, if you don't want a sauce to go alongside, or if you want a more traditional gravy. Personally I prefer this, not just in terms of taste, but because there is no scraping away of roasting tins over a fearsomely hot stove, which I find stressful when I'm trying to tie all the elements of the meal together. This is altogether less involved.
You can do the obvious accompaniments, I'm going to confess to heresy by saying I'm not that bothered with the traditional English roast, all endless bowls of plainly boiled vegetables. Maybe that's just me. I'd rather have a couple of well made sides than many varieties of vegetables all given the same hot water torture. Roast potatoes of course, are in a league of there own. I did mashed instead this time, but this was purely because it was what I wanted to eat on that day. Potatoes baked in the oven above the chicken, flesh scooped out and mashed with hot milk and butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg, and green beans with garlic, bacon and parsley. Perfect.
For the brining:
2.5 litres water
250g caster sugar
750 g seasalt
1/2tsp black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
Zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
Zest and juice of 1 unwaxed orange
2 star anise
1 roasting chicken
Put all the above ingredients except the chicken in a large saucepan over a medium heat, stirring to dissolve the salt. Bring the whole thing to the boil, then remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Put the chicken in a non-metallic container and cover completely with the brine. Leave for 4-6 hours, then rinse it thoroughly with cold water, and pat dry. Leave to air dry for another hour before moving onto the next stage.
For the roasting:
75g unsalted butter
thyme leaves from 4 sprigs, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
zest of one unwaxed lemon
250ml white wine
1 onion, sliced
1 tbsp cornflour (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade.
Mix together the lemon zest, garlic and thyme leaves with the butter, and season with pepper. Loosen the skin from the breast of the chicken, so you can push your fingers under it. Practice some caution, you don't want to tear it. Push the seasoned butter over the breast, under the skin, smearing it as evenly as you can. Use most of the butter for this, but rub a little on the legs and wings too. Half the zested lemon, and place one half inside the chicken's cavity. If you have more thyme, you can put some sprigs in there too. Place the chicken on a rack that fits neatly in a roasting tin.
In the roasting tin, pour in the wine and Marsala, add the sliced onion. Place the chicken, on the rack, on top of this and put in your preheated oven for 30minutes plus 20 minutes per 500grams of the weight of your chicken.
When the cooking time is up, remove the chicken to what you are going to carve it on, and cover it with some tented foil. Allow it to rest while you get on with the sauce making. Strain the juices into a saucepan, and reduce over a high heat. Keep tasting until you are happy, I usually add a little extra Marsala at this stage. Don't worry if it tastes right but is too thin. If you want to make it thicker,
turn the heat down so it is simmering, slake the cornflour in a little water and stir in. Continue to stir until it has thickened. Serve alongside your chicken and your chosen embellishments.