Thursday, March 4, 2010

Roast Chicken with Garlic Lemon & Thyme

Roast chicken is one of life's great comfort foods - not only is it easy to prepare, it feels like "home" especially when you're tired or having dreary weather. At the same time chicken can become boring and expected, especially since it's affordable and thus often prepared for supper in many homes on a regular basis.

If you're looking for a way to add new zest to this meal, a white wine marinade may be just the trick. What follows is not a gourmet masterpiece by any means, but I promise it is tasty, suits any budget, and will transform boring old chicken into something more worthy. You will need:

Chicken – half a bird pre-cut into portions, or if you prefer and have a knack for carving, a whole bird (Note: if you chose a whole bird, carve it into portions and double the marinade. I find that the meat from a whole bird is tenderer than that of the ready-made portions, plus the price per KG is generally less.)

• 1 cup dry white wine (your choice)
• ½ cup minced onion
• 5 Tablespoons Canola oil
• 4 Tablespoons lemon juice
• 3 Tablespoons dried thyme
• 3 Tablespoons minced garlic (freshly prepared from the garlic head is best)
• 1 Tablespoon white pepper (freshly ground or crushed)
• 2 Bay leaves

Combine your marinade ingredients and mix well – nothing too fussy, just make sure it’s combined.

Place the chicken in a plastic bag, like a Ziploc or else one of those freebie bags from the grocery store (if you use one of these double it, as they are very thin and are at risk of bursting).

Pour the marinade over the chicken, get as much air out of the bag and seal it. You want to allow the marinade to surround the chicken.

Once the bag is sealed, gently massage the marinade into the chicken taking care not to puncture the bag.

Place the bag inside a bowl or any container you have in case of a spill, and then refrigerate for two days. One day would be sufficient, but I find the longer the better and have even pushed it to four days. This is a great plan if you shop for the week’s groceries and generally freeze your meat until it is needed. Instead of freezing the meat for 4 days and eating it plain, you can use that time to flavor infuse and create something amazing. The wine in the marinade seems to assist in keeping the meat fresher for longer, plus also the fact that there is limited air in contact with the meat.

When you’re satisfied with the marinating time, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and (if possible) allow it to come to room temperature before roasting it.

Pour the marinade mixture as well as the chicken into your roasting dish. I like to prepare a layer of par-boiled carrots on the bottom of the dish, which the chicken sits on top of while it roasts at about 190 Celsius. The juices from the chicken as well as the marinade keep the carrots juicy and assist in their cooking, plus the carrots work to raise the chicken out of the sauce, allowing it to brown nicely.

Rub par-boiled potatoes in butter and place them around the edges of the chicken, so they are also raised above the sauce and can begin to brown. Cooking with the marinade allows the flavor to concentrate, forming a beautiful base for your gravy.

If you like to double your starches at supper (like we do in our house), this would be the time to put on some nice brown rice - double the water to the rice - maybe even add a little more. Use a low heat and keep it covered - don't peak excessively (like more than once or twice) or "boil" your rice as it's meant to be steamed and will otherwise turn out hard and chewy instead of soft and lovely.

Towards the end of roasting time (you know your ovens better than me!) pour off the stock / marinade sauce into a saucepan – now your gravy base – and return the roast to the oven. Increase the temperature to 220 degrees celsius.

While your roast is nearing completion, browning and crisping nicely (especially the potatoes and now exposed carrots), prepare a cup of Bisto (or any other instant gravy mix. Remember, this is simple food...) and add it to your gravy base.

Once your gravy is finished, voila – dinner is served!

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