The best part about doing a roast is that the leftovers can be reincarnated into multiple ways through the week – shredded into salads, sandwiches, quesadillas (kudos, Nigella), the bones used to make the best chicken broth..the list is endless. I recently stumbled upon a recipe that uses leftover chicken in meltingly cheese-y nachos (why didn’t I think of that?!) One of these days, I might end up making a roast JUST for the rich pickings afterward.
Looking back at my other posts, I realize that I’m almost always rambling about garlic and orange zest. For the sake of continuity (cheeky, I know) here’s one more. You know how cinnamon is categorized as a “sweet” spice? Not in the sense that it can be used in desserts, but that it has an almost sweet-ish flavour when you cook with it in savoury dishes? Similarly, unlike the strong bite and pungency that you get from raw garlic, roasting it mellows the acrid burn without compromising on its flavour. The aroma of roasted garlic wafting through the whole house is just an added bonus.
Roast chicken is not something you’d come across often at restaurants in India even today; so you could say that it is somewhat of a fancy dish for us here. If you’re really lucky, a couple of good restaurants will flaunt them on their Christmas menu once a year. But back in the day, at a time when ovens and other fancy kitchen gadgetry were not available in the country, my grandmother apparently used to make a roast in a pressure cooker! Trussed, stuffed, the works. I remember her mentioning this to me a while ago, so I just called her to confirm the process before blogging about it – first she boiled the chicken in a pressure cooker, and then basted it in a pan to get colour on it. Genius! Things are way simpler now though, and all you require to serve up this magnificent bird is a handful of ingredients..and a lot of patience (still working on that). Now, in a country that’s very far from traditional roast chicken dinners, the legacy continues..
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse
1 free-range chicken (mine weighed about 2.5 lb)
3 sprigs rosemary (coarsely chop one sprig)
4 heads garlic
Freshly ground black pepper
For the garlic purée:
Pre-heat oven to 160°C and line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Halve the garlic heads horizontally and place with the cut side up on the tray. Pour over a good glug of olive oil on each and season with salt and pepper. Turn the garlic pods cut side down and scrunch up the foil a bit, without closing it completely. Roast until the cloves are golden brown and soft, about an hour.
Take the foil out and let sit until cool enough to handle. Hold each half with your fingers and gently squeeze out the soft cloves into a bowl. Repeat with the remaining garlic. Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil to this garlic mixture and blend together to a purée using a spatula. Set aside.
For the chicken:
Pre-heat oven to 180°C and place a rack in the center.
Rinse the chicken well inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Truss your chicken – I followed these instructions.
Mix a generous amount of olive oil (about 3 tablespoons) with coarse salt and pepper in a bowl. Rub this mixture evenly all over the bird, inside and out. Sprinkle the chopped rosemary all over the chicken and place the full sprigs inside its cavity.
Roast in the oven for 1 – 1 1/4 hours depending on the size of your bird, until almost cooked through. Remove from the oven and smear the roasted garlic purée all over the outside of the chicken; return to the oven to roast for another 15 minutes until golden and succulent.
Let rest for 10 minutes before you carve and serve.