The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Cooking in a Clay Oven. I hope you enjoy it.
ROAST CHICKEN WITH GARLIC, LEMON AND BAY LEAVES
Who doesn’t love roast chicken when it is succulent, moist and has a brown, crispy skin? As with other meat, a chicken roasts exceptionally well in a clay oven. It’s not rocket science, and I don’t mean to teach your granny to suck eggs, but follow this simple, no-nonsense recipe and you’ll have a delicious chicken feast every time. You can substitute the bay leaves for thyme, rosemary or any woody herb which takes your fancy. The one key ingredient for success is a good chicken- it has to be free-range and organic if you can. Don’t compromise on this. If you are going to all this trouble, make it worth your while!
- To prepare and fire oven – 2hrs
- For oven to cool to cooking temperature – 30-40 mins.
- To cook – 1hr 30 mins. (depending on chicken size)
1 large free-range, organic chicken
1 lemon , cut in half
1 whole head garlic , cut in half along the middle
1 bunch fresh bay leaves
Sea salt (I prefer Maldon)
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
- If your chicken has been refrigerated, take it out at least an hour (preferably two) before you are ready to put it in the oven (this is a good tip for any meat actually). Pat the skin dry.
- Grate the zest from the lemon and sprinkle it over the outside skin of the chicken.
- Cut the lemon in half and stuff it inside the bird’s cavity.
- Cut the garlic bulb in half around the equator (unpeeled) and whack half of it in the cavity with the lemon.
- Take some stems of bay leaf (with leaves attached of course) and push them into the chicken cavity also. You can substitute any woody herb at this stage if you prefer.
- In the bottom of a roasting tray lay some more stems of bay leaf and place the chicken on top.
- Separate the rest of the garlic into cloves and scatter them, unpeeled, around the chicken in the tray.
- Pour a good slosh of olive oil over the bird and season with salt and pepper.
- Prepare your oven for roasting following the guidance in Chapter 2 (if you are reading this on the blog, fire for approximately two hrs before spreading the hot embers across the oven floor – you will be roasting in an oven without a fire using the heat radiated from the oven walls and floor for cooking).
- Keep an eye on the thermometer. Once the temperature has dropped to around 230°C, clear the ash and embers to one side and then slide the roasting tray into the centre of the oven.
- We don’t want to cook the chicken for too long at this temperature, the outside would burn and it would not cook through properly, so leave the chimney and entrance open for a little longer.
- Once the temperature has dropped to around 210°C (it won’t take long) block your oven chimney and entrance. This should reduce the rate at which the oven loses heat for the remaining duration of the roast.
- Poor yourself a beer and wait.
- Check the bird after about 1hr 30 mins (a very small chicken may need less). Cut down between the leg and the body (right into the leg joint) and make sure the meat is not pink and that any juices run clear. If it’s not ready, pop it back in the oven for a while.
- Once you are happy that the chicken is cooked to perfection, take it out of the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes or so (this is important because it allows the juices to be sucked back into the flesh of the chicken).
- Carve and serve with your favourite roast veg, greens and don’t forget the gravy.
You are allowed to be smug when you eat this. Enjoy. Cheers!