If Darina Allen is to be believed, and her cookbooks are good so we hope she is even if our own experience does not support the claim, Irish cooks make profligate use of herbs in stuffings for chicken and meat, vegetables and sauces. This is one of her favorite ways to cook chicken, based on an old profile from the Weekend FT. After cooking a chicken this way many times, the Editor modified the original recipe; here it is.
- a chicken (spend the money on a good one: free range, Bell & Evans and the like), around 3 ½ lb.
- about 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 Tablespoons softened unsalted butter
- 6 Tablespoons mixed fresh herbs: Whatever you can get including parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, but also chervil, marjoram, oregano, chives and the like, chopped.
- about ½ cup heavy cream
- 6 oz chicken stock
- salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Season the chicken all over and inside with salt and pepper, then smear 2 Tablspoons of butter onto the breast of the bird.
- Put the chicken breast down into an oval casserole just big enough to hold the bird over medium-low heat until just golden brown.
- Meanwhile mix 3 Tablespoons of the chopped herbs with the softened butter and then shove some of the herb butter under the skin of the breast, thighs and legs of the bird and then over the outside of it.
- Put about 1 Tablespoon of the herbs into the cavity of the chicken and put the bird on its side in the oven, covered, for half an hour, then switch the bird onto its other side and return to the oven (covered) for another 30 – 40 minutes.
- Place the chicken on a board, then drain the fat from the oval casserole, place it over medium high heat, add the cream and stock and bring them to a boil.
- Reduce the liquid until thick, then add the rest of the chopped herbs and remove the sauce from the heat.
- Carve and serve the chicken with the herb sauce.
- This is more a pot roast than a conventional roast chicken. It also cooks at a lower temperature than the Editor normally uses. Covering the pot and cooking the chicken gently allows the flavor from the herbs to permeate the bird instead of cooking away.
- It is classic cooking school technique to roast a chicken on alternate sides but, especially with a covered dish like this that produces steam, it is not possible to tell the difference when the chicken is simply left breast side up rather than turned.