How to roast your chicken just right

You need this in your repertoire of roasts. It’s one easy recipe for the ultimate in comfort food care of the woman who taught so many to cook. This roast chicken is timed to perfection, and yields soft buttery flesh under a crisp and salty skin… Jackpot.

what you’ll need

  • 1 chicken (about 1.8 kg )
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 2–3 cloves garlic
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large sprig rosemary
  • walnut sized piece of butter
  • 2–3 red-skinned potatoes, quartered
  • mixed vegetables, cut into chunks
  • extra fresh rosemary
  • 1Ž/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • white wine or vermouth, verjuice, stock or water for deglazing the pan *
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A recipe shared with us following on from our interview yesterday with one of the greats.

“This is the way I roast my chicken – with the vegetables around the bird. Chunks of parsnip, pumpkin, turnip and carrot and small onions are all good to add with the potato. Throughout the spring and summer I stuff a good handful of French tarragon in the cavity of the chicken with the lemon and chop some more into the final juices.” 

– Stephanie Alexander

short cut If you only have 45 minutes before dinner, cut the chicken in half down either side of the backbone using heavy scissors. (Reserve the backbone for stock.) Season and massage chicken as above. Put the garlic and lemon halves underneath the chicken in the baking dish. The vegetables will need to be cut smaller to cook in time (or forget roast vegetables and serve a salad and grilled eggplant or green beans). There will be no need to turn the chicken, although it should be basted with juices after the first 20 minutes.

gravy If you believe that chicken must have gravy, stir 1 tablespoon plain flour into the baking dish before deglazing. Wait until the flour is a good brown colour before adding 1 cup deglazing liquid and stirring very vigorously with a wooden spoon to avoid lumps. As an alternative to plain flour, mix 2 teaspoons flour to a paste with 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard.

roast chicken stock While you are clearing up, put the chicken carcass (together with neck, giblets and backbone, if reserved) in a saucepan with a sliced onion, carrot and bay leaf and barely cover with cold water. Add parsley stalks and celery if you have them. Simmer for an hour or so, then strain and chill overnight. The following day, pour the stock into ice-cream or ice-cube trays and freeze. The next time you roast a chicken, you will have some light stock to add flavour to the juices.


An hour and a quarter before dinner, preheat oven to 220°C.


Rub chicken vigorously inside and out with lemon. Crush garlic with the back of a knife, roll in salt and pepper and insert in cavity with lemon halves, rosemary sprig and butter. Put chicken into a large baking dish.


Put vegetables into a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add a few rosemary leaves and oil and toss to coat. Scatter vegetables around chicken and massage its skin with the seasoned olive oil. Turn chicken on its side.


Place baking dish in centre of oven. After 20 minutes, turn chicken over onto its other side and carefully turn vegetables.


After a further 20 minutes, turn chicken breast-side up, baste with juices, loosen vegetables and roast for another 20 minutes. During this final cooking time, dry and dress a large green salad.


Reduce oven temperature to 160°C. Transfer chicken and vegetables to a heatproof plate and rest in oven.


Discard all fat from baking dish and deglaze over heat with wine*. Stir vigorously to dislodge all the cooked-on good bits, and lengthen with either a little more wine or add some home-made stock or tomato sauce or cream.


Joint chicken, arrange on a serving platter with vegetables and pour over juices.

This recipe is from Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion App, a digital version of Stephanie Alexander’s classic book The Cook’s Companion. Available for iOS or Android, Free with In-App purchases from the App Store or Google Play.

Image credit: Stephanie Alexander. 


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