Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Roast chicken

For Mother's Day, I did a roast chicken. As a vegetarian, I can only say that this is one way of demonstrating true love for my mother.

Oh god - why did I not realise how much like an autopsy this would be?

We're so used to meat coming pre-packaged, cut up, filleted, wrapped in clingfilm. I cope all right with mince, the odd steak - even the leg of lamb last month, since it was boned anyway (I know, you lose flavour removing the bone, but it does make carving a doddle).

It's much easier to forget you're dealing with chopped up bits of animal this way.

I'd have more respect for meat eaters if they didn't get hypocritcally squeamish about this fact. Gold stars to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Fergus Henderson for their guts and all approach to meat eating. I have more time for them. If you're not prepared to raise the animal kindly, have it killed humanely, and realise you are eating an animal, I'm not sure you should be allowed to eat meat.

Ahem. I shall step down from my soapbox.

If anyone's interested, I mostly followed Campion and Curtis' method from a 2006 Epicure article with a bit of Nigella Lawson's Feast thrown in. I would say it's pretty foolproof.

I removed the (yes, free-range - come on, it's not that much more to pay and it's so much more humane) chicken from its plastic an hour before I cooked it (meanwhile I made a lime poppyseed loaf cake), to let it dry out and breathe. Just as well, because it was full of...juices.

I left the poor bird propped up in a roasting dish, reclining as if she was on a sun lounger. There was something vaguely obscene about it.

Anyway. After patting her down with kitchen towel, I seasoned her inside and out, popping some lemon wedges inside and rubbing olive oil into her skin. It felt oddly human. Like I was a masseur.

In she went, upside down at first, before being righted and surrounded by garlic and sweet potatoes (ensuring crispy skin). She emerged looking like this:

I must say, the crispy skin and the smell nearly got me going.

Carving her up was a bit icky, though. Much ickier than slicing a fillet of lamb or beef. Bones, people. I had to cut through joints.

The carcass, leftover juices, lemons etc went into the pressure cooker with some cold water, peppercorns, celery, carrots, onion and bay leaves and simmered away for three hours. The resulting stock smelt absolutely magnificent. A third was frozen, a third made avgolemeno (via Claudia Roden's Jewish Book of Food) on Monday (timed well, as my mother was getting ill and this seemed to stem the viral advance), and the rest will make risotto tonight.

I am shocked, though, at recipes which say a chicken that size would feed four. Four! Four what? Giants? I pulled a lot of meat off that bird - it will feed my mother for a week. How much meat do people need?

Ah well. Roast chicken. One more thing I can cook.

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