Buzz and I had one of those delicious days yesterday, where for once there were no commitments or expectations to fill the hours. With the next few weekends already filled up with weddings and trips away, our empty schedule was one to be savoured. Melbourne's weather was once again being its moody self, with heavy rain hitting against the windows and I was quite delighted to spend the day, just the two of us, in eachother's company.
Our one departure from the cocoon of home was during a sunny break in the drizzle, where we headed to Collingwood Children's Farm for their monthly farmers market. I was craving a good, wholesome roast and opportunity shone down on me in the form of a chicken farmer selling his wares. With a size 13 chicken in our bag, I picked up some beautiful dutch cream potatoes and bright, fresh leeks and the decision was done.
But this couldn't be just any roast. I wanted this to be the perfect roast, and so I did some research in the form of Heston Blumenthal - the master of perfection. Using his recipe for Perfect Roast Chicken as a guide, Buzz and I set off on our mission.
This is not a recipe for those busy Sundays - this is a lazy day dish, when nothing can tempt you from the coziness of your couch and you're content to enjoy the wafting smells of a delicious roast in anticipation of a meal that's not happening anytime soon.
Perfect Sunday Roast Chicken with Leeks and Potatoes
Two or three litres cold water (enough to cover chicken)
60g salt per litre of water used
One medium sized chicken (we used size 13, and as always, source your meat from a reputable butcher)
Four stems of fresh thyme
One stem of rosemary
One stem fresh oregano
One lemon, whole
50g unsalted butter
Two garlic cloves
Five dutch cream potatoes (or similar), washed with skins left on
Three small leeks
First, you need to brine the chicken. This is to help keep the moisture in when the chicken is cooking. Combine 60g of salt with each litre of water, using enough to completely submerge it. Cover with cling film and pop in the fridge for four hours, or overnight.
Preheat oven to 90 degrees Celsius. Cooking low and slow is the trick to a succulent and juicy roast. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Collect your herbs together and insert into the cavity along with a whole lemon which has been pierced with a knife or a fork a few times.
Cover the chicken with slices of the butter and massage it into the skin. Throw your garlic cloves into a wide pan and pop your chicken on a roasting rack on top.
When your chicken has been in the oven for about an hour, cut your potatoes into thick chunks, cover with water and bring to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and turn down to a bubbling simmer.
Check your chicken after an hour and a half. You need to pierce the thickest part of the breast with a meat thermometer. Safety standards advise bringing your chicken to 75 degrees Celsius, but we brought ours to 65 degrees (Heston actually aims for 60), making sure that the juices were running clear.
You may need to put your chicken back in the oven at this point, and check it again after half an hour, then 10 minute intervals after that until it reaches a point where you’re happy with the temperature and most importantly, the juices are running clear.
Check on your potatoes. They should be completely cooked and ever so slightly starting to fall apart. Drain and set aside until the chicken is ready. Trim the tops and tails off your leeks and cut through them vertically. Wash under a running tap to get rid of any grit hiding in the curls. Cut into thick chunks.
Take your chicken in its roasting rack off the pan and pop over a plate or tray to catch any dripping juices. The chicken will rest for 45 minutes. Turn the oven up to 180 degrees Celsius.
Throw your potatoes and leeks in the roasting tray with the garlic cloves. Shake the pan to ruffle up the potatoes a bit, then drizzle over the whole lot with olive oil and a good sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Pop the potatoes in the oven for 45 minutes, then remove. Turn the oven up to full whack, brush olive oil all over your chicken and place the roasting rack over the top of the potatoes and pop back in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the skin is crispy and a beautiful golden brown.
Put aside the chicken to rest and put the potatoes back in the oven until they’re crispy enough to your liking.