How to Slow Roast a Chicken

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I've eaten a fair share of chicken in my time. During my late teens, I worked for KFC and I ate a lot of deep fried chicken. Despite the rumours that occasionally circulate the internet, it is made from real chicken, suffice to say though it wasn't exactly the highest of quality, nor the most nutritious. In more recent years, I've discovered that not all chicken is created equal. As I started to delve in to a healthier lifestyle I became interested in where my food comes from, in how it's grown, the impact on the environment and the difference in taste and nutrition. I'm now an advocate of the philosophy that you are what you eat. It just makes sense to me that raising animals in a natural environment, on a nourishing diet, free from unnecessary influences is healthier for the animals, and in turn, us.

So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered pasture-raised chicken at the farmers' market. Jeff and Michelle, from Southampton Homestead, produce chickens and ducks on their small family farm in Balingup, in the South West of the State. Their operation is unique, the poultry is lovingly, hand-reared on nutrient-rich pastures, the way nature intended. When the time comes, the birds are harvested and prepared by hand, on-site, in special purpose built facilities. Their farming philosophy is based on working with nature to create a sustainable and ethical system free from chemicals and hormones. Even the management of predatory pests, such as foxes, is dealt with using natural methods, namely three adorable Maremma Guardian dogs.

Southampton Homestead sell Ross and Sommerlad chickens at a number of locations, including the Subi Farmers Market on Saturdays, but stock is limited so I highly recommend pre-ordering on their website. The chicken I used for this recipe is a Sommerlad, if you're not familiar with  this variety of chicken, it's a slower growing heritage breed. Growing and cooking take longer than a conventional chicken but the taste is amazing and the meat is, well, meatier.

Here is my simple step-by-step guide on how to slow roast a chicken. If you can't get your hands on a pasture-raised chicken, any free range chicken will do. Be warned, it does require time and patience but you will be generously rewarded with the tastiest chicken you have EVER eaten.

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Step 1: Getting Ready

Preheat the oven to 160°C and gather your supplies: 1/2 lemon; a bulb of garlic, skin on, sliced open across the bulb; 70g grass fed butter, chopped in to sticks; Himalayan pink salt or sea salt; and black pepper.

If you bought your chicken frozen, make sure that it is completely thawed. I defrost mine in the fridge for a good three days before I plan to cook it. Give the chicken a rinse and pat it dry with paper towel, inside and out. Cut off the neck with a pair of kitchen scissors and set aside in the freezer for making stock.

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Step 2: Making Pockets

Make a pocket between the skin and the meat using your fingers or the handle of a wooden spoon. You will need to do this on either side of the breast and back bones on both sides of the chicken. Tuck the wings tips in behind the wings; this helps keep the tips protected while they're roasting so they don't dry out or burn.

Step 3: Butter Up

Divide the sticks of butter evenly and slide them into the pockets you have made under the skin, on both sides of the chicken. The butter helps to baste the chicken as it roasts, keeping the meat, especially the breast, moist and adds a delicious buttery flavour. If you can't tolerate butter, you can use chunks of solid coconut oil or rub the meat inside the pockets with olive oil.

Step 3: Butter up

Step 3: Butter up

Step 4: Fill the cavity

Fill the cavity with the lemon and garlic. You can also add some fresh herbs if you have some on hand. Thyme, parsley or sage are good options. Don't pack the cavity too full, you want the air to circulate through so that it cooks evenly throughout.

Step 4: Fill the cavity

Step 4: Fill the cavity

Step 5: Season

Season by rubbing a good amount of salt and freshly cracked pepper in to the skin on both sides.

Step 5: Season

Step 5: Season

Step 6: Slow roast

Place the chicken breast-side down in a large baking tray; starting with breast-side down allows the fat and juices to drip through the breast, keeping it moist and delicious.

Add chopped vegetables, drizzle with macadamia oil and season with salt and pepper.

Slow roast at 160°C for 2 hours (based on a ~1.6kg bird), turning after the first 90 minutes.

Step 6: Roast

Step 6: Roast

Step 7: Serving

The chicken is cooked through if the juices run clear when tested with a skewer. Remove the chicken and allow it to rest before carving and serving.

You can make a simple, flavour-filled gravy by pouring off the pan juices in to a small saucepan. Allow the juices to settle, skim off the rendered chicken fat/butter, reserve and store in the fridge for use as a replacement for vegetable oils. A bit like duck fat, it's great for roasting potatoes. Heat the remaining pan juices over medium heat. Mix a tablespoon of arrowroot powder in a tablespoon of water and add to the pan juices, stirring until the sauce thickens.

Serve and enjoy!

Step 7: Eat

Step 7: Eat

Don't throw away the cooked chicken bones, save them in the freezer, along with your chicken neck and use them to make a nourishing bone broth. I'll cover this recipe another time.


Slow Roasted Chicken

Serves 4; Preparation time: 15 minutes; Cooking time: 2 hours; Total time: 2 hours 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • ~1.6kg chicken, fresh or thawed

  • 70g grass-fed butter, cut in to sticks; or coconut oil for a dairy free option

  • 1/2 lemon

  • a whole bulb of garlic, skin on, sliced across the bulb

  • Himalayan pink salt or sea salt

  • Black pepper, freshly cracked

  • Handful of fresh herbs; thyme, parsley or sage (optional)

  • Mixed vegetables for roasting, chopped (onions, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes; cauliflower; beetroots)

  • 2 tbsps macadamia oil, for coating vegetables

  • 1 tbsp arrowroot powder, for the gravy

METHOD

  • Preheat the oven to 160°C.

  • Rinse and pat dry the chicken with paper towel, inside and out.

  • Cut off the neck with a pair of kitchen scissors and set aside in the freezer for making stock.

  • Separate the skin from the meat on either side of the breast and back bones on both sides of the chicken.

  • Tuck the wings tips in behind the wings.

  • Slide the butter or coconut oil in to the pockets on both sides.

  • Place the lemon, garlic and herbs (if using) in the cavity.

  • Season skin with salt and pepper.

  • Place the chicken breast-side down in a large baking tray.

  • Add chopped vegetables, drizzle with macadamia oil and season with salt and pepper.

  • Slow roast at 160°C for 1.5 hours.

  • Turn the chicken over, breast-side up.

  • Roast for a further 30 minutes. The chicken is cooked through if the juices run clear when tested with a skewer.

  • Remove the chicken and allow it to rest while you make the gravy.

To make the gravy

  • Pour off the pan juices in to a small saucepan.

  • Allow the juices to settle, skim off the rendered chicken fat/butter, reserve and store in the fridge.

  • Heat the remaining pan juices over medium heat.

  • Mix a tablespoon of arrowroot powder in a tablespoon of water and add to the pan juices.

  • Stir until the sauce thickens.

Carve up the chicken and serve with roasted vegetables and gravy

Keep the bones from your devoured chicken in the freezer, for making bone broth another day.