As much as chicken is not my favourite meat, I have to admit that it is probably the most versatile, well-liked and convenient of all the non-vegetarian brigade. And you no longer have to wade through mucky markets to get one either. Thanks to Godrej Chilled Chicken and Venky’s frozen chicken, you can buy hygienically-handled, boneless, legs, lollipops or whole chicken in almost any food store. My preference would be Godrej’s chilled birds because they don’t even need to be washed and cleaned. After a few initial hiccups with delivery and distribution, they now seem to have got their act together and everywhere I go, I find fresh stock. It’s only in the summer months that you may have to opt for frozen or the market variety. When I lived in Mumbai, we used to have a man who delivered baby desi chickens every week. These were skinless and perfect for steaming and they tasted, well, like real chicken. I tried going the market route to find something similar but ended up with tough old birds and a long, feather-plucking wait.
Since broilers are now a way of life, we have to find ways of injecting some amount of extra flavour into them to compensate. I read in a cookery magazine that “brining” was a solution. I always thought that this is done in markets to increase the weight, which I am sure it is. Apparently, “brining” increases the juiciness and flavour of a chicken due to osmosis—the flow of water across a barrier from a place with a higher water concentration (the brine) to a place with a lower one (the chicken). I put this to the test. We roasted two chickens, one taken straight from the pack, smothered with garlic, salt and herbs, and the other one soaked in brine for an hour, patted dry and then roasted. And it worked. Surprisingly, the brined bird hardly lost any moisture and came out juicy and tender (the effect of salt as well as osmosis) whilst the other one wept water and came out a bit tasteless and tough.
Herby Garlic Roast Chicken
½ cup salt
10 cloves garlic with skin
1 whole chicken, about 1.2-1.5kg
For the paste:
1 tsp fresh thyme or ½ tsp dried
1 tsp fresh rosemary, crushed or ½ tsp dried
2 large garlic cloves, minced or chopped
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
10 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 cups chicken stock
½ cup dry white wine
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine salt, garlic, rosemary and thyme in a zip-lock bag and crush with a rolling pin. Remove and place in a bowl with two cups of hot water to release the flavours. Add two litres cold water and salt. Stir until salt is dissolved. Submerge the chicken in this and refrigerate for an hour. Remove chicken, pat dry with a kitchen towel and place in a roasting pan. Stir the ingredients together for the paste and rub all over the chicken, in the cavity and under the skin. Roast in an oven preheated to 250°C. When the skin is crispy, turn the chicken over and reduce the heat to 200°C. Scatter the garlic cloves in the pan. Pour in the chicken stock and white wine. The chicken will take approx. 50 to 60 minutes to roast. Remove. Place the chicken on a plate and drain off the pan juices. Place the garlic cloves around the chicken. Strain the juice and place it in a saucepan. Boil and simmer for seven to eight minutes, season with salt, pepper and the sprig of rosemary. Serve alongside the chicken.
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