“Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.”
When Our Hearts Say Spring, but the Temperature Says Roast
The very day I’m writing this essay it is snowing… yes it is… it’s early April and although I know the snow won’t be hanging around long enough to consider shovelling, it is in fact snowing. And here I sit writing a post about the wonders of springtime!
The fact of the matter is that although we’re all very excited to start celebrating the arrival of warmer weather and farm fresh produce, it won’t actually start happening in earnest for a few more weeks. So we have to fake it with some fresh spring adjacent flavours.
This Roast Chicken with Lemon and Dill manages it rather nicely if I do say so myself.
Compound butter is one of those things that every time I make it I say aloud “Why don’t I make this all the time!” It’s so simple and such a great way to add complexity to many dishes.
I use a spoon, to gently separate the skin from the bird enough to spread the compound butter underneath. You don’t have to go crazy, just mush it around, the heat of the oven will do the rest. Then slather that sucker in mayonnaise… you want to feel fancy, call it aioli, the French have been doing it forever.
Making a gravy is of course not necessary but why not I say! All I did for this simple pan gravy was to toss in some good quality (in this case homemade) chicken broth, bring it to a gentle boil and don’t forget to scrape up all the good bits then cook it down until it begins to thicken. Remember that a pan gravy isn’t like a Thanksgiving gravy, it’s just a lovely light sauce. I tossed in some spring onions at the last minute to add a bit of freshness.
You’ll notice I’ve photographed (& cooked!) this dish a few times. It’s sufficiently yum that I didn’t get a single complaint about serving it in such quick succession! The reason for this quick turnaround? I thought after a conversation with my Mum about spatchcocking chickens, (and yes that went just about as hilariously as you might imagine) that a video showing you how really simple it is to butterfly a chicken or turkey (a WAY less entertaining way to describe the act of removing the backbone). It cuts WAAAAY down on cooking time and truly is simple… although as is often the case when one becomes a little too self-assured, or perhaps doesn’t take the proper steps in preparation one can and generally does make errors.
When I decided to re-do the dish my lovely and useful daughter was home so I asked if she minded taking part by videoing me while I removed the backbone. Well, I neglected to put down a teatowel under my cutting board which I assure you is a rather crucial step as it stops your plastic board from slithering around under the already slippery bird. The result was a bit of a hack job on my part as I was struggling for purchase. Not the prettiest spatchcocking ever recorded. I may also have permanently turned Jessica off EVER wanting to attempt such a surgical procedure herself! Decided not to publish it this week I think for obvious reasons, but I will in the future I promise! When done properly it is a quick and exceptionally simple job!
Menu suggestion: I don’t suppose that there is ever a bad time to recommend Syrian Rice with a little Cucumber Leban. And as a side note, I almost ALWAYS make Syrian Rice with brown rice… it’s infinitely more delicious in my opinion and MUCH healthier!
Wine Pairing: I think this is a conundrum we’re all faced with, you know, the “chicken again!” conversation, but I liked GK’s attitude on this matter very much indeed! “I think a nice crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or an un-oaked Chardonnay. Both work with lemon and the brightness and grassiness of the dill. Everything works with chicken!” How true!
Enjoy & Namaste!
- FOR THE COMPOUND BUTTER
- 2 TBSP
butter,softened to at least room temp
- 4-5 TBSP fresh dill, rough chopped
- Zest of 1 lemon
- FOR THE CHICKEN
- 3 medium leeks, cut into chunks *leeks are often gritty and will require careful rinsing*
- Lemon (previously zested) cut into thin slices
- 1-1.5-2 kg (3-4 lbs) chicken (I've been loving flax fed chickens lately... very flavourful)
- *I am providing instructions for a whole chicken still in possession of its backbone.*
- Preheat oven to 500°
- Combine room temp butter with dill and lemon zest, stirring until smooth.
- Spread leeks and lemon slices in the bottom of roasting pan
- Using a spoon, rounded side turned up, gently slide around under the skin of the chicken in order to gently loosen. Push the compound butter in fingers full under the skin and mush it around
- Rub the outside of the bird in mayonnaise and S&P
- Pop the bird into the oven for about 15 minutes to get the skin browning nicely
- Drop temp to 425° and continue to cook for about another hour (to an internal temp of 165°). I don't baste although I do shift the chicken around for a more even brown.
- Remove chicken to a cutting board and allow to stand for about 10 minutes before carving.
- If you're making a pan gravy, simply add a good quality chicken broth to the roasting pan, scraping up all the good yummy bits on the bottom of the pan over medium-high heat