IT’S the end of the year and people are in the mood to celebrate. And when it comes to Malaysians, this usually means food and lots of it!
But while we celebrate different holidays with traditional ethnic food, end of year celebrations are usually marked with something slightly more Western. Our tables and plates are filled with mashed potatoes, cranberry sauces, gravy, roasted veggies and a main that usually entails some kind of roasted meat, usually chicken.
But how many of us actually know how to roast meat? For some people, it’s far more intimidating than stir-fry. But roasting meat, especially roasting chicken, isn’t as complicated as you might think. In fact, it’s probably one of the easiest things to do. All it takes is a little time and preparation.
ALL ABOUT CHICKEN
The first thing you need to do is pick out your chicken. It’s important that you pick the freshest one you can find. Making roast chicken only entails a few ingredients and there isn’t much you can add to it to relieve any “gaminess” an older chicken develops over time. So a fresh chicken is key to getting a great end result.
Another thing to look out for is a chicken that’s nice and plump. It doesn’t matter whether you opt for a kampung, organic or even black chicken. Just ensure that there’s plenty of flesh. If all you see is pronounced bones, you’ll just end up with an extremely dry roast.
The next step entails cleaning your chicken. We tend to just wash our chicken thoroughly with water, and sometimes even with flour or tamarind. But this isn’t actually the best way to do it.
Firstly, by washing your chicken, you’re actually spreading bacteria and germs to your sink and kitchen. Furthermore, the more water you add to the meat and skin, the less crisp it’ll get in the oven. The best way to ensure that your chicken is clean is to just pad it down with paper towels until it’s completely dry. If your chicken is fresh, then there’s no worry about it smelling “hanyir” (gamey). The amount of time it spends in the oven will ensure that all bacteria and germs will be killed off in the safest way possible.
After cleaning though, there’s one important step — dry brining your chicken. The concept is very simple. Just use a generous amount of salt and rub it into the skin and cavity of your chicken. Leave it uncovered in the fridge for two hours to allow the salt to seep through and for the skin to dry out. This allows the chicken to absorb the salt, giving you a perfectly seasoned chicken.
However, you can’t bake your chicken immediately. Your chicken needs to be at room temperature before being roasted, so once the two hours are up, just leave it at room temperature for at least 20 minutes.
Next, you need to decide how you want to flavour your chicken. You can use a number of aromatics, herbs and spices. Alternatively, just keep it simple and maybe stick to rosemary, lemon and black pepper.
The interesting part is how you want to flavour your chicken. We usually think marinating is the only way to flavour meat, but rubbing it into and under the skin of the chicken works well too. In addition, when working with a whole chicken you have the cavity. This means you can place all your flavourful ingredients in the cavity of your chicken, letting all the flavours emanate through your roast while it cooks in the oven. All you need to do is stuff the cavity with your chosen ingredients, including things like the lemon and rosemary.
The final step is to coat your chicken with butter or oil, or a combination of the two before placing it in the oven. Some people will turn or rotate their chicken while it bakes, but opening and closing the oven is never a good idea. The best way to ensure that your chicken roasts evenly is to roast it on a cooling rack that has been placed on a tray. This ensures that heat and air can travel around the chicken, giving you a perfectly roasted chicken.
2kg whole chicken
2 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 lemon, halved
6 sprigs of rosemary
Oil and butter
1. Pad the chicken dry and rub in the salt.
2. Leave the chicken in the fridge uncovered for two hours and leave it at room temperature for 20 minutes.
3. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees C.
4. Rub chicken with some lemon juice and black pepper, and place the excess lemons and rosemary into the chicken’s cavity.
5. Rub the chicken with oil and butter.
6. Place a cooling rack onto a tray and the chicken onto the cooling rack.
7. Cook chicken in the oven for 1 - 1.5 hours. Check the chicken in 1 hour. When the wings and legs wiggle loosely, and when the juices run clear, the chicken is ready.