Roast Chicken with Orange and Lemon
Citrus fruits were favourite flavourings for all sorts of meat dishes by the late 16th century, when they were used in combination with sweet spices and dried fruit. This recipe, from Laura Mason’s Roasts (National Trust Books) uses orange and lemon only, producing a very intense, slightly sharp-flavoured gravy.
1 chicken, weighing 2kg (4½lb)
salt and pepper
juice and pared zest of 1 lemon (preferably unwaxed)
juice and pared zest of 1 orange (preferably unwaxed)
a few sprigs of fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme or marjoram (optional)
splash of stock, to deglaze
Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas mark 6. Put the lemon (which could be one you’ve squeezed all the juice out of) into the body cavity of the bird, along with the herbs.
Bard the breast with a little butter.
Also spread a little butter over the roasting tin (just enough to stop the bird sticking as it starts to cook), and put the bird in. Calculate the roasting time.
It’s often better to start roasting a chicken on its side, especially if it is a large bird and your oven is an unreliable gas one like mine. Cover with a lid if the tin has one, or with a piece of oiled or buttered foil. Roast for about 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180°C, 350°F, Gas mark 4. After another 10 minutes, turn the bird onto the other side; cover and roast for another 15–20 minutes, then turn it onto its back.
When you turn the chicken onto its back, pour the fruit juices over. Cover again and return to the oven. About 30 minutes before the end of cooking time, uncover, baste, then salt the skin and add the zest, cut in thin strips, to the juices and return to the oven. Baste again a couple more times. Take special care to watch that the juices in the tin don’t burn; add extra stock or water if necessary.
At the end of cooking time, the bird should have a deep gold-brown and very crisp skin. (Turn the oven up to 220°C, 425°F, Gas mark 7 for a few minutes to get it really brown and crisp at the end, if necessary, but do watch for burning.)
There should be a relatively small amount of juice with a very concentrated flavour in the roasting tin. Pour off the juices and deglaze the tin with a little stock. Skim the fat off the juices and add the deglazed cooking residue, but don’t attempt to make a thickened gravy – just give everyone a spoonful or two of the cooking juices with the meat.
Standard instructions for roasting a chicken are to start it off at 200°C, 400°F, Gas mark 6 for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180°C, 350°F, Gas mark 4 and cook for 20–25 minutes per 500g until the juices run clear. Examine the meat between the leg and the body; if any hint of pink shows here, or in the juices that flow from the thickest part of the thigh when pierced with a skewer, the bird needs further cooking. If you have a probe thermometer, measure the temperature of the thickest part of the thigh (but not touching the bone): it should be at least 70°C (160°F). Allow for resting after cooking time.
Discover more tasty roast recipes in Roasts by Laura Mason, out now.
Photograph by Tara Fisher.