French Roast Chicken Dinner

From Margaret Fulton Favourites ($39.95, Hardie Grant)

When I was a girl, a roast chicken dinner was a rare treat, enjoyed by our family only once a month. Now we cook chicken in a variety of ways, several times a week, but sometimes I still want roast chicken the way it was — firm to the bite, and tasting so good on its own — you hardly need to do anything but roast it with a little sea salt, pepper and butter or olive oil. I also prefer to have chicken less often and pay a bit extra for a quality organic bird — one that has scratched around and pecked the ground and had some sort of life.

This kind of chicken dinner is worth travelling miles for, especially on a Sunday. The French roasting method is to add stock to the baking dish and baste the chicken during the cooking. The chicken may appear pale but miraculously the skin turns a lovely golden brown towards the end and the flesh stays beautifully moist. The potatoes taste good, too, having taken in some of the flavour of the chicken.


1 size 15–18 (1.5–1.8 kg) free-range chicken

1 60 g butter or 1/4 cup olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

a few tarragon or flat-leaf parsley stalks

3 strips orange rind

1 1 /2 cups Chicken Stock

500 g baby new potatoes or 4 large desiree potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 /2 cup white wine

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Wipe the cavity of the chicken with a paper towel. Place a little of the butter or oil, the salt, pepper, tarragon or parsley stalks and orange rind inside the chicken cavity.

Truss the chicken (see page 96) and rub all over with the remaining butter or oil. Place the chicken on its side in a baking tray with the stock, preferably on a roasting rack. Add the potatoes to the tray and roast for 20 minutes. Turn the chicken onto the other side, baste with stock and turn the potatoes.

Reduce the oven to 190°C (375°F) and continue to cook for another 50 minutes, turning and basting every 15 minutes and adding more stock (or a little water) when necessary. There should be just enough stock to keep the juices in the pan from scorching. Towards the end of cooking add the wine and turn the chicken on its back for the last 15 minutes to brown the breast. Turn the potatoes from time to time.

To test if the chicken is cooked, run a fine skewer into the thigh joint. The juice should be clear. Remove the chicken from the dish and discard string. Keep in a warm place.