ROAST CHICKEN. Done properly, it has to be one of my all-time favourite things to eat. The trick of course is the ‘done properly’ part of this statement. It’s incredibly easy to stuff up roast chicken. Having said that, it’s also incredibly easy to get it right – as long as you follow just two basic rules: 1) use the best, but absolutely best free range chicken you can get your hands on and 2) don’t overcomplicate it.
I never buy anything other than free range chicken and eggs because I have major issues with how anything I eat gets treated before it makes it to my plate. I am inflexible in this regard. Now you may very well not share these sentiments and I would not dream of judging, but I would still urge you to only ever go free range. Why? Simple. You can taste it. Happy chickens are just more ‘chickeny’. There are also different levels of free range happiness. The free range chickens you get in SA supermarkets are not a patch on the farm free range chickens I grew up with, so it’s well worth your effort to chat up a few farmers at your local farmer’s market. So, preachy bit over, let’s talk about what you do with a chicken to get the perfect roast. Mostly I do as little as possible – excellent ingredients need space to speak for themselves. A drizzle of olive oil or butter massage, Maldon salt, pepper and into a hot oven it goes on a bed of onions (better yet, leeks) and carrots. The veggies are there to help jumpstart the process of creating an umami-rich simple gravy. If one is fancy, one does not eat the veggies afterwards. Naturally I do.
I rarely stuff my roast chicken because I am almost always disappointed. A notable exception is when I go all French granny for Sunday lunch and make a very classical chicken-liver based stuffing with bacon and sage. The French call it poulet grand-mere. I call it roast chicken heaven.
All I want with this is crusty baguette with loads of salted butter to slather on, a crisp green salad with tangy Dijon-mustard vinaigrette and a glass or two of good Sauvignon Blanc – a wine like the Seasalter Sauvignon from Groote Post that recently came knocking on my door.
It’s beautifully fruit-forward as SA Sauvignon’s tend to be, but overlaying this New World showiness you’ll find a subtle minerality care of its Darling Hills terroir where slope, soil, hot sun and the cooling effects of the nearby Atlantic Ocean combine to deliver something complex and nuanced yet lush. Fifty percent of this wine was aged in French oak, with the remainder staying on the lees in stainless steel. It’s a wine they’ve taken care with, and the perfect dining companion when you’ve taken a bit more care than usual with your roast chicken.