This recipe was one of those happy mistakes. Except I don’t, now, remember what I was trying to do that I erred at.
The reason it’s called poor man’s roast chicken originally came about because this isn’t a whole chicken dish, but one made of pieces and I thought that looked like a poor man’s version of a roast chicken dinner. But given that, these days you can often buy fairly cheap whole chickens, even in posh stores like Waitrose, and chicken pieces aren’t as cheap anymore, I’m not sure that still holds true.
However, it also conveniently covers up a slight, controlled fear I have of cooking whole roast chickens. Even though they were one of the first things I learned how to cook, as a child. When my mum was at work, I’d quite often start the dinner off and it was usually either roast chicken or bolognese. I’m also a bit scared of roast chicken because I never really know when it’s done (my mum was always home for that bit). If you overcook it it’s awful and like eating the contents of your shredder, undercook it and everyone dies. Plus I really HATE carving up a cooked chicken or jointing up a raw one.
So I always buy chicken pieces if I can, even though my partner always, always says “but you can buy a whole chicken, it’s better value and I’ll joint it for you”. This is a nice gesture, isn’t it? Utterly lovely. But it makes me feel wretched because I feel at once dependent and useless. Which is a hideously bad combination for me, like smocks and dirndl skirts. So when he is away, I rebel and BUY CHICKEN PIECES.
Thighs are best for this recipe because they are the tastiest meat I think. They are also not mentally expensive. But whatever you use, you do need chicken pieces with bones in. Leave those breasts for something else.
This is what you do. There are no exact measurements, sorry. Today I used six thighs and this is what I did.
Get a roasting tray with sides. The idea is to have just enough room for the meat, so not too big, otherwise you need to use a bucket load of stock. Now, put the meat in and then some lengths of carrot and celery. Over the top, pour about half a litre of stock made using a stock cube. Stock cubes scare me (there does seem a high level of fear in this post doesn’t there?), so I always, always buy organic ones, even though we’ll probably discover, in time, that they contain MDF dust. You want enough stock so that it comes about half way up the chicken pieces, no more. The idea, you see, is to keep the chicken moist. As it cooks, the stock renders down, and the whole thing goes really wonderfully concentrated.
Put it in the oven, uncovered at 200C on FAN. You want the stock to evaporate. The other beauty of this dish is that you really don’t have to be madly accurate about timings and I never am. I probably cook it for about 60 minutes, maybe even longer (don’t tell Heston). You will need to turn the chicken pieces regularly, so set a timer, and each time you do, baste the chicken. Ideally, you cook this until the stock has rendered down to a slick at the bottom of the tray – see pic above – but you may need to use your common sense here. If the chicken is starting to desiccate, you know, stop before this. But this is why you don’t want to put too much stock in.
Now, if you’re serving this up as roast chicken, serve up a piece per person or whatever. If you’re going to use the chicken for sandwiches or wraps, then take the meat off the bone, and throw the discarded bones, skin etc in a pan with whatever’s left in the roasting tin: carrot, celery, the almost not there anymore stock juice. Add about 500ml of water and simmer for about two hours. To give it even more oomph, I put in half a stock cube.
Even if you serve it up as roast chicken, when people have finished eating put all the detritus in a pan to make stock as above. And the stock you get from this is glorious stuff. However, if you serve this up as a roast chicken dish, back up a bit. When you take the chicken out of the roasting tin and you leave behind the cooking juices/carrot/celery, put the roasting tin on the hob, add a bit of water to loosen if up only if you need it, but then swirl everything around, mashing the carrot and celery up as you go. When it’s all bubbly, take off the heat and put through a sieve and serve this as gravy. It’s delicious (put through a fat separator jug if you want, so you take off the fat).
Chicken done like this is so easy and really, really tasty. It probably has posh, kennel name. I don’t know what it is.