French roast chicken dinner

French roast chicken dinner

Margaret Fulton Favourites
Tanya Zouev and Armelle Habib

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.


Quantity Ingredient
1 size 15–18 free-range chicken
60g 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 [rid:7474]
500g baby new potatoes
or 4 large desiree potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/4 cup white wine


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. 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.
  2. Truss the chicken 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.
  3. Reduce the oven to 190°C 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Remove the potatoes and keep warm while making gravy, or you can simply deglaze the pan. If the latter, place the baking dish over a medium heat, add 1 cup of stock or white wine and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan to mix in with the liquid. Let it bubble and thicken for a few minutes. Pour into a jug and keep warm to serve with the chicken.
  6. You may like to carve some of the breast meat, and then cut the remaining chicken into joints. Arrange on a heated serving dish and surround with the potatoes. Serve with French-style Peas and Vichy Carrots or other young cooked green vegetables, and pan sauce or gravy.

If you want to make gravy

  • Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the juices from the pan. Add 1 scant tablespoon of flour and stir well until lightly browned. Add 11⁄2 cups of chicken stock and stir until thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a small saucepan to keep warm or pour into a jug or gravy boat.

Cream gravy

  • Make gravy as above but just before serving stir in 3 tablespoons of cream and cook a little until thickened.

Mushroom cream gravy

  • Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the juices from the pan. Add 8–10 sliced button mushrooms to the pan and cook gently for 3–4 minutes, stirring to cook evenly. Proceed as for gravy, stirring in 3 tablespoons of cream at the end.


  • To truss a chicken, place chicken on its back, pull the skin over the neck and tuck underneath. Run string across the outside end of the breast, around wings, cross under the back, and then bring back up to tie the legs together, keeping them close to the body. If you want to stuff the chicken, put some of the stuffing into the neck end and some into the body cavity, but don’t fill it too tightly. Allow plenty of space for the stuffing to swell and stay light.
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