Even after 27 years in the England, I am still amazed by the English obsession with roasts. Roast chicken, roast pork, roast duck, roast turkey and of course roast beef (“le Rosbif”). Don’t get me wrong, I like it if it’s done well, but I don’t adore it. Surely there are better ways to keep meat moist? (I can hear a flutter of OOOooos and AAaaas in the background for even daring to suggest this)
I confess I had never had a roast until I moved here. Mum used to pot roast our chicken on the hob every Sunday, and then serve it with homemade chips and salad with her signature eggy salad dressing. The chicken would never be whole, mind. And I kinda like the theatre of cooking, presenting and carving the whole bird or the whole leg or the whole rib or rack or haunch or whatever English style.
I am also kinda fond of the contrast of sweet and savoury, as some of you may have noticed from my recipe collection so far. A dear friend introduced me to Sole Veronique some years ago, fish with grapes. Really? I wasn’t convinced by the idea at all. In fact, I was dreading it. But on tasting, I was completely won over by this unique combination. A little research taught me that this is a popular combo for chicken too, especially in France and especially when given a gentle aniseed background.
Honestly. Bear with me on this one. Bizarrely, this really works. And no, I’m not the biggest aniseed fan per sé. I don’t even particularly care for fennel. But here, nothing overpowers and the flavours seem to nudge each other gently along into something that’s sweet, savoury, herby, acidic and mellow all at once.
If you really can’t bring yourself to grapes with chicken, say goodbye to Veronique and leave out the grapes. You’ll have created a perfectly lovely tarragon chicken instead.
Team this with simple seasonal roast baby veggies and you’ll have a new family rfavourite right there either way.
Pot Roast Chicken Veronique (serves 4-6 GF RSF)
1 whole chicken (1.7 – 1.9 kg)
1-2 tbsp rapeseed oil or confit garlic oil
1 onion, chopped
1 unwaxed lemon, sliced or quartered
a small bunch of fresh tarragon
a small bunch of white seedless grapes
200 ml vermouth
200 ml white wine
200 ml chicken stock
80 ml Pastis or Ouzo
2 whole cloves of garlic
2 cloves confit garlic (or an extra clove of raw garlic, finely chopped or crushed)
2-3 tbsp crème fraiche or whipping cream
Season the chicken inside and out. Add sprigs of thyme, a few sprigs of tarragon, the raw garlic and the lemon into the chicken cavity.
Heat confit garlic oil or rapeseed oil in a large oven proof lidded pan or Dutch oven pan that will be able to hold the whole chicken. Brown the chicken on all sides and remove from the pan.
Fry the onion until translucent. in the same pan. Add the chicken back in the pan on top of the onion. Add the wines, a few sprigs of thyme, more tarragon and the chicken stock.
Cook for 1.5-2 hrs on very low heat on the hob (use a heat diffuser if needed. If you do, don’t do what I did and leave it on a heat diffuser the whole time unless you are prepared to lengthen the cooking time accordingly…). You could cook it in a 165 C oven if you prefer. Just make sure the chicken juices flow clear when pricking the thickest leg piece with a skewer.
Remove the chicken to a large carving board and rest under a foil tent while you finish the sauce
Strain the sauce into a sauce pan and bring the sauce to a rolling boil. Reduce for 10 mins or so. Reduce the heat to its lowest setting (use a heat diffuser if needed) and add the grapes and remaining tarragon.
Once the grapes have heated through (after a few minutes), add the cream, stir and turn off the heat after 1 minute. Make sure the sauce doesn’t boil once you’ve added the cream, as it may separate. Check the seasoning.
Serve either carved or in whole breast and leg portions with roasted vegetables and stir fried greens.
My veggies this time were baby potatoes, cut hasselback style on a wooden spoon, tossed in seasoned confit garlic oil with tiny chantenay carrots and baby turnips, then roast at 190 C until tender.
I also served rainbow chard, quickly stir-fried in confit garlic oil with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a good grinding of nutmeg and S&P.