Epic Tarragon Roast Chicken

Nothing makes me feel more at home than a roast chicken: a dish my family has lovingly cooked each other for generations, and which always spurs on warm conversation.

Julius says…

Nothing makes me feel more at home than a roast chicken: a dish my family has lovingly cooked each other for generations, and which always spurs on warm conversation. We’ve told stories, introduced lovers, argued, worried, laughed and cried with that sacrosanct meal in front of us. I’ve loved it as long as I can remember and used to watch in awe as Granny pulled perfectly crisp and sizzling birds from the Aga, often sprinkled with curry powder or a homemade spice blend that would waft warmly through the house. I’d sit on the counter, taking part in the magic, desperately hoping she’d tear me off a sliver of the salty golden skin while she conjured up a quick gravy with her special whisk made from a bundle of birch twigs.

Granny has sadly left us now, but her legacy lives on in the many roast chooks we continue to cook each other, and the rituals that come with such a beloved meal. We always pull the wish bones, never fail to make stock and battle over who gets the wings each and every time. So, of course, when it came to writing a cookbook, the dish had to be in there – in fact, there’s two. But this one, in particular, we return to again and again.I think there are three keys to a good roast chicken. First, it must be juicy, of course – there is a real art to the “just cooked chicken” and far too many folks are being overly cautious and eating dry, sad chicken as a result. Secondly, the skin must be salty and golden; it doesn’t have to be crisp, but the colour brings a beautiful flavour. And last but not least, you need a tonne of sauce. And it’s the sauce here that makes this chicken a contender for my death row meal. Humble and simple, as the best things often are, it’s just Dijon mustard, cream and tarragon whisked together. But it seasons the chicken, caramelises the skin and surrounds the bird in a sauce of lovely, fatty curds. I like to carve straight into the sauce so that it seeps into every nook and cranny, and serve simply with spuds, rice or even a loaf of bread to soak up the juices, plus a sharp green salad on the side.



Epic Tarragon Roast Chicken


Serves 5

1 chicken
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole head of garlic
250ml double cream
20g bunch of fresh tarragon, stalks removed, roughly chopped
1 heaped tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper for seasoning
A glass of dry white wine 


Preheat your oven to 220°C (with fan) and start by spatchcocking the chicken. To do this, turn it over and cut along one side of the spine from the tail to the neck. Then turn it over, open out the two sides and press down hard to flatten it. Your butcher will gladly do this for you. Lay the chicken in a large, high-sided roasting tray, season generously with salt on both sides and leave for an hour at room temperature so it loses the chill of the fridge.

When ready, generously drizzle the skin with olive oil and work it into all the nooks and crannies. Smash the head of garlic and hide the cloves underneath the chicken, then roast in the oven for 20–30 minutes, until the skin begins to turn golden brown. Meanwhile, mix the cream, tarragon and mustard in a bowl and season well with salt and pepper.

After 20–30 minutes, turn the oven down to 140°C fan, take out the chicken, and pour a generous glass of white wine into the tray. Then pour the tarragon cream all over the chicken and place back in the oven for 30–40 minutes until it’s ready. To judge when it’s cooked, I check the deepest part of the thigh with a temperature probe, looking for 65–70°C. If you don’t have one, prod this point with a skewer and ensure the juices run clear.

At this point, remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes, covered loosely with a bit of foil. Carve straight into the tray and serve as you like, with lots of the sauce and garlic – and a zingy green salad.

First published in Ed#705