Sunday 1 June 2014

Honey and Whiskey Roast Chicken served with Chilli Parsnip Fries and Baby Potatoes Simmered in Bay-Infused Milk

Possibly the trickiest meal to prepare is the Roast Dinner. Accurately cooking through the large bird or joint of meat, juggling the timing of the various side dishes, creating a rich gravy that balances well with the other flavours on the table. Many accomplished housewives spend years and years perfecting the culinary skills and building the experience required to serve up a roast dinner on Sunday.

Or that’s all horseshit, and the best kept secret of my parents’ generation is how just bonkersly simple it is to throw together a roast. It looks fancy as all hell, but it really couldn’t be easier.

Why in god’s name would I make a whole roast chicken just for me?

Because it lasts. You’ll get at least two full dinners (or lunches) out of the meat and vegetables you prepare here, and after that you’ll have a load of cooked chicken to do with as you please. Curries, sandwiches, salads, pastas, high-class pet food, anything. Sound good?

Alright, it’s go time!

    Turn your oven up to scary-hot and get out everything you need while it’s heating. Roughly chop up a carrot, onion, bell pepper, courgette or whatever else you have that needs eating. Put your chicken in a large roasting dish, and throw the vegetables in around it. Chuck in a few cloves of garlic too, cause it’s the best. Pour olive oil over the lot and rub salt, pepper and thyme into the chicken skin. Put it in the hot oven.

    After 10-15 minutes, take it out and stir the vegetables a bit. Pour whiskey, lemon juice and honey over the now semi-crispy chicken skin. Cover the dish with tin-foil (aluminum foil *shudder*) and put it back in the oven, but turn it down to kinda-hot. Leave it for half an hour, then baste it.

    Now scrub some baby potatoes and parsnips. Fry the whole or halved potatoes in butter, then fill the pan with milk until they’re covered. Simmer. Cut the parsnips into thin sticks and coat them in olive oil on a baking tray before sprinkling with chilli pepper. Fire them in the oven.

    Once your chicken has been in the oven for another half hour, baste again and take off the foil before returning it to the oven. Cook everything until everything’s cooked. Duh.

    When the chicken’s out of the oven, drain the delicious juices into a small pan. Scoop off the oil, stir in a little flour and simmer until thickened. Enjoy while it’s hot.

Alright... it's slow time?

Sure thing. Let’s break it down.

  • 1 large chicken
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 or 3 large parsnips
  • 1kg baby potatoes
  • 1 litre milk
  • a handful of fresh thyme sprigs or 2 tsp of dry thyme
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 2-3 tbsp of honey
  • about a shot of whiskey
  • 1 lemon
  • 2tsp chilli powder
  • 1 very large knob of butter
  • olive oil

You’ll also need a large oven dish, a large baking tray and some kitchen foil. These measurements are very flexible, and you can substitute, increase or decrease as you wish. For the veggies that go in with the chicken, you can really use anything that you have lying around.

    To start, turn on your oven as high as it will go. Unless you’ve got some crazy hot oven. Somewhere in the region of 250ºC is good. While that’s pre-heating, you can get your chicken ready. Washing meat is for suckers, all you do is spray meaty-water all over your sink. So take your chicken as it is and put it in the middle of your nice big oven dish.

    If you want to, peel your carrot, but a scrub is enough. Chop it into large chunks, along with your courgette, red onion and bell pepper. Nice, big, uneven pieces is fine, we’re going rustic here. Peel your garlic cloves and then throw all those vegetables in the dish with your chicken. Now drizzle a decent amount of olive oil over everything, don’t be shy. Grind some salt and pepper onto the chicken and sprinkle with the thyme. Rub everything into the chicken skin with your hands, and toss the vegetables to coat them in the oil. The oven should be hot now, so put the dish in the oven for 15 minutes.

    Take the dish back out of the oven. At this point, the skin should have started to crisp slightly. Pierce the skin all over with a fork. Now we’re going to add our main flavours. Pour the whiskey and squeeze your lemon juice over the chicken. Slice a few strips of the lemon rind like you’re Tom Cruise in the movie where he’s a cocktail mixer. You know, the one where he makes all the cocktails. The name will come to me. Anyway, lay those strips across the chicken skin. Drizzle your honey evenly over the chicken. Finally, give the vegetables a stir and cover the whole dish in kitchen foil, sealing the edges. Lower the oven temperature to 170ºC and put the chicken back in.

    Now you can relax for 30-40 minutes. Go learn to play the violin, write a poem expressing your feelings or browse your Facebook feed, however you normally spend your time. Then take the chicken out and baste it. That’s just a fancy word for scooping up the juice that’s at the bottom of the dish and pouring it back over the meat, keeping it moist. At this point, if you think it doesn’t smell enough like whiskey/honey/lemon for your tastes, you can pour some more over the meat. Cover it again, and put it back in the oven for another 30-40 minutes.

    This time, you don’t get to enrich yourself for half an hour, you get to prepare the rest of the veggies! Which is almost as good. First, scrub your potatoes. If you really don’t like skin, you can peel them, but the skin is full of totally awesome stuff that’s super duper good to eat. Also, peeling takes more time. Either way, prick the potatoes with your trusty fork. If any of them are a bit on the big side, cut them in half. Now melt your butter in a large, deep frying pan, or just a large saucepan, set to a medium heat. Add the potatoes and fry, tossing until they’re turning golden all over.

    While they’re frying away, scrub (or peel) your parsnips. Cut them into thin strips. The length doesn’t matter, but try to keep them all the same thickness so they cook evenly. Put the parsnip “chips” onto a baking tray, spreading them around so they have lots of space. Use 2 trays if you need to, because if they’re too tightly packed, they’ll take much longer to cook. Sprinkle the chilli powder over them, pour in 2-3 tbsp of olive oil and mix them all up, to coat. Put the tray in the oven with the chicken.

    At this point your potatoes are probably browned, so what you’re going to do is turn the heat down and add in just enough milk to completely cover them. Add in the bay leaves. Let the milk heat back up to a simmer, then keep it there. You don’t want to boil your milk, as it will curdle (get all weird and lumpy). Simmer for about 25 minutes, checking if they’re done by poking them with the ubiquitous fork.

    Remember I said leave the chicken for another 30-40 minutes? Did you keep track? When the time’s up, take it out, baste it again and then put it back in the oven, but without the foil covering it this time. While you have the oven open, take out your parsnip fries and turn them. Or just shake em around if you’re not feeling up to it.

    Cook everything for about another 10-15 minutes. This is where you’ll have to use your own judgement. What you want to do is crisp the chicken skin, without burning it. If the potatoes have softened before then, turn the heat off and leave them in the flavoured milk, where they’ll stay warm. If you’re nervous about the chicken being undercooked, poke it deep in the thigh with, you guessed it, your fork. If the juice that comes out isn’t colourless, it needs to cook more, so put the foil back on and put it back in the oven.

    Once it’s all done, the last step is the gravy. Luckily it’s also the simplest thing to do, because you’ve actually already done all the hard work. See all that juice that your chicken and veggies are sitting in? The juice that’s been flavoured by the meat, the vegetables, the whiskey, the lemon, the thyme and the honey? That’s your gravy. Pour it into a small saucepan, and scoop off all of the clear oil that floats to the top. You don’t have to, but it makes for a smoother, tastier gravy if you do. Now stir in a heaped teaspoon of flour. Keep stirring until it’s dissolved fully before turning on the heat, otherwise you’ll get flour lumps. Bring the gravy to a light boil until it thickens enough to your liking.

    Daintily carve the chicken, or just tear it apart with your bare hands. No one else is around, who cares? Serve with the potatoes, the veg and the roasted parsnip, covered in the gravy. And you’re done! Enjoy your very own roast dinner for one, happy in the knowledge that simply by slightly varying the ingredients, you now know how to make pretty much any type of roast meat dish. Pat yourself on the back and help yourself to seconds.

(If you prefer mashed potatoes, drain off most of the milk, and then, well, mash the potatoes. They’ll be delicious and creamy. If you can think of any interesting uses for the leftover flavoured milk, let me know! All I’ve got is “Novelty Oatmeal”, which, let's face it...

Edit: I actually used the milk the next day to make a cheese sauce for a twist on mac 'n' cheese. Add a spoon of flour, mix well and heat. If it's a bit lumpy, strain it, then add cheese. Fry up some diced shallot and bacon, dump it in the sauce and serve on pasta or a baked potato. Even goes well as a sauce for this roast dinner!)


  1. HA-HA! Made this for dinner today! Juicy chicken, so delicious. The potatoes are SO creamy, tasty and precious - it's wonderful! Thank you for yet another amaaazing recipe!

    We're going to use the leftover milk for mac n' cheese tomorrow like you suggested! Will also pop the leftover chicken in there, yumyum! Ah, you are a genius. I've said it before and I will say so again! Thank you!

  2. Super awesome that you liked this dish! This was what, the second recipe I posted? Coulda been a total disaster! ;)

    I'd actually be really interested to hear any feedback about the blog in general, if you have some Tora. Do you like the minor changes made to the format in the newer recipes, when compared to this one? Are there any particular changes or features that you'd like to see in future?

    I've already got a bunch of changes I'd like to make when I get the time, haha, but I'd love your opinion too. Also need to get a new recipe up before the month is out... :/

  3. This is a great post, thanks for writing it.