Orange and tarragon roast chicken with Vanessa’s squash

One of my pet peeves is produce snobs -you know, people (by which I mostly mean TV chefs) who rhapsodise over the glories of an invariably expensive and impossible to obtain product. Quite often they will even tell you that you must not, ever ever ever, even think about attempting a particular dish if you cannot obtain this particular rarity. It’s not that I think they’re wrong, it’s just that it’s not at all helpful. Sadly, most of us have to jam food shopping,preparation and consumption into increasingly tiny apertures of our day and seeking out this kind of produce just ain’t going to happen. And when you live in a small country town like I do,exciting produce is by and large just a distant memory…

Having said that, I do have to tell you about this one particular produce moment.  Many years ago we spent a not so small fortune on an organically fed free range chicken from some guy’s back yard. It was a size 25, the colour of apricots and had a layer of fat as thick as my finger under the skin. I stuffed it full of orange quarters, fist-fulls of fresh tarragon and garlic cloves. I swear to god that the thing smelt like a pudding while it was cooking – just perfectly sweet and fragrant and the taste of the bird was utterly indescribable. I have not eaten chicken in a meaningful sense before or since this moment.

The produce problems of living in a small rural town would of course be considerably offset if I were a gardener. As much I would like to imagine myself flitting earthily around my fabulous garden plucking exotic mushrooms from the shadows and harvesting armloads of zucchini flowers, this really is another thing that just ain’t going to happen. Fortunately I do know a fair few gardeners who from time to time are generous enough to give us stuff. Recently one of Pete’s Kendo group dropped around some gorgeous white squash and a handful of fresh herbs. One of these herbs was an amazing little plant called Lemon Licorice Mint. I trust it’s flavour is self-explanatory. It’s an intriguing and really addictive combination of flavours. I cooked the squash with the herbs in our new-fangled recent addition, the “microwave”. A lovely partner to an orange and tarragon roast chicken.

Orange and tarragon roast chicken

I often find it hard to get fresh tarragon.It’s perfectly OK to just sprinkle the inside of the bird with some dry tarragon.

  • 1 chicken – get the best quality you kind find and/or afford
  • knob of butter
  • 2 oranges.
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • few sprigs of fresh tarragon
  • approximately 1 tablespoon dried tarragon
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 220 Celsius (200 if your oven is either particularly hot or fan forced). Rinse your chicken and pat it dry. If using dry tarragon, sprinkle it inside the chicken now. Cut one of the oranges into quarters and stuff 2-3 of the pieces into the cavity, along with the garlic cloves and fresh tarragon, if using. Gently ease up the skin of the chicken where it separates from the breast and ease some butter between the skin and the flesh. This step is not strictly necessary and is probably quite inadvisable for health reasons,but it does make the breast meat richer and more moist.

Now give that chook a good rubbing down with the olive oil and the juice of the remaining orange quarter. Season liberally with salt and pepper and sprinkle with dried tarragon to taste. Place the chicken breast side up on a rack (if you have one)  in a roasting pan and place in the oven. Roast for 20 minutes and then remove from the oven and turn breast side down. Squeeze with juice from the extra orange and baste with any pan juices. Return to oven. Roast for 20 minutes, remove and turn breast side up, basting again with pan and orange juices. Roast for another 20 – 30 minutes (until juices run clear),basting every 10 minutes. Let the chicken rest for 10-15 minutes out of the oven before carving.

You can do a standard roast dinner with this. It makes a lovely gravy if you roast some garlic cloves in the pan and push the mushy insides into the gravy. I, however, especially like this chicken with a simple green salad, some crusty bread and maybe one vegie dish, such as:

Vanessa’s squash

  • 4 large or 8 small squash (or replace with zucchini)
  • Fresh minced herbs (I used lemon licorice mint and lemon verbena)
  • Black pepper
  • Splash of water

Slice the squash and place in a microwave safe dish. Gently toss through the herbs and pepper and add a splash of water. Cover with plastic wrap. I have no idea how to give microwave cooking instructions for truly they are the work of the devil but I’m guessing I did 2-3 minutes on high and then let them stand for another minute or two before removing the plastic wrap.

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