Kirstin: Today was a snow day. We don’t have many of them in these parts, so I was particularly pleased to have planned ahead with food so we didn’t have to go out for the whole day. I say that, but Miles was the exception as he had a lovely time frolicking in the snow in our garden while we stayed in and watched The Crown.
I might also have mentioned before how much I like to cook recipes from Bon Appetit between cookbooks. And I have been obsessed with finding The Perfect Roast Chicken Recipe Ever for a while now. Many recipes have tried. Many recipes have failed. But this recipe might actually be The One. It’s not difficult, doesn’t use any mad ingredients and everyone loves the moist chicken at the end. The key to this recipe is planning ahead and taking the chicken out and salting it an hour before you plan to put it in the oven. It makes a huge difference to the moistness of the meat. A perfect end to a perfect wintry Sunday.
Ella: Well this is succulent and juicy!
Kirstin: I have to admit I made this a few weeks ago for just me and Miles.
Miles: I remember it!
Kirstin: And we’re having it with pitta bread. This is such a wonderful summer recipe. My picture does it no justice and that’s because it should be photographed outdoors in evening summer light. Nigella, I apologise profusely. But really the rolling pin to squash the chicken does not work at all. I had to use a mallet in the end.
Ella: I love it.
Kirstin: And I love it too. I haven’t done one of Nigella’s recipes where you stick everything into a freezer bag for a while for no good reason. Genius recipe. Also, I’ve just seen Call Me By Your Name, so the word succulent is taking on a whole different meaning because peaches.
Ella: I’m not sure I want to know.
Kirstin: It’s ok. There’s no way I can describe it to you. That said, I have loved this trilogy of films by Luca Guadagnino and in particular the way food is featured.
Kirstin: This doesn’t sound like much. You know, another traybake, another chicken recipe. But it is so much more than that. The potatoes and chicken are tossed and coated with an aromatic concoction of delicious spices before being roasted for an hour; it’s deceptively simple and yet everything about this recipe is perfect. Plus it worked. First time. Which is always a bonus. Miles told me that he loved my cooking as I put this on the table, so I’m going to thank Nigella for making one boy (and his mother) very happy. It tasted wonderful and will definitely, definitely, definitely be made again. Lots, I hope!
Also can I just say how I feel bad that Nigella’s books always come out in the autumn and I always end up taking pictures of her recipes in the dark. Because they deserve so much more. I’m going to have to make one of her cakes and take pictures of it in the daytime. I love a challenge!
I’ve got to say, this recipe reminds of the Jamie Oliver of old, back when he offered up delicious food, simply prepared.
To be brutally honest, it’s not as if he’s reinveted the wheel with this recipe, though. It’s just a classic traybake. But traybakes (also beloved by Nigella) are classic for a reason: delicious, easy and easy to change based on what ingredients you have to hand. I’ve definitely made variations of this many times before now.
In this particular recipe, it’s just chicken with garlic, rosemary and lemon: a classic combination that I’ve used, easily, a million times before. But that doesn’t make it less successful. If it’s worked before, it’ll work again. If people like it, who cares if it’s not terribly original?
However, I have to tell him that I completely ignored Jamie’s instruction to put the chicken on the oven rack just above the tray that has the potatoes in it. It seems as though Jamie has forgotten what it’s like to clean an oven rack with chicken fat all over it. (Spoiler alert: it’s a pain to get clean.) I know why he did it. He wanted the fat and juicy goodness from the chicken to drip onto the potatoes below. I get that, I just didn’t want to clean that. What I did instead was I got a baking wire rack that fit over the potato tray, put the chicken on the wire rack, and then put all of that in the oven. Cleaning a baking wire rack is about 1,000 times easier than cleaning an entire oven tray.
Finally, to give credit where credit is due, I picked up a top tip from Jamie in the car crashes that were “30-Minute Meals” and “15-Minute Meals”: using my food processor to slice up the potatoes. To be honest, I don’t think I ever used my food processor for slicing before those two books and now I use my food processor slicer all the time. (It’s also handy for when I’m making apple pie.)
Will we make this again? Obviously. A chicken tray bake was beloved by this family before and will be beloved in the future.
Kirstin: I have been stressing about this recipe all day after the previous epic failure of a recipe. Also because as we all know, spatchcocking chickens is not my thing. But the harissa in this recipe was calling me.
I made sure to buy a small chicken, so as to ensure it was all cooked through with the spatchcocking malarkey. But again. Jamie. 5 ingredients. So cheeky. You can slip the red wine vinegar in there under the radar, with no quantities, but it’s still an ingredient. So I swapped it for the mint, which should never have been there in the first place. Honestly! Mint with chicken! I wasn’t quite sure how much red vinegar to add so I kind of made a paste with it. He also wanted me to TEAR the peppers. I’m not sure why a knife couldn’t work and to be honest it didn’t add any flavour to the dish. But all things considered, I have to admit that this recipe worked. The peppers were good. The harissa was good. The chicken was all cooked through and very juicy. I might even be tempted to make this again!
I know, right?
Kirstin: Melissa Clark is VERY keen on spatchcocking chickens. So this is not the first time I have been inspired to make one of her recipes with the exciting part of spatchcocking beforehand. I’m definitely getting better at the part where you remove the backbone of a chicken, put it that way. Also the squashing part. And, as Melissa says in her video for this recipe, it is SUCH a good word! SPATCHCOCK! I particularly love it when she has all her utensils out and ready to use in the video. She is brilliant.
(And another small digression: I didn’t have any of the ancho chile powder for this recipe, so I found some of the dried whole peppers and ground them down in my new grinder which was very exciting, as you can imagine!)
And now to the recipe itself. The spice combination itself smelled incredible as I put it on the chicken. It’s one of the Top Ten recipes made from the New York Times this week and I could see why as I rubbed the spices on. However. There is just something about me and these spatchcocked chicken recipes that I am not getting right. Is it the temperature of the oven? Is it the length of time to cook? There is something that I continue to get wrong every time. While the chicken was not pink, it was chewier than usual despite me effectively burning all the spices on the top and also leaving the chicken to rest for a full ten minutes, or in fact longer as Tom had to edit something which took longer than I had anticipated. And I note that she adds olive oil before she cooks hers on the video, but not in the recipe. Maybe that made a difference.
So, the question is would I make this again? No. Would I try spatchcocking a chicken for Melissa? Probably not. No, not even butterflying one. But I might try spatchcocking for someone else’s recipe to see if I could get it right. And yes, that might be just so I could use the word again!
Nicholas (14): We’ve had this before, haven’t we?
Maureen: Impressively remembered. Yes, we have. It was the Nigella Lawson version from “Simply Nigella” [Editor’s Note; I just went back to see if I blogged about it. Alas, I did not. But we do love it so.] That recipe was based on this version, which I’ve also made before. So I was hedging my bets because I already knew we all liked it.
Andrew (17): What is it?
Maureen: It’s chicken shawarma.
Tim: I remember now. We all liked it.
Maureen: Indeed we did. Which is why I’ve made it more than once. This is from the new cookbook.
Andrew: What’s the new cookbook?
Maureen: it’s not actually a cookbook. It’s the New York Times Cooking App.
Nicholas [Incredulously]: An app???
Maureen: Yes. We’re embracing the future. It’s going to be great. We have so many favourite recipes that come from the New York Times. We will eat well this month.
Tim: Maybe there will be too much choice, actually.
Maureen: That’s a real possibility. I fell down the rabbit hole of options when I was trying to figure out what we were going to have for dinner tonight. This wasn’t even what I intended to make. But I stumbled across it, knew we had it before and liked it, so thought we’d just have it again.
Andrew [As he quickly polishes off his second one]: It was a good choice. It’s delicious.
If you’d like to make this yourself, here’s a link to the original recipe in the New York Times.