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Parsley, mustard and preserved lemon roast chicken

June 23, 2019

roast chicken with mustard and parsley on a board with red peppers

The scent of a roasting chicken drifting through the house brings back memories of Sunday lunches when, although it was probably tipping down outside, the aroma made the house so warm and cosy. We couldn’t wait to sit up at the table, the carving knife to slip through the golden, crispy skin, crunchy roast potatoes to crowd the green vegetables and parsnips on the plate, thick gravy to pour from a jug over the whole lot.

Chicken reserved for a special occasion is something that got lost with the rise of factory farming, and should be revived for many reasons.  I don’t cook it that often as it’s important for me that I buy the best bird I can for quality of life of the chicken, impact on the environment, our health (no hormones) and, of course, taste and texture. This means it is more expensive (as it should be – cheap meat is unsustainable) so it deserves to be cooked with loving care. Any leftovers will be made into a risotto the next day and I always make the carcass into stock so that nothing is wasted.

This way of stuffing is my favourite for roasting chicken. Crushing the aromatics into softening butter, wiggling my fingers to loosen the skin, reaching for a ball of the fragrant stuffing, feeding it into the gap, smoothing the little parcel so it spreads out over the breast, I find a weirdly relaxing task.

roast chicken with jar of Maille mustard

Bright, green, mildly bitter parsley; knobbly beads of mustard in a hint of mellow vinegar; sharp, candied citrus from preserved lemons and some fresh zest; pungent garlic; these flavours swirled into pale butter with some coarse sea salt and black pepper make a melting cloak over the proud bird . Other ways of roasting a chicken seem naked in comparison.

Wholegrain mustard gives a piquancy and texture that works so well – in fact a butter/mustard combination is a simpler yet delicious alternative. It’s all about balance and I use Maille wholegrain as the mustard seeds (non-GMO from Burgundy and Canada) are partially cut and suspended in white vinegar that’s not too acid. Vinegar is as important as the seeds in mustard-making and Antoine-Claude Maille started his business in 1747 as a specialist in vinegar, developing 100s of different flavours, and became renowned through the royal courts of Europe. In 1720 he invented one called the ‘vinegar of the 4 thieves’ which had antiseptic properties credited with helping people avoid The Plague. Maille still make a range of vinegars and I’ve used the Balsamic glaze when cooking a roast dinner drizzled over oven-baked carrots for a lovely sweet and sharp flavour.

As the oven is on, I cook potatoes cut into small cubes tossed in olive oil with a head of garlic roasted until crisp. Pop in some red peppers tucked into a baking tray for about 20 minutes.

Parsley, mustard and preserved lemon roast chicken

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

The fragrant centre of a roast dinner crammed with bright, fresh flavours.

Ingredients

100g unsalted butter

1-2 preserved lemons*, chopped finely

Half a bunch of flat-leaved parsley, leaves picked and coarsely chopped (1-2 tablespoons)

2 heaped tablespoons Maille wholegrain mustard

zest of 1 lemon, finely grated

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (optional)

1.8kg whole free range chicken

sea salt and black pepper

Directions

Put the butter into a bowl and it soften slightly if it’s straight out of the fridge. Add the chopped preserved lemon, chopped parsley, wholegrain mustard, lemon zest, garlic, a generous pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Mix together with a wooden spoon making sure it is well combined. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to loosen if you like.

Dry the chicken thoroughly with paper towels. You want the skin to be as dry as possible. At the cavity end, gently lift the edge of the skin on one side of the breast. Gradually slip your fingers further down underneath it until it loosens. Try to separate as far down as you can without the skin tearing. Repeat on the other side.

Push most of the flavoured butter between the skin and the breast. Do this by putting the butter in with your fingers then easing it down by smoothing the surface of the breast skin. Rub the remainder of the butter over the outside of the chicken. Put half a lemon into the cavity.

Place on a roasting tray and cook in an oven preheated to 190C (170C fan) for about 1 hour 20 minutes minutes. After 20 minutes, take the tray out of the oven (shutting the door quickly). Tip the roasting tray slightly and use a spoon to scoop up the melted butter and juices which have started to run down, and tip them over the breast and legs of the chicken. Return to the oven, repeating this regularly. If the skin does start to tear as the chicken cooks lay a small piece of foil over the top of that bit to stop the filling and flesh from drying out.

Test that the chicken is cooked. Use a meat thermometer or insert the tip of a small sharp knife into the thickest part of the thigh, if the juices run clear it’s cooked. If not return to the oven for 10 minutes. The skin should be golden brown and crisp. Leave to rest for 10 minutes before carving.

*the preserved lemons we can buy here in the Middle East are quite small so use at least two, but if you make your own with the larger lemons then one is probably enough.

 

mustard and preserved lemon roast chicken in a roasting tray

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This recipe was commissioned by Maille, and, as I have always used their mustard, this was a pleasure. I only write about things that I genuinely cook with or endorse.  All opinions my own.  

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 26, 2019 7:42 am

    You’re right: there’s no sense doing a chicken if it’s not a good one. Thank heavens we can get good ones now. As a young adult I could never figure out why the chickens (and god knows most every other meat) weren’t anywhere near as good as what I had at my grandmother’s house as a kid. I sorta knew why, but at the time there weren’t any alternatives. There’s so much wrong with the world now, but at least there’s that. And, P.S. your version looks terrific!

    • July 3, 2019 6:39 pm

      I remember the taste of an astonishingly expensive but genuinely free range chicken I bought years ago. The flavour was rich and gamey – a completely different taste to most chickens. I’d much rather have quality over quantity

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