Sunday 27 October 2013

Sunday Roast Chicken, Root Veg, Stuffing, Cauliflower Cheese, and Gravy

The other week I read some mindless poll about the tradition of Sunday roasts in Britain.  Their traditions spans decades, but is apparently a dying one, as only a tiny percentage still make a roast on the Sabbath.  My older colleagues speak of how you could smell everyone's roasts on a Sunday stroll when they were growing up, but nowadays people are more likely to head down to Toby Carvery (which I hear is family friendly and tasty too).  After I trek over to the Farmers Market on a Saturday and come back laden with produce, I rarely have the energy to cook anything that day, so last night we opted for heating up some frozen veggie chilli I had made a couple weeks ago.

But when I opened the fridge today, this little guy was looking at me.

I do associate roast chicken with Sundays, certainly.  Quite frequently during my childhood my mother would roast 2 chickens on a Sunday, 1 to eat and the other to pick at during the week.  To this day my mother's face still lights up at the prospect of cold chicken sandwiches.  Nigella regularly praises the simple glory of a roast chicken, and who am I to argue with her?

The weather was projected to by awful (quite dramatically awful south of the border) so I decided it was a good day to settle in after church and prepare a feast that would last us at least a couple days.

First I prepped the chicken by sticking half a lemon in its cavity and smearing a bit of butter and olive oil onto the skin.  The oven is preheated to a low heat (160 or 170) and the bird gets a slow cooking over a couple of hours to ensure tender meat.  First, he goes in upside down.  This means the fat from the legs drips down into the breast to keep them juicy, rather than straight into the pan going to waste.  Clever, eh?

And onto the veggies!  Today I opted for parsnips, carrots, and sweet potatoes.  Just a bit of peeling and slicing and...

Voila!  Doused in oil, into the oven they go too.

That in itself is usually enough work for me, and I leave the meal at that.  But I had some stale bread and a few other essentials, so I decided to knock up some stuffing too.  I don't stuff the bird itself for two reasons:
1) The inside of the bird doesn't always get to a high enough temperature to cook the stuffing and prevent bacteria getting in
2) You don't get a crusty top on the stuffing if you cook it inside the bird

So gathering these things together..

I cooked some celery and onion in some butter and cut up the bread and toasted it a little to ensure it would absorb all the flavours.

Once the onion and celery were sufficiently softened, I added the bread cubes

Then in went parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  Just think of it as Simon and Garfunkel stuffing.  This is the most simple version of stuffing that we do, but mushrooms, sausage, and chestnuts are other regular guests in our stuffing.

Then in went an egg and some chicken stock from a cube.

And into the dish it went, going into the oven not to long before the chicken was due to come out.
On to the cauliflower cheese.

I never had tasted this dish until I came to the UK, and my version is less cheesy than most, being basically a white sauce with a bit of cheese in it rather than cheese with a bit of white sauce in it as most recipes I've read seem to be.  I think because this is the version I learned from watching my husband make it.

So you start with a roux of equal parts butter and flour

The oven beeped - time to flip the bird.  Oy!  Don't be rude.  You turn it over to brown the skin on the side people eat.  I usually end up tearing the skin somewhere when I do this, but others manage to do it gracefully.

Back to the white sauce.  Then keep adding milk and whisking until it's a bit too runny, then heat it to thicken it.  Sorry, that's the best I can do as I am not too scientific here.  That's probably why I mess it up a lot.

Once you add nutmeg it'll look like this.  Seasoning is good too, here.

Then take it off the heat and add some cheese (cheddar in this case).

Stir in the uncooked cauliflower.

And put it into a baking dish and into the oven until browned.  It'll be good, I promise.

Looks like the chicken is done. I check the juices run clear, but my mother likes to wiggle the legs.  I never know how they are supposed to wiggle, which is why I check the juices.

See, doesn't the cauliflower look goooood?  That's an onion gravy my husband made there, and the cooked stuffing.

Oh, and these guys.  They dried out a bit too much, but they were still good.

As you can see, there was a lot of food, so no running around cooking tomorrow night, we've got leftovers, hooray!!!!  I'll probably add something green tomorrow, though.  

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