This week’s chicken was a relatively simple affair. I decided to invite dear old mum and dad over for lunch, so we could swing by St Francis, a local animal rescue centre, where they were putting on a fund raising event. We’d (well, they) just adopted a lovely new dog by the name of Ben, so we decided to take him back to see all his old chums. He had an absolute blast, being treated like a right celebrity.
Anyway, that’s beside the point – the point was, I decided to make the chicken recipe simple, because I was serving it as part of a traditional British Sunday lunch. Americans, this is what we also eat at Christmas – only a much more elaborate version. It’s also the nearest thing you get to a Thanksgiving style meal here – swap the turkey for the chicken, and you see what I mean.
So, the recipe was Nigella Lawson’s Schmalzy Chicken, which is from possibly my favourite book of hers, Feast. The recipe is simplicity itself, and I don’t think I’m going to get a cheaper chicken dish out of this entire year – mostly because I bought one of Tesco’s ‘3 for £10’ chickens. Well, two, in fact. And lamb steaks.
So, that’s the semi-abused chicken. And here’s the costing:
Tesco Chicken: £3.33 (to infinity)
Grand total: £3.33
Yep, that was all I bought. The recipe calls for salt and a chicken. I’m down with that.
The idea here is that you render down the chicken fat you find inside the carcass, and then rub it over the chicken and roast it, so that the chicken gets meltingly tender and soft, and all deliciously savoury. I had a cunning plan to use three times the amount of chicken fat you would normally get from a chicken, by saving the fat from the inside of next week’s chicken. But, I didn’t tell M and he threw it away. Foiled! The other third was generously donated by the fat I skimmed off the top of Jamie’s chicken broth.
Rendering the chicken fat is just a fancy way of saying you cook it until all you have left is a pool of ‘schmalz’ and a wizened little piece of chickeny stuff. You can eat this, or shove it up the chicken’s bum to flavour it. That’s what I did…
This is the chicken pre-schmalz, sitting in the roasting pan that M’s mum gave me. It makes the chicken really moist thanks to the lid, but it also had the side-effect of not letting the chicken brown so much all over.
At first glance, this doesn’t seem like so much of a triumph, but that’s because you can’t taste it. Moist and delicious! The taste wasn’t complex at all, but somehow more ‘chickeny’ than chicken normally is… Amazing! And, with a cheapy chook, too. I wouldn’t say this was a miracle, but it certainly was a revelation. Shame I couldn’t get the skin any crispier, though – should have left the lid off.
This was the meal we ate our chicken with – a good old roast. Peas, fancy carrots, roast potatoes, stuffing balls, pigs in blankets, and gravy. Delicious.
So, the scores.
My dear old mum gave it 9. She would – everything I do well reflects on her, of course. Any chicken cooked by a child of hers is sure to score no lower than a 9.
My dad gave it 8. Very tasty and moist, he reckoned.
M gave it 7. It’s a simple recipe, and a simple, clean taste, but there’s nothing spectacular about it.
I gave it 7.5. It’s easy to do, tastes good and is cheap – what more could you want? Shame I couldn’t brown it all over, cos with crispy skin this could have been really special.
There wasn’t much leftover chicken here, but what there was got made into the most unphotogenic curry you ever did see. Except you’ll never see it, hah.