If you don't know how to prepare a beautiful roast chicken, I suggest you make that the very next thing to master on your cooking odyssey.
Remove the chicken from the fridge an hour before you intend to cook it, as you want your bird to be at room temperature before you put it in the oven.
Preheat oven to 200c and place your roasting tray in.
Take the brown onion and cut it in half from stem to root, fry both halves, cut side down in a frying pan until well caramelised. Remove the two halves from the pan and put to one side. Now it’s time to prepare your bird.
Generously season the bird both inside and out. If you’re feeling particularly skillful with your knife you can also remove the wishbone, this is by no means necessary- though it does making carving a lot easier later.
Take the two onion halves and stuff them in the cavity with half the thyme. Now, gently separate the skin from the breast meat by working a couple of fingers between them, starting at the neck cavity and pushing up towards the drumsticks.
Once the skin is nice and loose, massage the softened butter and a few sprigs of thyme into the breast meat.
Tuck the wing tip under the breast and make an incision just below the knuckle of one drumstick so that the knuckle of the other drumstick can be tucked through. This is a simple way to truss a chicken, and that tucked up cannonball shape will mean that your bird will cook nice and evenly.
Roast the bird at 200c for 15 min. The skin should be starting to lightly brown, turn the oven down to 160c and cook for another hour. Turning the temperature down like this will allow the bird to cook gently, allowing both the breast and the thigh to fully cook without drying out. You can tell if your bird is ready by inserting the tip off a knife into the deepest part of the thigh joint. If the a little blood comes out, you'll need to pop it back in the oven for a while, if the liquid is clear then you are good to go!
Rest the bird on the bench, covered in foil, for at least 15 minutes. This allows the juices to evenly distribute back through the flesh. Carve and enjoy! Don't throw those onions out either; they make a great side for your roast. All that butter and roasting juice will have worked their way into the layers of the onion- making them way too delicious to be destined for the compost bin!
This recipe can be found in the River Cottage Australia cookbook.
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