INGREDIENTS (Serves two)
3 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
6 sprigs of thyme, finely chopped
8 sprigs of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
115g butter, at room temperature
1⁄8tsp plus 1⁄2tsp salt
1⁄8tsp plus 1⁄4tsp freshly ground black pepper
1.6kg chicken, rinsed and dried, wings snipped at the elbow
1 head of garlic, split horizontally
3tbs olive oil Roast chicken jus, warm (optional)
METHOD Preheat the oven to 220°C. In a small bowl, combine half the rosemary, thyme and parsley with the softened butter, using a fork to blend the herbs and butter. Season with 1⁄8 tsp of the salt and 1⁄8 tsp of the pepper.
Going through the neck opening, slide the herbed butter under the skin of both breasts. Stuff the cavity with the remaining chopped herbs and the garlic. Truss the chicken with butcher's string (see below) and season with
½ tsp of salt and ¼ tsp of pepper.
Over a high flame, heat the olive oil in a heavy ovenproof frying pan (or, if cooking two chickens, a roasting tin) until it smokes. Place the bird on its side, searing the leg and breast. Leave it untouched in the pan for at least 4 minutes, turning only when the bird is burnished brown. Turn to brown the other breast side and then the top and bottom of the bird so that it is well-browned on all sides.
(Note: if including diced vegetables in the pan for a one-pot meal, lower the heat to medium and add the vegetables to the pan now. Stir to coat with the olive oil and rendered chicken fat. Brown and soften the vegetables, about 10 minutes, then continue with the directions below.)
Spoon out the excess fat and transfer the pan to the oven. Cook for 40 minutes, basting occasionally. The bird is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 68°C, or when the juices run clear from the joint between the leg and thigh when pierced with a skewer. If the skin begins to burn, cover with an aluminium foil tent for the remainder of the cooking time. Serve with the jus passed on the side.
Trussing a chicken To hold its shape and allow for even stove top browning, it's important to truss the bird properly. Its upper wings are held tight against the body and the legs are crossed and bound at what would be the ankles.
Begin by rinsing and drying the chicken, and then snipping the wings off at the elbow joint; discard the wing tips or freeze to make a stock.
Lay a piece of kitchen string, about 90cm long, across a chopping board and place the chicken in the middle of the string. Pull the string up on both sides so that it draws the wings up against the bird's body. Bring each side of the string down along the breasts and pull snugly so the string tucks between the breast and the leg on each side.
Wrap each piece of string around the opposite ankle, then pull the string taut so the ankles are crossed and closed over the cavity. Tie the string very tightly and snip off any excess. The bird should now be snug, tight, and roundish.