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The Delicious Appreciations of Pick Yin

Not exactly predictable.
Has enough brains for codes
(but can be completely clueless on other more important matters).
Likes her Joe (and her man?) black, her chocolate dark and her food spicy.
“Quam bene vivas refert, non quam diu.” — Seneca

Total Posts   191      Last Updated   23 November 2015 12:00 PM (GMT +8)

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Tomato and Marjoram Roast Chicken

I'm not sure why some people only think of roast chicken as a quick ticket to a plain/simple/done-to-death/lazy meal; perfect for when you're busy running errands or having guests over. You know, just stick a lemon up the bird, dump it into a roasting pan with some spuds and plunk it into the oven. An hour later, voila, it's lunch/dinner on the table; meanwhile you'd already have a million other things done. The last few times I roasted chickens, I spent the day before prepping it, the actual day parboiling potatoes, putting the chicken to roast, taking it out to add in the spuds and then doing the dishes while the roasting went on. Did I use the wrong recipe? Of course not, Jamie Oliver's roast chicken kicked ass, except maybe for those who like theirs with gravy.

That's where this one comes in, beating the forty cloves of garlic chicken by a hair - though you can tell that will be my next one. And no, this is not one of those three-step-and-it's-done roast, so be forewarned.

Because this roast calls for herb butter. And not only herb butter quickly assembled with a chunk of chopped leaves and a block of cold dairy. You have do that and spike it up with cooked down onions, garlic and tomatoes. Then you have to blitz the concoction in a food processor. Because no matter how finely you chop those onions, garlic and tomatoes, they will not be very good friends with the chunky butter unless well, forced to. Then you have to disturb the zenness of the chicken (I'm good at making up non-existent words but hey, it's in Urban Dictionary!), all the while taking care not to poke any holes while loosening its skin. Then after a few more things arranged and poured, you finally get to put it into the oven. At this point you get to take care of a now very greasy food processor bowl waiting in the sink. Halfway through the washing (I, a clean freak, can be very slow at that), you stop and get to the basting business. Then you continue with the cleaning up and after a quick hop into the shower (in our natural sauna-like weather not just the chicken will be roasting), it's time to attend to it again - a little more basting and a lot more TLC, for which without, would be pointless.

Not that I'm complaining since I've been aching to try this recipe the first time I saw it in my favorite Australian Gourmet Traveler, six months ago. Only, I chose to do it a the very last minute one recent morning, just before leaving for Hong Kong again the next day, after making this the day before. I wanted to leave Vijay with some home cooked love before going away for three weeks and since dessert was already taken care of, it only made sense to surprise him with lunch, and the welcoming promise of leftovers.

Last minute decisions are always risky. Anything can go wrong, like those guys in Masterchef like to tell you. But then they also tell you to think on the fly, be creative and adapt to whatever the situation throws at you. So ignoring the fact that I own no food processor (I know this sounds impossible but it's true, only recently I've figured out where to eventually put one when I came back from my last business trip to this), I stormed through Cold Storage just as its doors opened and bee-lined to the herbs section. Thyme was nowhere to be found and rosemary was missing too. The stalks of marjoram though, were fresh and perky - now you know why this is tomato and marjoram roast chicken. For a good measure I also stuck in a bunch of chervil but really, as long as we're talking about improvising here, you know you can go with any of your favorite herbs for chicken.

I rushed home and zapped around my tiny kitchen like a mad woman, trying to get everything done in under two hours. It was one of my fastest stint on a new recipe, ever. Lunch was ready half an hour before noon and a minor drama with a grinder leaking with melting butter failed to dampen my spirit. Don't do what I did, use a mortar and pestle if you don't have a food processor (my pestle broke and I haven't gotten around to replacing it). The tomato butter was worth the fuss. I think it's absolutely brilliant - the acidity of the tomatoes, although already reduced from the cooking, still managed to cut through the fat and heaviness of the butter. I would definitely make more the next time to freeze for future applications.

I would advise that not a drop of the pan juices go to waste - stock, wine, escaped tomato butter mixed with chicken drippings - are you light-headed yet? Go get a bread knife. It's best mopped off with what would be left of a piece of sourdough after a few bites of it piled high with the chicken, garlic and tomatoes. If you're recovering from post-long-Labor-Day-weekend blues, a not so lazy and almost fancy yet down-to-earth tasty roast like this may just be what you need.
Tomato and Marjoram Roast Chicken
Adapted barely from the Australian Gourmet Traveler October 2010 Issue

  • 1 whole chicken (about 1.6 kilograms)

  • 5 small vine-ripened tomatoes

  • 1 onion, cut into wedges

  • 1 lemon, coarsely chopped

  • 8 marjoram sprigs, plus extra leaves to serve

  • 125 milliliters dry white wine (I used Shaoxing cooking wine) *

  • 125 milliliters (½ cup) chicken stock

  • 1 head garlic, halved horizontally

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • Tomato butter

  • 70 grams butter, coarsely chopped

  • ¼ small red onion, finely chopped

  • 1 small garlic clove, bruised

  • 1 vine-ripened tomato, finely chopped

  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (reserve lemon for stuffing chicken)

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped marjoram

  • salt and pepper to taste

Make the tomato butter: Melt roughly 10 grams butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add onion and garlic, sauté until tender (about 2-3 minutes). Add in the tomato and stir occasionally until thick and reduced (about 8-10 minutes), then set aside to cool. Transfer to a food processor, add lemon rind, marjoram and remaining butter, process until smooth and combined, then set aside.

Prepare the chicken: Preheat oven to 200°C. Rinse chicken inside and out under running cold water and pat dry with absorbent paper. Slide your fingers carefully between skin and breast of chicken to separate, then loosen as much of the skin around the legs as possible without piercing the skin. Spoon two-thirds of the tomato butter between skin and flesh and massage to evenly distribute. Spread remaining tomato butter over chicken breast and thighs and set aside.

Roast the chicken: Coarsely chop one tomato, then stuff into the chicken cavity along with onion, lemon and marjoram sprigs. Tie the legs together neatly with kitchen twine and place chicken in the roasting pan, breast side down (I placed a couple of halved tomatoes under the chicken to avoid its skin sticking to the pan). Halve the remaining tomatoes, add to roasting pan along with wine, stock and garlic. Season to taste. Drizzle chicken with olive oil and roast, basting chicken with pan juices occasionally, until skin is crisp and golden and chicken is cooked through (about 50 minutes-1 hour). Remove from oven to rest for about half the cooking time.

Serve at room temperature with pan juices, tomatoes and garlic, scattered with marjoram leaves.

Do ahead: The day before, you can prepare the tomato butter to freeze it for later use or both the butter and the chicken to be left overnight in the fridge.

* Wine can be replaced with equal amount of chicken stock or a mixture of water, a little vinegar and some sugar.

16 Comments on Tomato and Marjoram Roast Chicken

i find it utterly refreshing that you are honest with the amount of time/labor this dish entails. there was no waxing poetry about it, tho, to be honest, this post was extremely well written.

i am staring at the pan drippings, in equal horror and fascination, because i would sip on it with a straw andi would kinda like to try.

Posted by Anonymous Lan, at Feb 2, 2012, 2:30:00 PM  

Lan: Thank you for your compliments, sometimes I don't know if my posts would bore people to death. Actually for someone with better knife skills and proper equipment this make not take that long - the GT recipe's prep time is 20 minutes! That said I really don't mind spending the whole day in the kitchen if it was up to me, like how our grandmothers used to cook all three meals and more.

Pan drippings, normally I drink it with a spoon. Who needs bread for any of this? :D

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 2, 2012, 2:30:00 PM  

I understand the hectic life of a full-time working man/woman. Now that you travel between Singapore and Hong Kong, too. Not easy.

Your roast chicken looks really good! =)

Have a good weekend ahead!

Posted by Anonymous Pei-Lin, at Feb 2, 2012, 2:30:00 PM  

Thanks Pei Lin, you have a good weekend too!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 2, 2012, 2:30:00 PM  

Lovely flavors here!

Posted by Anonymous Xiaolu @ 6, at Feb 2, 2012, 2:31:00 PM  

Xiaolu: Yes! This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 2, 2012, 2:31:00 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 2, 2012, 2:31:00 PM  

Amazing roast chicken recipe. Love the flavours and I am not letting the pan juice go to waste.

Posted by Anonymous Ellie (Almost Bourdain), at Feb 2, 2012, 2:32:00 PM  

Thanks Ellie, though now I'm completely intrigued by Maggie Beer's roast chook shown on Masterchef AU S3!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 2, 2012, 2:32:00 PM  

WOW. I made this last weekend when I had family in town. They were all very impressed despite my terrible 'carving' skills (it looked like i hacked away at the beautiful finished product with a pick-ax!). And the pan drippings were soooooooo good. Threw the carcass and leftover drippings into the crockpot overnight to make an amazing stock. Thanks for a great recipe. Also--your photos are GORGEOUS.

Posted by Anonymous Teresa, at Feb 2, 2012, 2:32:00 PM  

Teresa: Ditto on the carcass and drippings. Carving skills? Your chicken must be big. Mine was about 1.6 kg, after it was done we just went at it with regular forks and knifes. Thank you for your compliments on the photos, I'm lucky to have a very talented photographer for a partner.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 2, 2012, 2:33:00 PM  

This came out so perfect - so delicious - so honest and satisfying! I love your site because it gives such family-oriented meals. No frou-frou grub that is pretencious and un-doable. I really like your recipes because they are real and comforting.

Thank you so much for the amazing work you share with us :)

Posted by Anonymous The Bird Cage, at Feb 2, 2012, 2:34:00 PM  

The Bird Cage: Thank you. We here like good, real food but sometimes we love some level of frou-frou too, provided they are the kind we can reproduce in our kitchen. Hope you'll try this recipe and love it.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 2, 2012, 2:34:00 PM  

Hi dear. I can't help it.
I've been thinking about the flavors of this chicken for few days and now I must comment on it.
My 2 year old is (by some haunting spirit of the vegans out there) only wanting carbs and veges nowdays. She worships them. And banished any sort of meat out from her meals. I was told this is a phase. Well.. almost 2 weeks now and I'm still waiting for it so "phase-out"! So you'd have no idea how thrilled we were when this chook managed to enter her system (even if she instructed that only 1/4 of her spoon can be covered with the meat, and the rest should be tomatoes)! She LOVES tomatoes, I LOVE roast chicken and Khairul will eat anything with slab and slabs of butter on... :)

A family keeper this one, indeed. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by Anonymous Miza, at Feb 2, 2012, 2:35:00 PM  

Thanks Miza, am glad this recipe nourished your little one. The fact that he loves vege is really a plus point though!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 2, 2012, 2:35:00 PM  

I once put honey on my top of my chicken roast but when I cooked it nobody could taste the honey. I find that chicken tastes best cooked with sea salt. Regular salt ruins the taste for me.

Posted by Anonymous Mike, at Oct 2, 2012, 10:45:00 PM  

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