Frances’s perfect roast chicken
Choose the best bird you can afford; a chicken that has run around the yard instead of cooped up in the dark all its life will give a thick crisp skin, flavourful meat that does not fall apart when you bite into it, and very good stock when you boil the carcase.
We like stuffing with our chicken, but there is a danger that if you stuff the cavity, the bird does not cook through, unless you cook it beyond edibility. And if you bake the stuffing in a dish, you do not get the lovely chicken juices seeping into it.
Aiming for flavoursome stuffing, and a moist juicy bird, I worked out that the best way is to spatchcock it, cutting out the whole of the back and flattening the bird by pressing down on the breastbone.
You need, for four people, a 1.5 kg chicken, 1 bay leaf, 2 cloves, ½ lemon, Gozo sea salt and pepper.
Remove any excess fat from the body cavity. Cut the back from the bird, use this part to make stock, and flatten the chicken as described. Spike the bay leaf with the cloves. Rub the bird all over with the cut lemon, squeezing the juice over the bird. Lightly season on both sides. Prepare the stuffing as below and heap it in the centre of a greased roasting tin, so it covers about the same area as the flattened chicken. Put the bay leaf on top of the stuffing, as well as the squeezed lemon cut into strips. Place the chicken on top of the stuffing.
Roast for 45 minutes in a preheated oven at 200˚C, gas mark 6, and test the chicken. Juices, which are released when you pierce the inner thigh with a skewer, should be clear, not pink. If not yet cooked, return it to the oven for another 15 minutes or so. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter, with the stuffing spooned into portions around it.