Since I last wrote about Jonathan cooking on his new Weber gas barbecue he’s been experimenting with rotisserie chicken. I say experimenting, but actually his first attempt was wonderful and he repeated it for us last night as we gathered as a family, with Nicola down from Birmingham, for Jonathan & Lyndsey’s last meal at my house before they move into their own today. It was an appropriate meal really, although it hadn’t been planned that way, for rotisserie chicken so vividly summons up memories of holidays in France, renting gites, when Nicola & Jonathan were small. We’d often go to the local butcher or deli to buy a rotisserie chicken for an easy supper. Nicola even mentioned this, so for us, ‘rotisserie chicken’ is about ‘family’.
Meat cooked in this way dates back to Medieval times; a form of roasting when the meat is skewered on a spit over an open fire and turned continually so that it is constantly basted, resulting in a wonderfully moist and tender meat with a crispy outside. The French word ‘rotisserie’ has been used since meat cooked in this way appeared in Paris shops in the middle of the 15th century. Of course, in Medieval times a servant boy – known as a ‘spit boy’ – was sat by the fire and his job was to turn the spit by hand. The chef responsible for the cooking is known as a rotisseur. Fortunately last night our rotisseur Jonathan had no need of a spit-boy or girl to sit for an hour and a half and turn the spit for him. Thanks to modern engineering and Weber, it was simply a matter of switching the rotisserie on while we watched in awe and some excitement as the chicken slowly turned and gradually became browner. Well, we didn’t watch all the time as the ‘oven’ has to be closed during cooking, but when we checked to see how it was doing.
While the actual cooking was easy, the preparation of the chicken was given some thought and care. Jonathan prepared a mixture of fresh rosemary, garlic, lemon, red onion, olive oil, salt, black pepper and some of Yiannis’s Greek herbs to stuff the chicken so that their flavours would seep into the chicken as it cooked.
He smeared the outside of the chicken liberally with extra virgin olive oil, seasoned it with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and a few more of the Greek herbs. The chicken was then put on the spit.
Timing obviously depends on the size of your chicken but ours took about an hour and a quarter. You set the oven to a standard temperature as you would an ordinary oven – so Jonathan cooked ours at 200C/Gas 6.
We might have been having a ‘French’ main course but our starter was more eclectic – ‘European’ as Jonathan described it. I made a small salad of beans, red onion, lots of parsley, seasoning and mixed with olive oil and cider vinegar (perhaps a touch of France here). We also had Spanish hams with French cornichons; Italian focaccia stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes from Your Bakery, Italian olives, and drank Spanish Cava.
Everything was easy because it had been a busy day: Jonathan, with Nicola’s help, transporting stuff from storage to Jonathan and Lyndsey’s new house; Lyndsey unpacking; and I was on ‘Nonna’ duty with 21-month old Freddie and ‘dog’ duty looking after Zeph, who seemed more disturbed by being in a new house than Freddie, who just thought it was all great fun. I decided to do a one-pot roasted vegetables to accompany the chicken. I’d had in mind roasted ratatouille but in the end decided against adding aubergine and added fennel instead, with some baby potatoes that I’d parboiled first. It was a glorious mixture of bright orange and yellow peppers, green courgettes, red tomatoes, onion, potatoes and fennel, all tossed in extra virgin olive oil, seasoned with salt, freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkling of dried oregano. It went into a hot oven (220C/200 Fan/ Gas 7) for about 45 minutes. I turned them a couple of times but mainly just left them to cook and caramelise.
When the chicken was ready, Jonathan left it to ‘rest’ for a few minutes and then carved it into portions.
We drank some Beaujolais-Villages with the meal.
The meat was gorgeous, so moist and tender with a lovely, caramelised crispy skin. The rotisserie really works well and makes a simple chicken into something special.
Earlier in the day Jonathan had discovered a bottle (50cl) of Monbazillac dessert wine in the bottom of a cupboard. ‘Let’s have this tonight,’ he said.
This is a particularly fine Monbazillac that I’ve been buying for years from Waitrose. Not that we drink it often – that bottle had been in my cupboard for a couple of years! – but I love the wine, it’s not too sweet and it also brings memories of long-ago French holidays when we visited Monbazillac, which is on the left bank of the Dordogne River, near Bergerac. To do it justice, I bought a whole Tarte Normande from Paul Bakery in the morning.
What a wonderful meal we had; a celebration of being together, Jonathan and Lyndsey’s new home, and having had their company for nearly six months. But they’re not far away … a 20-minute walk … which means I shall hopefully be regularly invited to sample more gastronomic delights from Jonathan’s barbecue!