This is an old family classic, as made by Mrs. Paleovirtus’ dad, my pa-in-law, our dearly missed Per.
It makes for an ideal easy Sunday dinner, especially when you’re running to a fairly tight schedule, as we were in this case, with a train to catch later that day. You should be able to find everything you need for this dish at any half-decent street-corner grocery store.
This recipe makes use of a Römertopf, the German version of the clay pot.
Clay pot cooking is a cook’s dream – simple prep, then chuck the pot into a cold-start oven and forget about it until the timer rings. You really, really have to work at it to screw a clay pot recipe up, and the results are invariably sublime.
This cooking technique is also beloved of nutritionists everywhere, as it is as low fat as you want it to be, and seals in all those nutrients that otherwise might be lost.
- 1 fresh whole chicken -this particular bird weighed 1.1kg
- dried tarragon
- green apples, roughly chopped – here I used Granny Smiths (she’ll be furious when she finds out)
- onions, roughly chopped
- whole, peeled garlic cloves
- white pepper
- Soak your clay pot for about 30 minutes in cold water.
- While the pot is soaking, prepare the bird. Rub the outside of the bird with a cut garlic clove. Season the outside of the bird with salt, white pepper, and dried tarragon. Stuff the cavity of the bird with roughly chopped apples, onions, and whole garlic cloves.
- Once the pot has soaked, prepare it for the oven. Simply place the bird in the pot, and surround it by more roughly chopped apples and onions, and whole garlic cloves. Place the lid on the pot.
- Place the pot in a cold oven, so that the bird will be sitting somewhere towards the middle of the oven. Set the oven temperature to 200 degrees C, and turn the oven on. Electric ovens should not be set to heat up on any form of “Fast” mode. Set your timer to 1½ hours. Now sit back, relax, and let your clay pot work its magic.
- After the 1½ hour mark, take the pot out of the oven and inspect the bird. If the bird passes the usual test for done-ness, i.e. the juices running clear, get ready to plate up. If the bird is not quite done, return the pot to the oven and cook for a further 20 minutes or so, and then test again, repeating if necessary until the bird is done.
- Not only will the bird now be tender, moist, and full of flavour, but the apples, onions, and garlic will also be cooked to perfection, and a delicious sauce will have formed in the bottom of the pot.
- Remove the chicken from the pot, and carve to your requirements. You could serve the apples, onions, and garlic as we do, i.e. as they come out of the pot, as a side dish in their own right, or you could blitz them with the sauce formed at the bottom of the pot to produce a thick gravy. Alternatively, you could serve the sauce “au naturel”, or thicken it with a spot of Paleo friendly thickening agent, such as Arrowroot.
We serve the bird with a simple salad dressed with nothing more fancy than fresh lemon juice and olive oil.
The only possible addition I can think of to this recipe would be to perhaps include a bunch of fresh herbs, such as tarragon, thyme, or rosemary, etc, and perhaps some quartered lemons in the stuffing.
For me, part of the appeal of this dish is the aftermath – getting your hands on the carcass, and picking it clean….!