Roast chicken that’s a party in the mouth

Want to produce the most delicious, crispy, tasty chicken? Don’t forget two key principles

Domni Kemp’s  Persian chicken with mango and fennel salad. Photograph: Cyril Byrne /The Irish Times

Domni Kemp’s Persian chicken with mango and fennel salad. Photograph: Cyril Byrne /The Irish Times

 

Sometimes, every now and then, I manage to conjure up something pretty special in the kitchen (if I do say so myself). And for a brief period, all is well with the world.

And this week, well, this week, it’s a case of . . . OMG.

However teenagery that sounds, it’s how I felt when I came up with my new favourite chicken dish.

This Persian chicken is a crazily tasty, lip-smacking hit of umami – fragrant with mint, lime and garlic and delivering a piquant punch of chilli, tamari and fish sauce. It’s also a great advert for the magic of marinating.

As I’ve written before, chicken – as a mild, all-things-to-all-people kind of meat – is a fantastic foil for stronger flavours.

This dish is a true ‘party in the mouth’, and like many of the chicken recipes that have featured in this column lately, in this instance it is the bird’s skin, and its tendency to caramelise in all sorts of delicious ways under the influence of heat, that makes it so irresistible.

If the thought of all that skin is too much, feel free to trim it a little, but only a little. Sure, the marinating helps on the flavour front – even if only for an hour or two – but it’s what happens in the oven that really lifts this dish firmly out of the ordinary. The fat renders and combines with all of those other flavours to produce the most delicious, crispy, tasty chicken.

This dish also neatly illustrates a couple of key principles in cooking. The first is not to overload the roasting pan. It’s important to leave enough space between the chicken pieces to allow hot air to circulate, otherwise they steam rather than roast. The second is to persist.

If you’re tempted to peek 20 minutes in, you will see an awful lot of liquid, but if you persevere, it evaporates to produce the most succulent chicken.

If, by the end of it, you are still not seeing it crisp up, whack it under your grill for five to 10 minutes. That will sort it out for you.

To go with it is a salad that also combines the sweet with the fragrant – a fresh, clean salad that pairs soft, ripe mango with finely sliced fennel and a scattering of herbs. All it needs to finish it off is a light tossing in olive oil and lemon juice. This is my new favourite salad.

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