Thanksgiving is not a holiday in the Netherlands but I still like to make the nostalgic roast chicken dinner whenever possible. For me, it’s a ridiculously comforting meal and a little reminder of home.
Finding a whole turkey is difficult enough here and it’s useless anyways as most ovens in the Netherlands are too small for roasting a whole turkey. My solution was to do a nice roast chicken dinner with all the similar Thanksgiving style sides.
It definitely hit the spot.
This recipe is for those wanting to enjoy a roast chicken dinner at home for the holidays or for those wanting a little extra comfort in their lives.
Why Buy a Whole Bird?
Buying a whole bird will save you money. A roasted chicken can feed up to 4 hungry people plus the leftover bones can make soup the next day. And let’s not forget about the glorious leftover chicken sandwiches you can make the next day too!
Should I Brine My Bird?
Yes. Do you have to brine it? No.
Brining is a great because it seasons the interior of the meat and keeps the meat juicier. It’s also a lot harder to overcook a brined chicken so it’s the perfect safety net for the home cook.
If you have the time then definitely go for the brine. You just need to brine it the night before and then dry it in the fridge the next morning or for up to 3 days.
Another important point to note is that brined chickens or turkeys tend to cook faster than un-brined. The brined chicken was ready about 10-15 minutes sooner than the unbrined.
That Crispy Skin
For me, a good roast chicken dinner is all about that delicious and crispy chicken skin. So over the years I’ve picked up a few tricks to achieve my dreams of perfect crispy chicken skin.
Rule #1 – Drying
Drying the chicken in the fridge is the most important step to achieving crispy chicken or turkey skin. In some professional kitchens they dry their chickens for up to 3 days with extra fans in the fridge. Of course you don’t have to do 3 days of drying but 1 day or even half a day of drying in the fridge will make a huge difference.
Rule #2 – High heat
In order to achieve that beautiful Maillard reaction, you need high heat. Set the oven really high first, then turn it down to cook the chicken gradually.
Dark Meat vs. White Meat Dilemma
One problem with cooking any bird whole is that the white meat always cooks faster than the dark meat. If you really want perfection then it’s best to split the legs from the breast meat and cook them separately.
But for me, I love the idea of cooking a whole bird and it’s way more satisfying to present a whole roasted bird on the table as opposed to two halves of a bird. (Also your guests will probably think you’re crazy if you serve two chicken halves).
The Roast Chicken Dinner Gravy
You gotta have gravy! It’s so important I’ve got two recipes because I really want you to make the gravy. It’s a must!
This year I made a little bit more of a “cheffy” gravy with seared mushrooms, red wine and thickened it with xanthan gum. This makes it delicious, beautifully shiny and gluten-free.
But I know a lot of people do not have xanthan gum on hand so I’ve got a more traditional gravy here made with flour and butter.
Oldschool Mushroom Gravy
- 40g butter + 15g for cooking the mushrooms
- 40g flour
- 500ml hot chicken stock
- 250g chestnut mushrooms
- 1 clove garlic (rasped through a microplane or garlic press)
- 2 sprigs parsley (leaves picked and finely chopped)
- 1 squeeze of lemon
- Sear the mushrooms in the 10g of hot foamy butter.
- Once the mushrooms are nicely browned add the puréed garlic. Toss and set aside in another bowl.
- Melt the equal parts butter and flour in a saucepan and whisk to remove the lumps. Whisk until golden brown and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- Slowly stir in the hot chicken stock and whisk out any lumps. Add any drippings or juices from the roast chicken.
- Add the cooked mushrooms to the gravy.
- Bring to a boil and simmer for about 2 minutes or until the gravy has a nice consistency.
- Finish with fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Season the gravy with salt at the end because the juices from the chicken can be pretty salty from the brine.
A thermometer makes the Thanksgiving experience much more relaxed. Some thermometers can even be put in the oven that set off an alarm when it reaches the perfect temperature. Too easy!
If you don’t have a thermometer, I recommend this one
This is important for achieving deliciously crispy potatoes and a nicely browned bird. If you use a roasting pan with sides that are too high your bird will be steamed on the sides and only browned on the top. On the other hand if you use a pan with too shallow sides you might spill juices and fat all over the oven (and nobody wants to clean the oven during Thanksgiving).
Before you begin with this recipe the goal is to have your chicken brined overnight, and drying uncovered in the fridge for the entire day.
- roasting pan or casserole
- Instant read thermometer
- 1 whole chicken 1.4 kg/ 3 lbs, the best quality you can afford
- 5 whole medium sized russet potatoes washed and peeled
- 2 onions peeled and cut in half
- 1 bunch thyme
- 1/2 lemon
- 2 tbsp soft butter
- 20 ml vegetable oil
- sea salt and pepper
- 250 g mixed mushrooms oyster, button or chestnut mushrooms
- 500 ml chicken broth
- 2 tbsp butter for cooking the mushrooms
- 1 clove garlic peeled and grated with a microplane
- 1 tsp honey
- 100 ml red wine dry red wine
- ⅛ tsp xanthan gum
- salt and pepper to taste
- Remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes prior to cooking. Set the oven to 250°C/ 475°F.
- Cut the potatoes into big wedges and line up in the roasting tray with the onions. Add 150 ml water to the pan with the potatoes and onions.
- Place the chicken on top of the peeled vegetables. Rub with the 20g soft butter and place ½ a lemon and the bunch of thyme inside the chicken. If the chicken was brined don't season it, if it wasn't brined season liberally all over the skin.
- Put the chicken in the hot oven and immediately turn down the heat to 200°C/ 400°F. Cook until the thigh meat reaches 165°F/ 74°C or the juices run clear in the leg meat when checked with a knife (Approx. 1 hour for brined and 1 hour + 15 for unbrined).
- While the chicken is cooking you can make any additional side dishes or chill out for a bit.
- When the chicken is ready, pull it out of the oven and carefully transfer the bird onto a plate with high sides. Cover the chicken with tin foil and let it rest for about 25 minutes in a warm place. Discard the onions from the potatoes and remove any liquid from the roasting dish. If there is liquid left over then save this for the gravy.
- Add the oil to the potatoes and toss around in the pan. Check the seasoning on the potatoes. If you used a brined chicken the potatoes might be salty enough already. If not, season the potatoes and put back into the oven at 250°C/ 475°F for about 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.
- Now start cooking the mushrooms in butter and brown them nicely. As soon as the mushrooms are browned, turn off the heat, hit them with the garlic, toss in the pan and deglaze with the red wine. Don't season this gravy until the end.
- Reduce the red wine until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the chicken stock and reduce by ⅓.
- To finish the sauce, add the honey, the ⅛ tsp of xanthan and 1 tbsp of butter. Whisk until completely incorporated. Check the consistency. If it's too thin then cook it a little longer. Keep the sauce warm.
- Once the potatoes have a beautiful golden colour remove from the pan and drain on paper towel.
- Check the chicken again – all the those beautiful juices that dripped out the chicken while it rested need to go into the gravy. Add the juices and bring the gravy up to a boil before serving. Place everything to share on the table and carve the chicken at the table or slice it and serve it like in the picture. Enjoy!
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