Bensoir! It's me, Benjamin. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You may have read stuff I've written elsewhere, but here on my own blog as Ben Viveur I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others, so pretty much anything goes.

BV is about enjoying real food and drink in the real world. I showcase recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. And as a critic I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended. Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Ultimate Roast Chicken Sandwich

People don't seem to have roast chicken as much as they did when I was a child.

I've no idea why. It's just one of those things that has changed over time. Back in the 1980s people would always be roasting chickens like there was no tomorrow.

Yep, that's a roast chicken alright
'Hey Ben, why don't you come over for dinner, my mum's doing roast chicken then we'll play on the Commodore 64.'

'I'm just going to finish driving my Ford Capri around whilst listening to Saxon, then I'm going to cook a roast chicken'

'That's right, kids, it's roast chicken again. Should be ready after Metal Mickey. Have a can of Quatro in the mean time.'

...and so on.

(Your memories may vary slightly, obviously.)

Ah, nostalgia

It wouldn't always be a 'proper' roast dinner either, with all peas'n'shit. You'd have roast chicken and chips sometimes, maybe with some tinned sweetcorn or even spaghetti hoops.

Maybe just a nice chicken sandwich if that's what you wanted? (Though possibly not the ultimate chicken sandwich because I hadn't perfected the recipe yet. Also bread in the 1980s was shit.)

Assembling a great sandwich
As a nation chicken is still one of our staples - there are vastly more fried chicken places on the high street than there were 30 years ago, and tikka masala is our national dish - but we seem to have lost our passion for stuffing the bastards and whacking them in the oven for a couple of hours.

Fuck, even I can't remember the last time I roasted a chicken. (Apart from the one I roasted this weekend to remind myself that I still knew how to do it, obviously).

The thing is, I think a lot of people get put off with the idea of boiling vegetables and roasting potatoes and having everything come together at just the right time - but the truth is that roasting a bird doesn't have to involve a lot of faffing around peeling potatoes and scrubbing carrots.

So here's a relatively simple but highly effective recipe for pot-roasting a chicken - and it makes the ultimate roast chicken sandwich.

Stuffing on the inside and a wine glaze on the outside adds contrasting flavour dimensions that are hard to beat, and ensures the meat becomes moister than a highly aroused fish (which I might do for my next recipe!)

The Ultimate Roast Chicken sandwich

Ingredients - these guidelines are for a medium sized chicken:

Chicken, ideally free range, whole and prepped for roasting

For the stuffing:

Sausagemeat, 1lb
Pancetta cubes (or lardons or chopped smoked bacon), a good handful
Onion, one large, roughly chopped

About to get my hands dirty...
For the glaze:

Chicken stock cube, one, crumbled
Olive oil, 2 tablespoons
Red wine, a decent dash
Celery salt
Black pepper

To serve:

Fresh wholemeal rolls
Cherry tomatoes


The first thing to do is make your stuffing, so start by combining your chopped onion with sausagemeat and pancetta.

(Unless you know a butcher who provides top notch sausagemeat, your best bet, counter-intuitively, is probably to buy some quality herby Lincolnshire sausages with a high meat content, slice the fuckers open and remove the sausagemeat manually.)

Mix these three ingredients together thoroughly in a mixing bowl and prepare for your hands to get covered in fat.

Poultry fisting...
(As an aside, chickens seldom come with giblets these days, but if you have them to hand, you can chop them up and include them in the stuffing mix for an optional offally treat.)

Once your stuffing is ready, cram as much of it as possible into the cavity of the chicken - any that doesn't fit can be cooked as stuffing balls but it's really good to get as much of it as possible inside the bird so the fat and flavour can work its magic from within.

After stuffing the bird and putting it in a big pot or roasting pan along with any spare stuffing balls (and having washed your hands again) you can make the glaze.

Crumble a chicken stock cube into a little olive oil, add the wine, the celery salt and the black pepper, plus a generous quantity of paprika and mix it all up.

The consistency should be a thick liquid with thicker pastey bits in it - a good marker that you've got the ratios right is that you can spread it over the entire surface of the chicken and more of it stays on the bird's skin than pools at the bottom of your roasting pot.

Now you're ready to whack it in the oven. A medium-to-high temperature of about 175 is probably right, and the exact amount of time you need to cook it for will depend on the size of the chicken. Ours was perfect in around two hours.

(You'll be treated to some delicious aromas while it cooks, but that does not mean that it's ready to eat after half an hour just because it smells good enough to do so!)

Glaze it up good!
I'd suggest taking it out the oven for basting a couple of times while it cooks to ensure moisture and crispy skin - plenty of rich jus will accumulate in the bottom of the pot.

When it's done, you can start carving/shredding the meat from the carcass - the breast meat should be white and yielding throughout, the skin should be crispy and the whole thing should be beautifully moist.

Serve simply on wholemeal rolls, making sure every portion gets some of the lovely stuffing and a couple of spoonfuls of the jus as well as big chunks of meat.

Maybe whack a wing or a leg on the plate as an extra treat.

A bit of coleslaw and a few cherry tomatoes and you've got a seriously tasty roast chicken sandwich right there.

Of course there's nothing to stop you using this recipe as the basis for a full-on Sunday roast if feel like it. In that case you'd probably want to keep your roast potatoes separate rather than underneath the bird because the wine might prevent them from crisping up - you could do my very own garlic-roasted new potatoes for example.


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