Comfort food – roast chicken

My little boy starts school tomorrow.
I’m terrified. I know there are worse things to fear than a good standard of free education for your child, and I feel very ungrateful and middle class about it all (don’t I have better things to worry about? Well, luckily for me, no). But my little boy is a July baby, he is only just four years old. He still has a pot belly and has only just figured out how to jump. He’s a toddler and he’s going to school.
I’m sure there must be some benefit to sending our children to school so young – most other countries don’t start til they’re six – but I haven’t come across them, and no teacher I’ve met has attempted to defend it.
But start he must. And the worst thing I can do is make a fuss about it. So I’ve got a big grin ready for tomorrow morning, and my waterproof mascara.
Tonight we kicked off what I hope to be our Sunday night ritual. I think rituals and routines are nice for kids. They know exactly what to expect and are comforted by that. First they had a bath and hair wash (ok, I didn’t say it was a nice ritual, or one they would enjoy!) and then we plumped up all the cushions and plonked them both down in their pyjamas to watch a marathon set of Peppa Pig while me and Mr McDonald put finishing touches to the roast chicken.
Then we all sat down and tucked in. There’s something immensely comforting about roast chicken, you can never get bored of it – different stuffings (we did couscous, pine nuts and sage), different cuts – breast or leg, different accompaniments – traditional veg or a salad, keep it fresh. But at the same time it is reassuringly familiar. I hope to do this every Sunday, I like the idea of creating cosy family memories for the children. It’s true, we may get a little bored of chicken, but despite being a lean machine Mr McDonald has just been diagnosed with high cholesterol so we have to stick to white meat most of the time. But it gives me a chance to perfect my roast potatoes, which frankly, suck. Never crispy, always a bit sludgy. If anyone’s got any tips I’d be most grateful! Or roast chicken serving suggestions, to liven things up! Claire

16 Comments

  1. A couple of good tips for roast potatoes is to par-boil them and give them a shake in the pan to ruff up the edge’s which helps to make them extra crispy,make sure the roasting pan is smoking hot before you put the potatoes in it, I use a combination of butter and oil or if I’m feeling indulgent then goose fat. The potatoes need space inbetween them or they won’t get crispy so use a big tray. I guarantee if you do all these things you will have some of the best roast potaoes ever!!

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  2. I agree with the commenter above about the roast pots :)

    Also, from personal experience, I’d just like to say you don’t have to send your child to school if you don’t want to. I felt obliged to send my daughter at 4, but now she’s nearly 10, I realise with hindsight that I could’ve easily home-educated her for a year with no ill effects. At the time I felt obliged to fit in with the education system, I didn’t want her to be ‘left out’, I wasn’t sure I’d be a good enough teacher.

    Retrospectively – I totally could’ve done it. Mostly Reception is about play, and children are incredibly adaptive. We moved house and she changed schools at the end of Year 1 and fitted in easily with a new peer group. Obviously your circumstances might prevent you from being able to do so, but if not – you can always change your mind. Good luck!

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  3. My favourite photo to take every year is the first photo of the year of the children in school uniform. My two girls are summer born, so I know how you’re feeling. My second daughter in particular only just looks ready to start school this year and she’s in year 1! I am going to be totally bereft when my son starts next year.
    As for potatoes, well maybe you are cooking them with the chicken in the oven at the same time, which causes them to stew a bit. My tip would be to give them longer and turn the heat up once the chicken is out of the oven. They only seem to really begin to crisp up beautifully in the last 15minutes or so, once all other items are out of the oven. The chicken will hold it’s heat for at least half an hour.
    Good luck tomorrow!

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  4. Hope it all goes well tomorrow, I’m sure it will. Could you please give the recipe for the couscous stuffing & do you actually stuff it inside the bird? (possibly a stupid question)!

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  5. Great roast pot advice! I always keep them in with the chicken, and probably cram far too many in the baking tray as I love them so much – they prob steam rather than roast! I will give all those tips a try and report back.
    Anonymous: I have thought about home schooling, but a) I’d be crap. b) I’d be crap! Also, little boy has place in really good local school, and there’s no guarantee he’d get that place a year later. But I have to say, the thought that I could always take him out and home school, if he really loathed it, is quite reassuring.
    Amelia: ok, I confess, my husband made the stuffing but he’s downstairs watching match of the day so you’ll have to trust me on this. Essentially it was some cooked left-over couscous from lunch which he squeezed lemon into, seasoned, threw in a few toasted pine nuts (quite a few, he’s addicted to the things), and cut up some sage leaves and stirred them in too. Some sultanas would probably have been a good addition. And yes, he did stuff the bird with it.

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  6. I hope this morning was not too bad for either of you. There is nothing as resilient as a child, as long as they have plenty of hugs, friendly smiles and a good packed lunch. Keep smiling and remember that you won’t be the only one in the queue feeling like this, talk to the other mothers, a cup of coffee and biscuit with someone going through the same is a great way of dealing with it.

    I agree with all the above as regards to roast potatoes, par boiled, shaken and roasted in their own tin. May I suggest a sandwich for you that, whilst certainly not taking away the feelings of this morning, may bring a small measure of comfort. Take two thick slices of crusty white bread, liberally slathered with butter, plonk lots of cold chicken on, I think thigh is best for this, a good twist of the pepper mill, a crunch of flaked sea salt and finally, the best bit, spread the top slice with plenty of cold bread sauce. Cut in half and enjoy. For those of you with a healthy diposition, please feel free to add tomato and lettuce. Heaven on a plate! I am sure some of you will be very unsure, however, please try it. I promise that you will buy larger chickens for Sunday from now on, just so that there is enough for the Monday sandwich!

    My only other suggestion for the Sunday chicken is to make the gravy as you go. Add a glug of wine, some water, preferably from the veg, and some garlic and herbs. Keep the liquid topped up throughout cooking. I helps to keep the bird moist and succulent, makes the most superb gravy and helps with the washing up as nothing has been welded to the bottom of tha pan as always happened to me!

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  7. Oh yum! Sounds amazing. I’m ravenous just thinking about it. I always buy the biggest chicken possible because the things you can make with cooked chicken are endless. The stock is bubbling as I write! I don’t have all those ingredients on me, but next Monday I will be better prepared!
    And Rufus, son #1, barely a backward glance this morning. I pick him up in 50 mins so fingers crossed he’s had fun.

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  8. Hi Claire
    the other thing you should know is that you’re not obliged to send your son to school until he is 5…you can inform the headteacher and come to an arrangement as to how long/often he will attend. Legally, the school can’t give your place away, but there is no statutory requirement for him to be there until the day he turns 5.
    I’m at the other end of the spectrum: daughter #3 started today and just couldn’t wait to get there and be just like her big sisters…joyful for her, tearful for me.
    Finally roast potatos: nothing but a king edward or a maris piper will do.
    sarah

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  9. After you smoosh the par boiled potatoes round the pan a bit, add a bit of flour to coat them. Helps them go nice and crispy. Otherwise, what everyone else said. Oh, and about HE too 😉

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  10. Hello Claire I have a confession. Brian and I are complete routine junkies so we have roast chicken Every Tuesday Night. And now that Hannah is starting nursery full time, she will be having some form of chicken in her lunch Every Wednesday. Chicken is a comfort, and so is routine. Even my mother knows to ask how was the chicken if she happens to call from South Africa on a Tuesday. Anyway, you were after some tips, not useless rambling. I always put half a scooped out butternut squash in with the chicken, which goes tremendously well with a few pieces of feta cheese plucked out of the inevitable routine salad.And somehow the chicken always tastes better when I take it out about 10 minute before I really intended to. Except now that I have been doing this for (gasp) years, I can’t really remember how long I intended it to be there….

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  11. Brilliant roast pots advice – I have no excuse from now on. And Sally, I love that idea even your mum knows what you’ve just had for dinner. And inspired idea for butter nut squash. I never bother with them because I can’t be bothered to turn the oven on for them, but if I shove them in with the chicken, then that’s a great ingredient to last me through the week! And we’ve always got feta in the fridge, so that’s a nice quick supper or lunch.

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  12. Roast potatoes: I read an interview with Michael Caine who likes making big roast dinners and he said that, contrary to the usual advice to put the par-boiled potatoes into a preheated tin in which fat has been melted, he puts them, with the fat, into a cold tin. I tried this and my teenage daughter said, oooh these are really crunchy. The rest of the family were equally enthusiastic and so now I make them that way all the time. Don’t know why it works though!
    all the best
    Kate

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  13. Kate – I heard Michael Caine say that to much controversy on Desert Island Discs and didn’t believe it, but tried it. It worked for me too! Rewriting cookery books all over the globe! Lucy

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  14. I parboil, rough up, then tip a light coating of polenta over them while they’re still steaming in the colander. Then I don’t just put them in hot fat, I give them a good hard frying for 5 mins before they go in the oven. Also: leave them in the oven and whack the heat up as high as it’ll go while the meat is resting, and get them to the table last of all. It’s all a bit cheaty, but it’s foolproof.

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  15. Cheaty-shmeaty – who cares if it works?

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  16. Ooh intrigued by the Michael Caine method. I used to get smooshy roasties and then I started using just oil rather than butter or lard. So I parboil and rough up (as lots of other posters) and then heat up a mix of olive oil and sunflower oil so it doesn’t burn – add the potatoes when it’s hot and they come up nice and crispy.
    Not so good at roast parsnips though – anyone got any tips on those?

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