A roast chicken is one of those meals that is super simple to accomplish and just as easy to screw up. I’m sure we’ve all experienced of overcooked, under-seasoned bird that feels like so much sawdust in your mouth, right?
Over the years I’ve found a slow-cooker to be a near foolproof way to “roast” a whole chicken without it drying out. Of course, it’s usually falling off the bone at that point, but I was willing to trade presentation for flavor in those instances. It’s tough to say no to such a simple, one-pot meal sometimes.
I recently had a wonderful oven-roasted chicken experience, thanks to the Romertopf Ovenpot or Clay Roaster* that showed up on my doorstep last month.
I’ve used a clay roaster in the past–they look great when brought to the table for serving and it’s fun to use something different now and then–but mine have always been glazed on the inside. The Romertopf is not glazed, and uses the porosity of the clay as part of the cooking process, cutting down the need for additional fat in your recipes.
The Romertopf is made from the finest red clay and works by holding moisture in th epores of the clay which prevents the dish from drying out as it cooks.
Before you load up the clay roaster, you soak (for the first use) or rinse (subsequent uses) both the base and the lid with cold water. The clay absorbs the water and the steam that’s released in the oven contributes to the cooking process as well as retains moisture in the food. According to the inserts, this property also made the roaster non-stick, which was probably the one claim I was most skeptical about.
Since I’d been craving a good roast chicken for a while, I opted to try out the roaster with this included recipe:
Roast Chicken and Peppers
3 1/2 lb oven-ready chicken
7 oz small onions
1 small red pepper, deseeded and sliced
1 small green pepper, deseeded and sliced
1 garlic clove
4 oz baby sweetcorn
4 oz button mushrooms
4 oz mange-tout (or French or runner beans)
1 Tbsp tomato puree
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
6 oz red wine or chicken stock
1. Soak the Romertopf.
2. Place the chopped garlic, sprig of thyme and salt and pepper inside the chicken. Place the chicken in the Romertopf and surround with onions, peppers and more sprigs of thyme and salt and pepper.
3. Mix the tomato puree with the wine/stock and pour over the chicken.
4. Cook in oven at 400 F.
5. Remove the pot from the oven and add sweetcorn, sliced mushrooms and mange-tout and cook for further 30 minutes.
6. Remove the chicken and vegetables and keep warm. Strain off the sauce, reduce if necessary. The amount of sauce can be increased by adding 5 oz of chicken stock to the sauce and thickening with 2/3 tsp cornflour dissolved in 3 Tbsp cold water. Whisk well until the sauce is brought to the boil and thickens.
7. Adjust seasoning and serve with the chicken and vegetables.
Boiled new potatoes sprinkled with chopped parsley are a delicious complement to this meal.
Cal. 660, Protein: Medium, Fat: Low, Carbohydrate: Low
Romertopf is German, so there are some minor translation might be necessary for folks who haven’t cooked with European recipes before (references to Gas Marks, Celsius, and metric measurements have been omitted in deference to my mostly-US readers). I couldn’t find baby sweetcorn in the store, so just skipped that ingredient, and skipped the tomato puree out of personal preference. I took small onions to mean pearl onions, and par-boiled and peels them while the roaster was soaking–pretty good time-management. For mange-tout I used snow peas and, for those who are wondering, cornflour is the same as cornstarch in this instance, not cornmeal.
The one puzzle I had was how long to cook the chicken in step 4 (that wasn’t an omission on my part, it wasn’t in the directions). Thankfully the next recipe, for Spring Chicken in Lemon Sauce, listed the initial cooking time as an hour, so I went with that and it worked fine.
Which reminds me of another cool facet of clay roaster cooking: no waiting for the oven to pre-heat. Because you don’t want to subject this sort of vessel to abrupt temperature changes, you place it in the oven cold and let the oven and the roaster warm up together.
And not a thing stuck. Not the chicken, not the vegetables, the sauce poured right out without trouble, I was pretty impressed by that part. And the meal was excellent, a perfect Sunday supper.
I’m looking forward to using the Romertopf again.
*FTC Disclaimer: I was given a Romertopf to use for the purposes of review. All opinions expressed are my own, based on my experience with the roaster.