Since moving to London, we’ve experienced a variety of British customs. The full English breakfast, cream tea in Cornwall, queuing at any opportunity, eating Turkey on Christmas Day (our American families eat Turkey on Thanksgiving and Ham on Christmas). But one of our favorite traditions that we’ve whole heartedly embraced is the classic Sunday Roast.
The Sunday Roast originated as a post-church Sunday afternoon meal, which consisted of a roast meat, vegetables, and Yorkshire Pudding. (Yorkshire Pudding is not dessert as I originally thought, but basically a popover or airy biscuit.) Nowadays, many pubs serve classic Sunday Roasts to carry on the tradition, as I’m sure many families do in their own homes as well.
When we first moved to London, we tried Sunday Roast with some friends at a pub in Marylbone, and were then also invited to Sunday Roast by some family friends who live outside of London. Both meals left us feeling as full as we feel after Thanksgiving dinner, which led me to wonder how on earth Brits eat this much food every weekend.
We decided to adopt this tradition, but simplify it so that we aren’t over-indulging every weekend. One of our favorite versions that we cook most Sundays is Roast Chicken.
We particularly like this meal because cooking a whole chicken this way (v.s. simply pan-frying or baking chicken breasts) results in incredibly tender meat, and forces us to use the whole chicken so no part of the bird is wasted.
Every week, I look forward to dedicating Sunday’s whole afternoon to cooking with each other, and to sitting down and enjoying a nutritious, hearty meal. One of the best parts? There are almost always left overs! We sometimes even roast two chickens so that we’ll have a whole bird’s worth of meat to divide up amongst salads during the week, and to put into a chicken soup that we can eat that week or freeze for a later-meal when we’re feeling lazy about cooking. We almost always use the leftover bones to make chicken bone-broth – recipe on this to come!
Sunday Roast Chicken (Adapted From Julia Child’s Classic Roast Chicken Recipe)
- Prep Time: 30 min
- Bake Time: 50 min – 1 hr 50 min (depending on size of chicken)
- Makes: 4 servings
- 1 whole chicken, around 2kg / 4lb (we have found that free-range organic chicken from the butcher tastes noticeably better than generic store-brand chicken)
- Salt, sea or kosher
- Pepper, freshly ground
- 1 small onion, peeled and sliced in half
- 1 small lemon, sliced
- 1 small bunch of fresh thyme (dried thyme works OK if that’s all you have)
- 3 tablespoons of butter, softened
- 1 cup of chopped carrots
- 1 cup of chopped sweet potatoes
- 1 cup of chopped onions
- Two cutting boards
- Paper towel
- Small bowl
- Chef’s knife
- Butcher’s string
- Mixing bowl
- Large roasting pan
- Instant thermometer
- Tin foil
- An hour or so before you’re ready to cook the chicken, remove it from the fridge so that it can come to room temperature.
- Remove the butter from the fridge as well, and place it on the counter so it softens.
- As the chicken is coming to room temperature, pat it dry with a sheet of paper towel.
- Rub the salt and pepper all over the bird, inside and out. (We like to mix our salt and pepper in a small bowl first, so then it is easy to take from with contaminated hands.)
- Pre-heat the oven to 220C (425F).
- Stuff the inside of the chicken with the small peeled onion, the slices of lemon, and the thyme.
- Tie the legs of the chicken together with the butcher’s string.
- Rub 2 tbsp of the softened butter all over the outside of the chicken. This will result in a crispy, rich outer skin.
- When the oven has come to temperature and the chicken is no longer cool, place the chicken in the oven and roast at 220C (425F) for 15 minutes. Roasting at this high temperature will brown the skin.
- While the bird is roasting for the first 15 minutes, chop the carrots, sweet potatoes, and onions.
- After 15 minutes, decrease the temperature of the oven to 175C (350F).
- Mix the carrots, sweet potatoes, and onions together in a bowl. Toss with the remaining butter, salt, and pepper. I like to sprinkle with a little bit of olive oil, too.
- After the chicken has been in the oven for 30 minutes total (15 minutes at 220C and 15 minutes at 175C), pull the roasting pan out and quickly toss the vegetables into the bottom of the pan, mixing around.
- Cook for an additional 35 minutes, and then check the internal temperature of the chicken thighs for doneness using an instant thermometer (they should reach ~73C [165F]). Whole chickens should cook for approximately 45 minutes plus 7 minutes per half-kg / one lb (so this 2kg / 4lb chicken should cook for around 73 minutes).
- Once the chicken has cooked to the proper internal temperature, remove from the oven. Cover the whole pan with tin foil and allow the chicken to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. This will ensure that the juices are absorbed into the meat, and result in an incredibly tender meal! (Jaques Pepin has a pretty good video about how to carve up a roasted chicken.)
- Enjoy with a nice bottle of red wine or some pale ale!