Day 6: Thyme-roasted Chicken with Mixed Root Vegetables and Gravy

10 Jan

The Bovril company that makes jars of beef paste was formed at the end of the 19th century. Combined with hot water, some people drank it as a straight beef broth to keep warm and save on fuel. But my Granny swore by it for gravy. Especially with roast beef.

Image Credit: World War 2 Pictures

Since meat rations were tight, stock wasn’t typically something butchers sold much of during the war. So these meat pastes were quite popular. When reader Maureen Minor was kind enough to write in and tell me a little about her experiences during the war, it inspired me to go with one large cut of meat, on the basis that I’m buying for a whole family, and then repurposing the meat to make it last throughout the week. Here are Maureen’s recollections:

Your blog brought back many memories of rations in 1940 till 1945 and 1946. My mother used to buy a roast of beef or lamb or pork with almost all the family rations. We would have it roasted on Sunday. As cold meat on Tuesday, the leftovers were for stew on Wednesday. all of which fed the whole family. We would have a meatless day of fish which was not rationed. Fish were always fresh from the fishmonger, Plaice, cod,herring, skate and smoked haddock. We never had shrimp or lobster since all those were fished off the coast in danger from mines etc. We often had a meatless day with fresh veggies from the garden and also fruit in season from the garden. I don’t remember ever being hungry. I think your family must have been refugees form France living in Kent. I had several refugees from Europe in my school, from Holland and France too. I went to school in Wimbledon near London as a boarder for part of the time. So I remember having French lessons in the air raid shelter. During the worst of the Blitz our school was closed so I had a whole summer off! Thanks for you recipe for parsnip and potato roesti. -Maureen Minor

Inspired by her, I took a whole chicken and used the carcass to make a gravy. Add some root veggies and you have a meal.

Thyme-roasted Chicken with Mixed Root Vegetables and Gravy

6 Servings

1 small local chicken
2 cups red wine
1/2 bunch thyme
1/2 bunch rosemary
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 horse carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 or 3 black peppercorns
Salt and pepper
2 bunches young carrots, peeled and topped
4 or 5 small parsnips, peeled
1 turnip, cut large dice

Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Using a carving knife, remove the left breast, leg and wing from the chicken carcass in one piece. Do the same with the right breast, leg and wing. Reserve both portions of chicken in the fridge. Remove all skin and fat from the chicken carcass and discard it. Brush a foil-lined sheet tray with a little of the oil and do the same with the carcass. Roast the chicken carcass in the oven until it has turned a dark golden brown. Then remove form the heat and put the carcass in a stock pot. Top with water just to cover and bring the water to a boil. Simmer for 4 to 6 hours. (In the final hour of simmering, add the onion, leeks, carrots, celery and peppercorns. When finished, strain and degrease. This is the chicken stock that will be the base of the gravy. Reduce until thick and flavorful.)

While the chicken stock is simmering, take the sheet tray the carcass was roasted on and remove any remaining oil. Then place it over the a low heat. Deglaze it with 1/2 of the red wine and scrape any solids from the bottom of the pan. Add a few sprigs of the rosemary and thyme and simmer until slightly reduced. Remove and strain this mixture, then degrease. Reserve.

1 hour before the stock has finished, season the 2 portions of chicken with salt and pepper. Place on a greased sheet tray and roast in the oven with some more thyme until the skin is golden brown. Add the carrots, parsnips and turnips to the tray, seasoning with salt and thyme, then reduce the heat to 350ºF and continue to roast until the chicken and vegetables are fully cooked. Remove the chicken from the tray and put on a board to rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, do the same thing with the sheet tray as you did before, deglazing it with the remaining red wine, reducing slightly with herbs, then straining and degreasing it. Add to the reserved mixture from the carcass. When the chicken stock has reduced sufficiently, add the wine mixtures and season the gravy to taste.

Arrange the root vegetables on a serving tray. Carve the 2 halves of the chicken into individual portions and serve with the gravy. This goes well with mashed potatoes.


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