Monday, January 04, 2010

Chicken, potatoes, lemon, garlic, and fennel

The standard method of roasting potatoes, discussed previously here (and in previous entries), is to parboil them, rough them up a bit while draining, and tip them into a roasting tin with hot fat. You get crunchy surfaces and fluffy interiors. But most of the flavour is in the crunchy bits. If you want to retain, or even enhance, the sweet earthiness of the potatoes themselves, don't parboil them first.

There are two disadvantages to roasting potatoes from raw. First, the surfaces can become leathery. Second, the surface starch, even after you give the potatoes a thorough rinsing, can cause them to stick to the roasting pan. You can see in the picture above that I've broken up the potatoes as I've tried to turn them. A good portion of them refused to come loose at the end of cooking, and had to be left behind.

The problem of the leathery surfaces in lessened if you slice the potatoes rather than cutting them into chunks. To avoid sticking, get a roasting pan with a better non-stick surface than mine possesses, or use non-stick foil or greaseproof paper.

6 chicken drumsticks (an ungenerous portion for three)
3 large potatoes, peeled, sliced (I cut them in half, and sliced the halves lengthwise), rinsed and drained
1 head of garlic, separated into unpeeled cloves
1 lemon, quartered
Olive oil
2 fennel bulbs, stalks and tough outer leaves removed, sliced, tossed with a tbsp of olive oil and a little salt

Arrange the chicken, potatoes, and garlic cloves in a roasting tin, lined with foil or paper if necessary (see above). Toss with a generous portion of olive oil, and salt. Add the lemon slices. (Don't toss the lemon with the potatoes yet - the acidity might hinder their softening.)

Roast for 30 minutes at gas mark 6/200C. Now toss everything together again; the lemon juice will flavour the potatoes. Check that you've turned any potatoes that threaten to burn on their undersides. Make room for the fennel, and add it to the pan. Roast for a further 30 minutes.

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