This is a roast chicken recipe which comes from, you guessed it, Provence! Southern French cuisine is one of my favorite if you haven't noticed already. This is one of my favorite fireplace cooking recipes. It was inspired by the string-turned leg of lamb recipe which is a Provençal classic. While you can cook this recipe on a grill or even in your oven, I think it reaches its peak of perfection with hearth cooking. This roast chicken recipe is absolutely perfect paired with a butternut squash puree. A guinea hen can be prepared in the same way although I'd recommend herbs such as savory, thyme and savory in that case.
As I've said before, hearth cooking (fireplace cooking) is adventurous, romantic and fun. Impress your friends or loved ones by perfecting this and other similar recipes. I also have a great recipe for fireplace string-turned roast leg of lamb.
What you will need:
Whole chicken - You should use a fryer chicken for this roast chicken recipe, about 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 pounds. Too much bigger and it will take a long time to cook and the outside may be burnt before the inside is done.
Fresh grated ginger - about 1 to 2 tablespoons
Extra virgin olive oil - 2 tablespoons
Red wine vinegar - 1 tablespoon. For this roast chicken recipe and most recipes for that matter, it really pays to invest in some good, rich extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. Cheap, thin, bland stuff won't add anything to your cooking. You want strong, yet mellow, complex flavors. I personally make my own wine vinegar at home and use that.
Fresh tarragon sprigs - several whole sprigs
Freshly cracked black pepper and course salt
A big pile of seasoned hardwood firewood - This hearth cooking roast chicken recipe will take a while to cook and requires a lot of firewood. I prefer fruit woods but because the smoke is not enveloping the chicken, as it would on a grill or fire pit, the chicken does not acquire as much of a wood flavor and therefore they type of wood you use is not as critical. For more information on firewood and the best types of firewood for cooking see our firewood page.
How to cook it:
Grind pepper over all the surfaces of the chicken. Rub with the grated ginger, olive oil and vinegar. Finally, rub tarragon sprigs over all the surfaces and inside and push them into the surface of the chicken. I personally like to separate the skin from the breast so that I can stuff some of the ginger and tarragon inside, right against the breast meat for extra flavor penetration.
Sit the chicken on a platter or dish and cover with plastic wrap and let marinate for about 1 hour at room temperature before continuing with this roast chicken recipe.
In the meantime, start your fireplace. You want your wood to burn for quite some time, at least an hour, before cooking the chicken. You want to develop a deep core of glowing embers at the base of your fire. These embers supply all the heat. Without them, you won't have enough heat to start cooking your chicken. As your wood burns and the pieces fall into the bottom and burn as embers, consistently add fresh wood on top to keep a big blaze going. It should be uncomfortably hot about a foot in front of the fire.
Optional: I like to push a couple slices of good, thick-sliced, gourmet bacon under the skin of each breast just before cooking this roast chicken recipe. This adds a nice rich smokey flavor. Also, as the fat melts, it helps to keep your chicken breasts moist and tender.
Remove the excess tarragon and ginger. Truss the chicken with a trussing needle and a very long length of kitchen twine (see the video!). Start by piercing the back, just to the side of the backbone near the tail. Pull through a long length of twine. Twist the string around the heal of the drumstick tightly several times. Then bring it up to the wing and secure these with several twists as well. Bring the string around the front (between the front of the breasts and the base of the neck) and to the other wing. After wrapping the wing several times, proceed to the last drumstick and wrap this several times as well. Put the trussing needle back on the twine and pierce the back just opposite the initial spot (on the other side of the backbone) so that the twine comes out the back near the tail next to the twine coming in. Pull both ends tightly so that the drumsticks are pulled up tightly and ties several times to secure. Cut the shorter end close to the knot and leave a long length to hang the chicken from while cooking.
When your fire is nice and hot with a core of hot, red embers, salt the chicken generously on all surfaces and hang your chicken. You can use any sturdy hook or screw secured into your fireplace mantle or other solid structure above your fireplace. Wrap the string tightly around the hook and tie tightly so that it does not slip. It helps to have someone hold and support the chicken while you tie the twine to the hook. You want your chicken to hang several inches off the ground so that it is directly in front of the middle of the fire where the most heat is.
Put a heat-proof drip pan under the chicken to catch drippings.
Gently spin the chicken so that it rotates in front of the fire for this roast chicken recipe. This acts as a rotisserie so that all surfaces of the chicken cook evenly. It should spin slowly back and forth on its own for some time. Periodically, if you see it has stopped spinning, give a gentle twist to set it in motion again. The chicken should spin slowly throughout the cooking time.
Note: I like to wet the string exposed to the fire with tap water occasionally to make sure it doesn't catch fire and break.
Prepare a small bowl of basting liquid with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and red wine vinegar with pepper and salt.
Once the chicken gets some color, start basting with a basting brush. Baste occasionally throughout the cooking process when the surface gets dried out. Over time a nice golden glaze should form.
Again, periodically spin the chicken gently if it slows down or stops altogether. Continue adding wood to the top or back of the fire as needed to keep a hot blaze going with a deep core of red embers at the bottom.
After about an hour, depending on the size of your chicken, start testing the doneness of your chicken with a meat thermometer inserted into the depths of the breast or inner thigh (but not against the bone). In my experience most chickens take about an hour and a half for this roast chicken recipe but this will vary depending on your fire and the size of the chicken.
This roast chicken recipe is so good even the kitty can't wait for it to be done!
When the interior of your chicken is done to your liking, lift the chicken in a dish and cut the string to remove it. Cover with aluminum foil and let rest in a warm place for at least 15 minutes. Up to half an hour or more will not hurt it.
Remove the string and carve your chicken as usual. Serve alongside your favorite vegetable side dish or rice. My favorite with this roast chicken recipe is squash puree.
You can cook this recipe in an oven or on a grill or fire pit as well. For a grill, either use indirect heat so that you can cook it for a long time without the surface burning or cut out the backbone, flatten the chicken and remove the breastbone. This will allow it to cook faster on a hot grill. In the oven, cook in the same way you would in the fireplace, basting periodically.
Enjoy! I love this dish with a southern French red wine like a Chateauneuf-du-Pape or Bandol, although it could do well with a hearty red Burgundy as well. Here it is served along with the perfect accompaniment, puréed butternut squash.
The best place I know of to buy fireplace cooking accessories (and they are hard to find, let me tell you!) is SpitJack.com. They have a selection of beautiful and functional fireplace cooking accessories including fireplace grills, rotisseries, cranes, and utensils as well as fire pits and other fire and fire cooking related accesories.