There’s method in the following madness. I’m rather keen on the Chinese method of cooking duck, drying out the skin as they do, to create a marvellous crunchy texture with real flavour. The following is something of the same with a chook.
There is something quite unnatural about blow-waving a chicken. The mere recollection of it makes me laugh. The sight of a fully grown man, and then woman, giving a very dead and featherless chook the once over with the blow-dryer is positively side-splitting. For the humans watching, that is; it is important for the chook to maintain its sides.
Why were we indulging in such bizarre escapades? For your benefit, naturally. Blow-waving a chicken dries out its skin, making it a perfect canvas for a full-flavoured mixture of honey and soy and herbs and such.
1 dessertspoon honey
a little lemon juice
1 dessertspoon soy sauce
Give the bird a solid rub down with an absorbent towel, like a big strong footy player might get before a big game, then hang the chook in an airy space in the kitchen to let it dry on its own. Leave it for a couple of hours. A hanging chook makes for a happy backdrop to the cricket on TV. When it is as dry as it can get naturally, pull out the hair dryer and hum some reggae number as you give the chook the once over.
All that is left are the last rites. In a pan, mix the honey, a little lemon juice, the soy sauce, and a handful of chopped tarragon, garlic and ginger. Heat gently until the honey has melted.
Paint the chicken with the mixture to flavour and colour the skin, let it dry and do it again. You’re giving the bird a fancy costume for its last journey, which is, of course, into the oven. It’s the least you can do. Just before you do that, there is one last pair of indignities. Truss it, so it doesn’t run away, then stick as much tarragon as you can between the skin and the flesh. Now is the time to say goodbye.
Give the bird a last, fast blast in a hot oven, sitting on a trivet above a baking dish, give it a poke after half an hour, to let the juice run free and clear, and then display it on the table.
The oohs and aahs are guaranteed to be far more impressive than those generated by a live bird scrounging for gunk in the chook house. Once the chorus of admiration has died away, slice into breasts and legs and wings and serve with boiled rice and a mix of steamed peas, sweet corn and finely chopped, long- cooked onions.
Tarragon and chicken
You might not have the time or inclination to get fresh with a whole chook. Get hold of a few chicken breasts, skin still attached. Push plenty of tarragon under the skin and bake in a hot oven until the chicken is just done. Just that much contact with tarragon will turn a scrawny chook’s breast into the dish of your dreams. Serve with mashed potatoes, moistened with butter, kneaded with tarragon, and given a nip of Irish whiskey. It’s a classic match.
By the way, the tarragon you buy at the local fruiterer’s is so fresh at the start of summer, you can propagate it. If the leaves are still standing upright from the stem, just pick away the top end of a stem, remove most of the bottom leaves remaining near the base, and stick the lot in fertile ground in a shady spot, leaving a few leaves showing above the deck. All it needs is a fine spray of water a couple of times a day. Soon enough it will be on its own, there forever!
WINE: This type of chook will take the full spectrum of wines. I like red wine with chicken – some prefer full-on chardonnays. Try a good pinot noir.