I have always advocated about eating at home and the positives about doing so, and during Christmas, this aspect is even more important.
Not only is Christmas a time to spend with family and loved ones over a lovingly prepared meal, but it is also to show the restaurants and cafes out there that they should refrain from overcharging diners during this period.
More likely than not, food establishments will take this time to come up with Xmas menus that are way, way overpriced and food that is probably below their usual standards due to diner traffic and staff shortage.
So, what better way to rebel against the already increasing food prices here than to do a wonderful Xmas dinner at home. And for me, I would always prefer to do a roast chicken than turkey simply because chicken is more flavorsome and moist.
To begin, choose a chicken that will suit your size. If it is a family of 4 or below, you can probably settle for the smallest chicken you can find in the supermart, and if you do not mind the cost, and are feeding more than 6, the Sakura chicken is probably your choice.
For me, I personally prefer to use the kampung chicken sold in NTUC simply because its a good mixture of value and quality.
When you get the chicken home, the first thing to do is to chop off the neck and the legs, as its quite ghastly to leave it on. This is where a chopper will come in handy as it is really the best when it comes to hacking bones and joints.
For a lot of locals, they tend to use a marinate like soy sauce and sesame oil to marinate the chicken. I prefer the more western way of doing so, and just season it lightly with salt and pepper, and let the oil do all the other work.
The oven in the kitchen is often the most under utilized equipment in a Singapore home, and I strongly encourage home cooks to experiment and do more with it. It is better than any microwave, broiler and grill you can have.
Pre-heat the oven to about 180 deg Celsius at least 5 minutes before putting the chicken inside. More importantly, sear the chicken in a pan with some olive oil first.
This is to both, create a nice sear and also to bring some temperature into the chicken before putting it in the oven as this will help the cooking process.
I saw on TV just yesterday about this fabled beer can chicken that they tout and selling way, way over what is is worth. The claim is that the chicken is moist and tender.
Well, let me tell you, it is all a myth. Yes, the beer can with half a can of beer stuck in the chicken's cavity will help to moisten the chicken, but that is not the only to make a chicken soft and moist.
A more hygienic way is to simply stuff a big knob of butter into the chicken. This is the real secret to roasting chicken. You can also add additional flavors by adding herbs like rosemary or tarragon to infuse it with some perfume.
If you like some citrus elements, you can also stuff a whole lemon as well. So, forget about some beer can gimmick, do this and I assure you, you will get a more lovely flavored chicken.
Once the chicken is nicely seared for about 5 minutes, take the whole pan and put it inside the oven and let it roast for about an hour to hour and 15 minutes.
The next important aspect is to baste the chicken with its own oil and juices every 20 minutes or so. This is to help keep the chicken skin moist on top and maintain an even temperature throughout the chicken.
There is no definite time for cooking the chicken as it depends on the size of the chicken. What you should be paying attention to is the color of the skin.
After an hour, it should be about golden brown and will have a lovely roasted finish and the skin should be lightly crisp in certain areas.
Once you feel that it is cooked, take it out from the oven and do not carve it immediately. Resting time is essential to preserve the moisture in the chicken and allow all the hot juices to flow back to the various parts of the bird.
After about 15 minutes of resting time, then you can begin to carve. To carve, use a chopper to chop off the 2 wings and 2 thighs first.
Next, carve slightly to the left or right of the chicken to separate the breast meat. To ensure you have a lovely texture to the breast meat, cut just above the breast bone underneath to separate the flesh.
Then cut against the grain of the meat to chop into pieces similar to what you get in chicken rice stalls and repeat the same for the other side of the breast meat.
Then separate the remaining meat using a smaller knife or use your hands to pull out the meat to fully carve out the chicken meat.
To make a simple gravy, take some chicken stock and heat it over a small pan and add a touch of white wine and cream if you like, but it is not necessary.
The juices from the roasted chicken can be added to enhance the flavor of the sauce and reduce the sauce mixture to about half. To finish, add some parsley or even spring onion to give it a bit of color and texture.
And there you have it, a beautiful roast chicken for your Christmas!