Hello my pretty little chicken! Look at its plump breast, and its crisp, burnished skin! I was so super-proud of it! I roasted it on Sunday night for dinner with my parents - the menu was sage-and-garlic Barossa chook with gravy, roast potatoes and carrots, pear and avocado salad (Appellation style), and a bottle of Heggies Vineyard '09 Chardonnay - lovely!
You may notice that this particular chicken is a lot neater and prettier than my previous efforts, and the secret is: trussing! Yup, just tying up the chicken with a bit of string and a couple of simple knots gives you a beautiful, presentable chicken. Of course, it's not strictly necessary to truss a chicken when you roast it - the taste is the same - but if you're going to splash out on an excellent chicken (which indeed I did), why not go to the tiny extra effort to make it look even more special?
Before I go into the step-by-step of "How to Truss a Chicken", I have to tell you what happened when I went shopping for dinner. After having met Maggie and Saskia Beer, of course I wanted a Barossa chook! According to the Barossa chook website, Thomas Dux grocer is their main stockist, so on Sunday morning I drove down to the Armadale store to pick one up. They had about 10 chooks there, and when I went to choose one, I noticed that the bags were leaking and the labels were peeling off. Upon closer inspection, I saw that all of them were past their use-by date, and some were nearly TWO WEEKS PAST USE BY DATE! What the hell?! I have no idea how a shop can let their raw chickens get that far past use-by without someone noticing. How absolutely feral and disgusting! I let one of the staff members know about it, and then I swiftly left. No way am I ever buying anything from Thomas Dux!
I made a short drive down to Prahran Market, and luckily D&J Poultry had (fresh) Barossa chooks in stock. Yay! Moral of the story: always check the use by dates on your chickens!
Ok, so back to the chicken and the trussing! I really struggled to find a clear, comprehensive set of illustrated instructions - and everyone seems to do it a little differently anyway - so I've cobbled together my own. Don't say I don't look after you!
How to Truss a Chicken
If you want to stuff the chicken, or put anything under the skin, do that first. I stuffed my chicken with a bunch of herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme), half a lemon and some chunky onion slices.
Under the skin I put a mixture of butter, chopped sage and garlic. The good thing about Barossa chooks is that they have very resilient skin so it's easy not to rip it.
When you buy the chicken, the wings will be pointing upwards (like the one on the right). Tuck that pointy bit under the chicken (like the one on the left). This prevents the wing tips from burning, and gives the breast more access to heat.
Now, you need some kitchen string, approximately 80cm. (If in doubt, use slightly more than you think you'll need - it's easy enough to cut away the excess string; more difficult to start again!) Place the centre of the string under the front end of the chicken, like so:
Bring the string up behind the wings and between the body and leg...
... then cross the string over at the back.
Pull the string tightly. This will plump up the breast (ooer!) and make the skin nice and taught.
Bring the legs together, and loop the string around the ankles. (This may take a bit of practice; it took me a couple of goes the first time to keep everything together!)
Tie a nice knot.
Then simply trim away any excess string, and there it is! A beautiful trussed chicken, ready for roasting.