This is an American classic. It focuses on the main players – chicken, mash and gravy. A British cook might naturally make a roast chicken dinner with roast potatoes and then make a gravy by using the pan juices mixed with water or the vegetable cooking water – they will deglaze any residues, and might thicken with a roux. A French chef might only use the jus from the chicken – a precious thin trickle of juices exuded from the flesh and fat of the chicken.
Americans like to make pools of gravy in mashed potatoes – the more gravy the better. Clearly this cannot be achieved with the chicken juices alone, and the recipe below is my way of bulking out a sauce sufficiently to make plenty of mashed potato dams and oxbow lakes. Needless to say you need a chicken to make proper chicken gravy. And I am sorry, there is no quick way around this without reaching for the Bisto… Still, it only takes as long as the chicken does to cook.
Preheat oven to 230C Gas 8
Prepare and cook the chicken. Cut the wingtips, leg knuckles (if present) and the parson’s nose from the chicken and place in the bottom of a roasting tin. Cut the lemon into quarters, place 3 of the quarters in the cavity of the chicken along with the herbs. Cut the remaining lemon quarter in half and place in the tin. Gently crush two cloves of garlic and place in the bottom of the tin and the other half in a parcel of tinfoil with a tablespoon of water. Put a rack in the roasting tin. Place the chicken upside down on the rack and cover with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place the garlic parcel in the tin on the rack. Put the roasting tin in the oven. After 10 minutes, then turn the tray around and roast for a further 10 minutes – then turn the heat down to 180C, Gas 4 and roast for 30 minutes. Check the garlic to ensure it does not burn. When it is soft and oozing remove from the oven and set aside. Turn the chicken over and cover with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place a double layer of foil over the chicken breast and cook for 20 minutes. Take the foil off and roast for a further 10 minutes or until the chicken is done. (I.e. juices run clear or internal temperature of 74C is reached.)
Make the stock. Slice the onion and fry on a medium heat in a pan with a heavy base for 10 minutes, stirring often. Wash the other vegetables, peel the carrot and chop the celery, leek and carrot into a small pieces. Add to the onions after 10 minutes and continue frying for 15 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the wine (if using) and allow it to bubble away then add the stock and water and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Add the porcini mushrooms and stir. Simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the stock pushing all the liquid from the vegetables. In a separate saucepan, make a roux using the butter and flour and cook gently, stirring continuously until it turns a pale biscuit colour, take from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Add the stock a little at a time stirring to form a smooth thickened sauce. Add the herbs and simmer gently.
Finish the gravy. When the chicken is done. Lift it from the pan allowing the juices to drip back into the pan. Set the chicken aside somewhere warm covered with foil to rest. Strain the liquid from the roasting pan into the gravy without squeezing any of the lemons or garlic. Remove the soft garlic from the parcel of roasted garlic and whisk into the gravy in stages, tasting as you do until the gravy is to your taste. (I.e. add more or less garlic to taste.) Taste for acidity, season with the sherry vinegar if necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer gently whilst the chicken is resting and then finally strain and serve.