Pot roast chicken with leeks, bacon, tarragon and orzo

Pot roast chicken with leeks, bacon, tarragon and orzo

A pot roast chicken is a wonderful and extremely versatile thing – this is a great recipe on so many levels. Firstly, you can adapt it and chuck in whatever you have to hand, secondly, it can be a one pot meal thus reducing the washing up, thirdly, you get ALL of the lovely juices from the chicken which make everything in the pot taste AMAZING and fourthly, it is simple, delicious, home-cooked, comfort food – and who doesn’t love that?

There are really only two essentials: a really good chicken, the best you can afford (free-range and ideally organic); and a large, heavy duty pot with a lid that will transfer heat evenly and not burn easily (I use a large cast iron pot with a heavy lid). It should also be able to go on the hob. The rest are all variables, the basic components being:

  • Some sort of smoky pork to add an extra level of flavour (e.g. bacon, lardons, chorizo);
  • An oniony flavour (e.g. onions, leeks or shallots);
  • Booze (a couple of glasses of white wine, Marsala wine, sherry, cider…I generally use whatever I’ve got to hand);
  • Vegetables;
  • Stock (or even water would do the job as you get all the chickeny goodness from the chicken itself); and
  • Herbs.

You can easily change the nature of this recipe by varying what you serve with it – serve it alongside mashed potato and it is the ultimate comfort food dinner; with roast potatoes you’ve got most of Sunday dinner sorted; add some cream to the juices at the end, serve with some soft Parmesan polenta and it becomes a bit more of a fancy dinner to serve to friends. However, if you want it to be a true one-pot meal, add some diced or new potatoes, beans or pasta into the pot whilst it cooks. 

For the recipe below I’ve kept it quite simple, but feel free to experiment!

One final note before I get on and tell you this recipe – I am a HUGE believer in using a temperature probe to check whether meat is done. It saves you from walking the precarious tightrope between not wanting to serve over-cooked, tough meat and not wanting to poison people! You can get one for a few quid from Amazon very easily. When you check your chicken at the end of the cooking time you are looking for a temperature of at least 73 degrees Celsius in the thickest part of the chicken (usually the thigh). If you don’t have a thermometer to hand, you can insert a skewer into the thickest part of the meat and check that the juices run clear. I don’t think this is as reliable a test as the thermometer however – so treat yourself!

Pot roast chicken with leek, bacon, tarragon and orzo

Serves 4: 

  • Olive oil 
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Whole free-range medium sized chicken (ideally organic)
  • 4 rashers of good quality bacon
  • 2 small leeks (or one large one)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 6 carrots
  • 2 glasses of white wine (1/3 of a bottle)
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp dried tarragon
  • 3 tbsp fresh tarragon (leaves picked and finely chopped)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 250g dried orzo

Heat a large, deep wide-based casserole pot over a medium heat. Drizzle a good glug of olive oil over the chicken, some salt and some pepper and give the chicken a rub, massaging the oil, salt and pepper into the skin. Place the chicken carefully into the pot and brown the chicken on all sides – you will need a large pair of tongs to manoeuvre the chicken. This is not supposed to cook the chicken, you are just looking to brown the skin.

Chop the bacon into thin strips and throw it in the pot. Once the bacon is cooked and the fat is crispy, scoop it out of the pot and keep to one side for later (avoid nibbling on it!). Keep any fat released from the bacon in the pan.

Turn the heat down slightly. Slice your leeks (I slice them into about 1-2cm chunks). Add a knob of butter to the pan and throw in the leeks with a good pinch of salt. Cook the leeks until they start to soften. Finely slice three cloves of garlic and add to the pot – make sure they don’t brown or burn!

Peel and chop your carrots and add to the pot. 

Put the chicken back in and pour the white wine over the whole lot along with a tablespoon of dried tarragon and bring it to the boil. Let it bubble away for a minute or two and then add 500ml of chicken stock. Bring up to the boil again, then put the lid on and put the whole lot in the oven at 190 degrees Celsius (fan oven). 

The cooking time will depend on the size of your chicken – mine was a medium sized one that easily served four people and it was done after an hour. If yours is on the small side, check it after about 50 minutes, if it is a little bit bigger, it might need an hour and 15 minutes. 15 minutes before you think your chicken is likely to be done, put 250g of orzo into the chicken juices (you don’t want it stuck on top of the chicken as it won’t cook) along with 2-3 tablespoons of chopped fresh tarragon and the juice of half a lemon. Give it a little stir and put it back into the oven with the lid off to allow the chicken to brown further for the remaining cooking time.

When the time is up take the chicken out and check the temperature. If you are happy that it is cooked, lift the chicken out and put it to one side to rest. Test the orzo to see if it is cooked through – it is pasta so keep it al dente if that is how you like it (cooked through but with a little bite remaining). If the orzo needs further cooking, put your pot on the hob and cook for a further five minutes. If it is looking a little dry, top up the pot with some boiling water from the kettle. It should be the consistency of a thin gravy.

When the orzo is cooked, check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve your chicken on top of everything else and let everyone tuck in. It will go well with a green salad dressed in a sharp french dressing.

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