A whole roast, golden and majestic is glorious to bring to the table. Crisped up skin, pulling back to reveal a hunk of glistening white meat whet with the chook’s cooking juices- nothing quite compares. As someone who has come to appreciate meat on the bone over the years, I think there’s so much flavour in the bones that’s lost when you’re trying to pull off a recipe with a boneless cut. Does chicken even taste like chicken if it didn’t cook on the bone? Stir-fried boneless chicken does not lend itself to cornstarch-thickened manchurian gravy, but put its bones in a cooker with aromatics and you have an astounding amount of chicken-ey flavour that makes a pho ga the comforting bowlful it is.
When it comes to flavour, a long marinating time is crucial for your poultry. I think of marinating as a win-win situation. The chicken retains the juices of the marinade, while the marinade gets a bit of that chicken flavour. Since it’s been a year to my favourite jerk marinade, I wanted to put it to work again. The smoky, hot boom of the bhut jolokia or ghost chilli would be mellowed by the caramel notes of brown sugar, plus lots of thyme. Unlike a curry, a roast chicken doesn’t require much standing around in the kitchen, so it’s low effort and if you’re out to get the maximum flavour from your bird, start the day before. This is the kind of roast you want on the table when it’s a hot day, there’s a game on, and someone’s bringing over a keg of home-brewed beer.
Caution: I strongly urge you to invest in some plastic gloves before you handle these chillies. The fumes alone are so intense, you want your bare hands to stay as clear of it as possible. When massaging your chicken, remember to get the marinade into every nook and cranny. I always seem to forget the bit around the thigh joint.
Ghost Chilli Roast Chicken With Burnt Pineapple Bits
This incredible roast recipe uses bhut jolokia ,one of the spiciest chillies in the world and pits it against the caramel notes of a brown sugar jerk seasoning. Be careful when preparing the marinade and use gloves when massaging it into the chicken. Serve with a chilled glass of beer and charred pineapple bits.
A whole chicken 1.2-1.5 kgs, skin-on, any offals removed from inside and set aside for another use and cleaned
Fresh thyme a small bundle
The Ghost Jerk Marinade
Brown sugar 75g
Onion 1, roughly chopped
Bhut Jolokia 1-2, tops taken off
Ginger 1-inch piece, grated
Garlic 4 cloves
Malabar all-spice 1 tbsp freshly ground
Black pepper 1 tsp, freshly ground
Cinnamon powder 1/2 tsp
Dried Thyme 1/2 tsp
Nutmeg 1/2 tsp, freshly grated
Vegetable oil 2 tbsp
Dark Soy Sauce 1 tbsp or 1 tbsp Kecap manis
Lime juice 1 tbsp
Pineapple 1/2 sliced into rounds
Salt 1 tbsp
Chilli powder 1 tsp
Brown sugar 2 tbsp
Olive oil 1/4 cup
Lime wedges to serve
Start on the chicken the day before. Clean the chicken and reserve the offals for another use. Dry the chicken, then salt inside the chicken’s cavity, as well as outside. Be liberal with the salt.
Blitz together all the ingredients for the marinade, then carefully open the jar of the mixer grinder as the fumes of the bhut jolokia might be too strong. Let it stand open for five minutes before handling it. Alternately, you could combine everything together in a mortar and pestle.
Using plastic gloves, handle the marinade, rubbing it over the chicken very well, massaging it under the skin too. If there’s any leftover marinade, place it inside the cavity. Transfer the whole chicken to a freezer bag or a large container and place inside the refrigerator overnight, or up till 24 hours.
The next day, when you’re ready to cook the chicken, take it out of the marinade. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and place the chicken on a roasting tin lined with paper. Stuff the bundle of thyme inside the chicken’s cavity and tie its feet with kitchen string. Transfer it to the oven and let it cook for about 45 minutes, turning the chicken once and basting it with the tray’s juices. The chicken should be done when the juices run clear if a skewer is poked into the fatty thigh of the chicken. Let the chicken rest covered in foil for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, whisk together the salt, chilli powder, brown sugar and olive oil for the pineapple. Heat a griddle pan till smoking. Brush each piece of pineapple with this mixture and place on the griddle pan cooking over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes on each side till a dark brown to black. Transfer to a plate and serve.
Serve the chicken with the wedges of lime and some chilled beer on the side.