Masses of onions braised with cider and thyme melt down to make a rich, luscious sauce to accompany this easy braised whole chicken. Squeeze out the meltingly tender cloves of garlic to smear over the chicken when eating.
1 fresh whole chicken
1 lemon, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
knob of butter
3 large onions, sliced thickly
small handful thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
1 cup pear cider
1 cup chicken stock
4 small heads garlic, tops sliced off
2 tablespoons cream
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 150°C.
Rinse the chicken inside and out with cold water then dry thoroughly with paper towels. Season the cavity and push in the lemon quarters. Truss the chicken with kitchen string and season all over.
Heat the oil and butter in a deep cast iron casserole dish over a medium low heat and add the chicken, breast side down. Cook until the skin is golden and the chicken will lift easily off the base of the pan without ripping the skin. Turn over and brown the other side. Carefully remove the chicken to a plate.
Add the onions, thyme and bay leaves to the dish, season and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.
Increase the heat and pour in the cider and stock. Bring to the boil then place the chicken, breast side up, on top and spoon some of the onions over it. Place the garlic around the chicken. Place a piece of baking paper over the chicken then cover tightly with a lid or foil.
Braise for 1½ hours. To test that the chicken is cooked through, pierce the inner thigh and check that the juices run clear.
To serve: Carefully lift the chicken and garlic from the pot to a plate. Put the casserole dish over a medium heat and add the cream. Check for seasoning and simmer for about 8 minutes until reduced a little. Spoon the onion gravy onto a lipped serving platter and top with the chicken and garlic.
Serve with vegetables of your choice – I sautéed finely shredded cabbage in a little oil, butter and crushed garlic until just tender then tossed it with lots of parsley.
Cook’s tip: An easy way of browning the chicken is to place it in a shallow roasting dish. Brush with oil, season and place in a hot 220°C oven until lightly golden all over, then place on top of the onions.