Turn a simple roast chicken into an impressive dinner by infusing with butter, lemon and herbs and topping with slices of pancetta. The accompanying red grapes turn sweet and buttery when roasted.
2 fresh chickens
2 lemons, quartered
2 large stalks rosemary
20 thin slices pancetta or shaved streaky bacon
4 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
600 grams seedless red grapes, cut into bunches
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Rinse the chickens inside and out with cold water and dry well with kitchen towels. Season the cavities and add the lemons and rosemary. Loosely tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wings under, securing the neck skin. Combine the butter and tarragon. Gently loosen the skin on the breasts and push the butter between the flesh and the skin.
Season the skin and lay the slices of pancetta over the breast. Brush the legs and the pancetta with olive oil and season.
Place the chickens, breast side up, in a large roasting dish. Roast for 1½ hours, basting occasionally. Loosely cover the chickens with a piece of foil if the pancetta is getting too brown. The chickens are cooked when the juices run clear from the thigh when pierced with a skewer.
Transfer the chickens to a serving platter and rest, loosely covered for at least 10 minutes. Set the baking dish aside if you wish to make gravy.
Once the chickens are out of the oven place the grapes in a separate baking dish and drizzle with a little olive oil. Roast for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden and slightly shriveled.