Neil Perry's salt-crust chicken with salmoriglio

Salt-crust chicken with salmoriglio.
Salt-crust chicken with salmoriglio. Photo: William Meppem
Dietary
Gluten-free

This is such a wonderful celebration in a dish – and a favourite from my new book, Everything I Love to Cook. The procedure is grand and the outcome heavenly. The salt and nori permeate the skin and give the bird such great flavour. Since it’s Christmas, I’d serve this with an asparagus salad, tomato salad and some roast potatoes.

Ingredients

1 x 2kg organic or free-range chicken

5 sprigs thyme

2 fresh bay leaves

10 sheets nori

4kg fine salt

For the salmoriglio

1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly picked (it's good to include some stalks as well)

⅓ cup oregano leaves, roughly picked (some tender stalks are good here, too)

1 large garlic clove (or 2 small ones)

3 long red chillies

150ml fruity extra virgin olive oil

juice of 2 or more lemons

2 tsp salt flakes

Method

1. For the salmoriglio, put the parsley and oregano on a chopping board and use a sharp knife to chop them together very finely, then chop them even more. Grate the garlic using a microplane if you have one; if not, chop it very finely. Don't use a garlic press.

2. Remove the stalks from the chillies, then cut them in half lengthways and use a teaspoon to remove the seeds and membrane. Chop the chillies very, very finely.

3. Put the olive oil into a small bowl, add the garlic and chilli and mix until well dispersed. Stir in the herbs, then add the lemon juice and salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Once you think it tastes good, add a squeeze more lemon juice and another generous pinch of salt; the salmoriglio needs to be intense since it will be diluted by the chicken flavour.

4. Preheat the oven to 250C (270C conventional).

5. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. Place the thyme and bay leaves in the cavity and truss the bird. Moisten the sheets of nori with a little water and lay them all over the skin of the chicken. Put the salt into a big bowl – it's a lot of salt! – and pour in 2 cups of water. Using your hands, toss to combine, adding more water, a little at a time, until you have a mouldable mixture.

6. Make a 2cm deep bed of fine salt in a roasting tin that will comfortably hold the chicken and tamp it down. Place the chicken in the centre and insert the probe of a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. Cover the chicken completely with the remaining salt, tamping it down so that the entire bird is encased.

7. Cook the chicken in the lower half of the oven for 40-50 minutes, or until the thermometer reads 75C. Spread several layers of newspaper on the counter next to the sink. Remove the chicken from the oven and place on the newspaper, then leave to rest for 10 minutes. During this time, the internal temperature should rise to about 80C.

8. Crack the salt crust with a mallet or hammer. Carefully lift off the crusty pieces and discard.

9. Carefully peel off as much of the nori as you can from the skin, then cut the breasts lengthways into about 5 slices. Cut between the drumsticks and thighs. Arrange the legs on a large platter, cover with the slices of breast, spoon over the salmoriglio and serve.

Serve with Karen Martini's kingfish and rainbow trout rillettes and Helen Goh's peach trifle with raspberries and riesling custard.

Find more of Neil Perry's recipes in the Good Food Favourite Recipes cookbook.

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