Last Updated on September 19, 2021
Skip straight to my recipe for roast crown of chicken with tarragon butter
Basic economics reinforce the idea for me that jointing my own bird to make a crown of chicken is a good idea. It’s possible to pay anything from around £3.00 at the supermarket to upward of £15.00 for an organic free-range specialist breed. Chicken pieces cost proportionally a lot more – a pack of two chicken breasts can be just as much as a whole chicken. But, if you live by yourself or with just one other person, the thought of eating chicken for the foreseeable future may just put you off buying a whole bird. So, learning how to joint a chicken is a key skill for a small household – and my own favourite method is to joint into 5 pieces (and one bit of carcass), creating a crown of chicken that I can roast. I usually freeze the legs and wings and I use the bit of carcass to make stock. The recipes for cooking a crown of chicken are much the same as the recipes I use for a whole bird. The difference with a crown of chicken recipe is that you are cooking far less meat and it is all the same type. So, it’s much easier to avoid drying the meat out – and a splendid dinner like this roast crown of chicken with tarragon butter can be on the table within an hour.
- If you’ve never jointed a chicken to make a crown, then start by finding a chopping board and a large sharp knife. If you have poultry shears, that’s obviously great, but you don’t need them. Wash your hands well or if you prefer, wear disposable latex gloves.
- If your bird still has the neck attached, start by cutting through that and removing it as close to the breast bone as possible. Most birds in the UK are ready trimmed so this step might not be necessary.
- Make a sharp cut along the carcass, close to where the thigh and leg meet the main bird so that you can just see the ball joint. Now, pull the whole thigh and leg of the chicken away from the carcass, feeling for the ball joint. Twist each leg gently till the ball joint comes apart, then, use the knife to cut through the skin around the joint and sever the tendon. The legs should come away easily.
- Some people like to leave most of the wing on the crown and just cut the tips off. I simply remove the wings in exactly the same way as the legs, by twisting close to the carcass to separate the ball joint, then using the knife to cut away the skin and through the tendon.
- Finally, you need to remove the underneath part of the carcass. With the bird on your chopping board, breast uppermost, you should be able to see where the rib cage comes to an end. Take your knife and cut across the rib cage the width of the bird so that you have a trim crown. If you want, you can now divide the crown into two breast portions (bone on), but I like to roast the whole crown.
Now you should have a neat crown and various chicken pieces. As I’m generally cooking for one or two people I tend to freeze everything except the crown and carcass. It’s worth noting that you can only do this if you’ve started with a fresh chicken. I tend to buy free-range chicken from the local farmers’ market, which means I pay around £9 for a bird. But, as one of my friends says, I’m buying a bird that has had a happy and close to natural life.
In fact, the labelling of chicken can be quite confusing, with many supermarkets created fake ‘farm’ labels. It’s up to you (and probably your budget) to decide what you should buy. Here are some of the guidelines.
When you buy a chicken in the supermarket, you may see one of the following on the label. Names like ‘Oakham’ ‘Ashfield Farms’ ‘Willow Farms’ and ‘Birchwood Farms’ are branding and do not relate to a physical farm. General welfare labels include the following (UK definitions)
The birds have to spend at least a third of their lives outdoors (two thirds for those labelled soil association or OFG). Outdoors they have to have at least 4 square metres of space per bird and inside, no more than ten birds per square metre. They are given good natural light, the most space to roam indoors and are encouraged to roam free-range. The chickens must live for a minimum of 70 days so fast-growing breeds are unlikely. They are fed organic foods and the use of antibiotics is only if vital for the welfare of individual birds.
Birds have to spend at least half their lives outdoors where there can be no more than one bird per square metre. Inside, they have the same space as organic birds and should be given good natural light. The chickens must live for at least 50 days. Free-range differs from organic in that the chickens can be fed on non-organic food and there are no restrictions on the use of antibiotics
- RSPCA Assured
Birds can be free-range or, more normally, indoor-bred. This should be clear from the label. Inside, no more than 15 birds per square metre – and the birds should be provided with natural light and natural enrichment (perches, objects to peck at such as straw bales and vegetables).
- Red Tractor
No outside space is required and up to 19 birds per square metre. From October 2020 it has been mandatory that Red Tractor birds have some natural light and have some kind of living enrichment in the form of hay bales or perches. There is no restriction on age, use of antibiotics or type of feed.
One of the reasons I personally opt for a whole chicken is that by taking the time to joint it myself, I can afford to buy free-range as a minimum. Although it seems a little perverse to be considering how I can butcher a chicken in order to help it have a better life, it does serve that purpose for me. From the jointed free-range bird I bought for £9.00 I will get two breast portions (£3.00 if I was buying supermarket standard bird pieces), two leg and thigh portions (a further £3.00), two wings (£1.50) and one carcass (£.50). That means I’m just paying a pound more for better tasting and healthier meat from birds that have had at least a brief, happy life. That, to me, seems like a worthwhile investment.
Back to my crown of chicken, I’m sharing one of my favourite summer roast chicken recipes with you here. It’s for roast crown of chicken with tarragon butter. I grow the tarragon in my garden and this year seem to have a bumper crop. So, I’ve been making tarragon butter which I freeze in ice-cube sized portions ready to use on a steak, on fish or even on a plate of fresh steamed vegetables. Crown of chicken with tarragon butter is a dish that sums up summer for me, with light aniseed notes complementing the buttery chicken juices. Using a crown of chicken means that I can enjoy a roast dinner by myself that tastes every bit as good as when I cook for friends. It’s a great recipe for one or two people (one of you will have enough leftovers for a chicken salad the next day!). Here’s how to make your own.
Start by making the tarragon butter. It’s a great way to use your own tarragon, but if you don’t have a herb garden, then it’s also a way to use up those little packs of herbs. The ratio of tarragon to butter that you use is partly down to availability and partly to personal taste. I find that 1 part tarragon to 3 parts butter by weight is right for me. You’ll also need a clove of garlic and a fresh lemon together with some salt and pepper. You can freeze any tarragon butter that you don’t use for the chicken – it’s delicious on a steak or with fish, or even melted on new potatoes.
Once you’ve made up the tarragon butter, you need some root vegetables to use as a base for roasting the chicken. I used carrots and shallots this time but would include celery and turnips too if I’d had them around. Apart from that, you’ll need a little olive oil and, if you want to make a jus then some dry white wine or vermouth.
Preheat your oven to 180C and make sure the chicken crown and the tarragon butter is at room temperature before you start to prepare the dish. With the tip of a sharp knife, lift the skin of the chicken crown away from the breast so that there’s a pocket you can fill. Push the butter in using a small spoon and with your fingers, gently massage it across the breast.
Wipe the base of a roasting pan with olive oil and lay out the vegetables for the ‘trivit’. Carefully place the chicken crown on top of the vegetables, season well with salt and pepper and drizzle over a little olive oil.
Cook the chicken at 180C for 10 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 170c, baste the chicken well with the juices from the pan and continue to cook for a further 30-35 minutes. If you have a meat thermometer, it’s worth checking the internal temperature of the crown which should reach 75C. Once the crown of chicken is cooked, take it out of the roasting pan and put it on a board covered with a foil tent to rest for 10 minutes. I use that time to make a light jus by deglazing the roasting pan with a glass of wine or vermouth and then adding a couple of spoons of stock and reducing the whole thing down by 50%.
You can make this recipe with a whole chicken or with skin-on chicken breasts too. It does depend how many people you are cooking for. For me, a chicken crown is perfect. And if I’m cooking just for myself, the second half of the crown is perfect with a light mayonnaise dressing the next day.
Here’s a printable recipe for my crown of chicken with tarragon butter. Do let me know if you try it yourself.
Roast Crown of Chicken with Tarragon Butter
- 60 g unsalted butter at room temperature
- 20 g French tarragon, picked from the stalk and finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 lemon zested
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Roasted Crown of Chicken
- 1 crown chicken
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 20 g tarragon butter
- 1 carrot peeled and chopped into 1cm chunks
- 2 banana shallots peeled and halved
- 70 ml dry white wine or vermouth
- 35 ml stock or water
- salt and pepper
- mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl and use a fork to work until everything is well blended.
- if you prefer, you can use a small blender
- once you have a smooth butter, pack into small pots or into an icecube tray to freeze. Or, use a square of clingfilm and make a sausage shape with the buttet, twisting the ends firmly
- store in the fridge for a week or freeze for up to six months
Roast Crown of Chicken
- pre-heat the oven to 180C
- use a sharp knife to make a pocket between the skin of the chicken and the breast on each side
- fill each pocket with tarragon butter. For a crown, you will need around 20g of butter
- use your fingers to spread the butter under the skin as much as possible
- wipe the a roasting tray with olive oil and make a trivet with the shallots and carrots
- put the crown onto the trivet, season well with salt and freshly ground pepper and drizzle with a little olive oil
- put the roasting tray in the oven and cook for 10 minutes
- baste well and reduce the heat to 170c.
- continue to cook for 35mins, basting every 10 minutes or so
- once the chicken has cooked, (internal temperature of 75C), remove it from the oven and put on a carving board, covered with a tent of foil to rest
- put the trivet vegetables to one side (they are quite edible!)
- put the roasting pan on the stove top and deglaze the pan over a high heat by adding the wine or vermouth to the pan and stirring briskly to incorporate all the juices
- add a little water or stock, then reduce the mixture by about 50% to make a light tarragon jus.
- serve the chicken sliced, with the vegetables on the side and jus poured over.
Looking for a great side dish to enjoy with your crown of chicken? How about this recipe for griddled courgettes with lemon and chilli