In fantasy literature, and of course in fantasy gaming, there is no more iconic post-adventure tavern food than roast meat. Whether it’s beef, chicken, pork, or some form of in-game beast, roasted something-or-other is the food of choice for your hard-bitten adventurers. Hundreds of halflings and barbarians can’t be wrong.
So roasting some chicken for your players before a game is a great way to set the scene for them, especially if they are starting the session in a tavern, or even around the trail fire. And despite what you think, roasting chicken is not only easy, but it allows for many subtle variations in seasoning and sauces. This lets you vary your approach to better fit the dish with the campaign you’re running.
Today we’re going to look at roasting a whole chicken. I’m going to provide a basic recipe, and then follow up with some suggestions on different additions and seasonings to vary the recipe according to what you might want at your table.
- 1 (3 pound) whole chicken, giblets removed
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon onion powder, or to taste
- 1/2 cup margarine, divided
- 1 stalk celery, leaves removed
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Place chicken in a roasting pan or oven safe skillet, and season generously inside and out with salt and pepper. Sprinkle inside and out with onion powder. Place 3 tablespoons margarine in the chicken cavity. Arrange dollops of the remaining margarine around the chicken’s exterior. Cut the celery into 3 or 4 pieces, and place in the chicken cavity.
- Bake uncovered 1 hour and 15 minutes in the preheated oven, to a minimum internal temperature of 180 degrees F (82 degrees C). Remove from heat, and baste with melted margarine and drippings. Cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest about 30 minutes before serving.
So that’s the basic recipe. With just that, you could evoke the feel of a busy tavern or a quiet trail-side campfire. But there are ways to dress up or add to the basic recipe, and you could vary these depending on the location in your campaign world:
- Everybody loves gravy, and it gives the dish a more sumptuous appearance, like the players are in a slightly higher-end tavern. Once you’ve removed the chicken from the roasting pan or skillet, pour the drippings from the bottom of the pan into a small pot and put on the stove over medium to medium high heat. Add ½ cup of dry sherry or dry white wine, a touch more salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer until it reduces in volume a bit, then add a cornstarch ‘slurry’ (teaspoon of cornstarch and warm water mixed together until smooth) and cook until the gravy thickens. Season further to taste.
- Swap out the celery for quartered limes, lemons, or even oranges, to give the bird a brighter, fruitier taste. This will also change the taste of the gravy, so be aware of that when seasoning later.
- For a complete meal in one pan, add a layer of sliced potatoes and carrots to the bottom along with ½-¾ cup water or chicken stock, and lay the chicken on those to cook. Keep an eye to make sure the liquid doesn’t dry out, and you’ll have a complete (starch/veg/protein) meal at the end.
- Melt 1 cup of butter in the microwave or a small saucepan, and add ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp cayenne pepper, and ½ tsp paprika. At about halfway through the cooking time, pull the chicken out briefly and baste with the mixture; repeat every 10-15 minutes until chicken is done. This will result in a crispier skin and a definite kick of heat. Roast demon hen, anyone?
There is no end to the ways you can add to this recipe, the internet is definitely your friend on this one. Pick a theme or a culture, and you’ll discover ways to bring your dish in line with your campaign. And imagine the look on your player’s faces when, having agreed they’ll have the chicken, you plunk a serving platter of freshly roasted chicken in the middle of the gaming table! Follow that up with your “hook” NPC coming over for a chat, and the role-playing opportunity practically writes itself.
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