Everyone should have a go-to recipe for a classic roasted chicken. This is mine! I got this recipe from “Feast” by Nigella Lawson (who, by the way, has a new cookbook out – “Kitchen”) and I love her introduction to the recipe:
“This is how my mother roasted her chickens, and I expect it’s how my children will do theirs. The buttery lemony waft through the house is, for me, the smell of home. And there’s something about that simple bird, that iconic form with its crispy skinned curves and kitchen-filling aroma that makes it the elemental and perfect, unbeatable feast.
“I do everything in my power to get a proper, free-range and, more important, organically reared chicken, but this makes even something flaccid, pallid and fed spooky things throughout its tortured existence bearable to eat, from a gastronomic viewpoint at least.”
There are some weeks when things get busy and I am tempted to just grab a rotisserie chicken at the supermarket. But then I remember the smell of this chicken roasting – that “buttery lemony waft” as Nigella describes it – and it sends me straight to the meat department in search of a chubby, little, organic free-range chicken to bring home with me.
There is something to be said for convenience – but for me, starting from scratch is infinitely more rewarding and worth the extra time. Plus, store-bought roasted chickens deprive me of the opportunity to add the piece de resistance: squeezing half a lemon over the chicken after it comes out of the oven. That is my favorite part and, I think, what seals this recipe as the one I go back to time and time again. One taste and you may give up your grocery store rotisserie chicken, too.
Lemon Roasted Chicken
From “Feast” by Nigella Lawson
1 3-4 lb. whole chicken
1 lemon, cut in half
1 Tbs. sea salt
1 Tbs. butter, room temperature
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
2. Make sure the chicken is at room temperature, and cut off any string or rubber bands and remove the bag in the cavity. Sit the chicken in a roasting pan. (*I use a 13×9″ baking pan and prefer it over a roasting pan. I also tie the legs together with kitchen twine to ensure even cooking and to help the chicken keep its shape.)
3. Put ½ the lemon into the chicken cavity, and sprinkle a little salt in the cavity as well. Rub the butter over the skin and dribble with a little oil. Put into the oven and cook for 1¼ hours.
NOTE: There will be some smoke – a lot at first. Remain calm:) You are not ruining anything or burning the house down. Just turn on your exhaust fans, crack open a window or door. Whole chickens put off a lot of fat and it will collect in the bottom of the pan and start to sputter and smoke. After your chicken has a nice golden crusty skin, cover it loosely with foil and leave it on for the remaining cooking time.
4. Let the chicken rest in the roasting pan for 15 minutes, sprinkling over the remaining salt and squeezing over the other half of lemon while it sits, then move to a carving board.
5. Deglaze the roasting pan with a little water, letting the juices and caramelized bits from the roast chicken make a small-volume but intensely-flavored gravy to spoon over the carved bird. (I typically skip this step.)