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Roast Lemon Chicken with Garlic & Herbs

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Serves four.

  • To learn more, read:
    How to Carve Roast Chicken
  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 26

If you don't have an open bottle of white wine to use for deglazing the pan, just use some of the lemon juice that gets squeezed over the chicken.

  • 3- to 5-lb. roasting chicken
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
  • Finely chopped zest of 1 lemon (reserve the lemon itself)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (or a mix of parsley and basil)
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 whole lemon (in addition to the zested lemon, above)
  • 2 heads garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
For the sauce
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • About 3-1/2 cups homemade or low-salt chicken stock
  • 2 Tbs. heavy cream (optional)

Heat the oven to 450°F. Remove the packet of giblets from the cavity of the chicken (and save for use in a stock if you like -- but don't include the liver, which will make the stock bitter). Pull any loose fat from around the opening. Rinse the chicken inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels. Rub the outside of the chicken with about 1 Tbs. of the softened butter. Mix the remaining 2 Tbs. butter with the chopped lemon zest and herbs. Rub the butter on the inside of the cavity and under the breast skin (see photos). Sprinkle the inside and outside of the bird with the salt and pepper. Pierce the whole lemon with a sharp knife and put it in the cavity of the chicken. Brush the garlic halves liberally with the olive oil and reserve.

how to make roast chicken
Slip your seasonings under the skin for full flavor and moist meat. Rub the chicken all over with softened butter, gently pushing the butter and other seasonings under the skin without tearing it.
how to make roast chicken
Fill the cavity with flavor: Season the bird inside and out with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and stuff the cavity with herbs, lemon, mushrooms -- whatever will enhance the flavor of the meat and the sauce.
how to make roast chicken
Lift the bird with a rack so the skin crisps all around. A V-shaped rack is best, set in a heavy roasting pan just larger than the rack, but a flat rack is better than nothing.

Put the chicken, breast side up, on a V-shaped rack (or a flat rack) and set the rack in a roasting pan just larger than the rack. Cut the zested lemon in half and squeeze both halves over the chicken. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 375°F, set the garlic halves in the pan near the chicken, and continue roasting for about 45 minutes more for a total of about 1 hour for a 3-lb. chicken. For larger birds, add another 10 minutes for each additional pound. The chicken is done when the leg wiggles freely in its joint and when the juices run clear from the thigh when you prick it and from the cavity when you tilt the bird. A thermometer inserted into the lower meaty part of the thigh should register 170°F. Set the chicken on a warm platter, propping up the hindquarters with an inverted saucer, and tent with foil to keep it warm while you make the sauce. Remove the rack from the pan.

Make the sauce from the pan drippings (see photos). Carve the chicken and serve the meat drizzled with some sauce and with the roasted garlic on the side.

Roast Lemon Chicken with Garlic & Herbs Recipe
Good drippings are the foundation for a good sauce. Tilt the pan and spoon off as much fat as possible. Set the pan over high heat to caramelize all the juices, but be careful not to let them burn.
Roast Lemon Chicken with Garlic & Herbs Recipe
Wine provides backbone and stock gives body. Deglaze with the wine, cognac, or sherry, scraping up all the drippings. Boil until the liquid is just a syrupy glaze, add about 1-1/2 cups of the stock, and boil it down to a sputtering, bubbling glaze.
Roast Lemon Chicken with Garlic & Herbs Recipe
A second reduction adds layers of complex flavor. Repeat with another 1-1/2 to 2 cups stock, boiling that down until it's reduced to about 2/3 cup sauce. Add any herbs or cream, taste, and adjust the seasoning.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on 3-lb. chicken; Calories (kcal): 540; Fat (g): fat g 36; Fat Calories (kcal): 330; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 13; Protein (g): protein g 45; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 15; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 4; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 6; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 410; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 155; Fiber (g): fiber g 1;

Photo: Brian Hagiwara

I used this recipe twice, once without the sauce, and once with. Either way, the chicken came out very tender and juicy and very tasty. The sauce was a wonderful addition the second time around. By reducing the sauce twice, the flavors in the sauce were very intense, and it seemed liked they really popped with each bite of chicken. The only reason this recipe didn't get 5 stars was because of the roasted garlic. The first time I made the recipe, I used a flat rack in the roasting pan, and the garlic roasted very nicely. But when I used a v-shaped rack (as the recipe suggests), the garlic got overdone and slightly burned, so I think the flat rack works better. One further note: the first time I made this my friend made orzo salad (with chili peppers, pine nuts, spinach, and garlic) to go with it. It really complemented the chicken very nicely.

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