Though my culinary favorite, Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten, advises never to experiment with a new recipe on dinner guests, it is pretty much the only way I cook. The other night was no different as my parents were in town and I wanted to try out a few of my favorite things from the summer as well as a roast chicken…though a common item on many dinner tables throughout the world, I had never cooked one before. Sure, I have cooked several Thanksgiving turkeys, lots of grilled, poached and baked chicken breasts, even fried a few but never a whole bird, and my parents were the ideal folks to test it on (because as long as I didn’t give them food poisoning they would, as good parents, tell me they loved it.) Plus, I knew my sides would be delicious even if the chicken wasn’t (Gary’s beans, roasted Greek style potatoes, a big green salad, and cold melon soup.)
Paired with a fruity, fresh and racy Ricossa Barbera di Asti it was a perfect night. If you are new to roasting chicken as well a good meat thermometer was very handy. They say to cook the bird until the juices run clear when you poke the leg, but a thermometer is always good, especially because under cooked chicken just ruins an evening.
Roasted Chicken with Herbs and Lemon Sauce
For the chicken –
1 whole chicken, giblets removed, rinsed well inside and out, legs tied and thighs tucked underneath
2 whole lemons, quartered
1 bunch thyme
4 stems rosemary
2 stems oregano
1 yellow onion, chopped into chunks
3 carrots, cleaned and roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, cleaned and roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, cut in half
1 cup white wine
1/3 stick butter
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
For the lemon-olive oil sauce –
Juice and zest of two lemons
1/2 cup good olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped herbs, we used basil, tarragon, thyme and parsley
2 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Wash the inside and outside of the chicken with cold water and pat dry. Season the inside of the bird generously with salt and pepper then stuff 1/2 of the thyme, 1 sprig oregano and two sprigs of rosemary inside the cavity of the bird. Follow that with 1 whole lemon, cut into quarters, several pieces of onion, 2 garlic cloves (cut in half) and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Lay the bird breast side up and carefully, to not rip it, work your fingers between the skin and the meat of the chicken. Then rub the inside of the bird with a bit of the butter (save a tablespoon for the top of the bird) and stuff the two remaining sprigs of rosemary, remaining oregano and several sprigs of thyme under the skin.
Layer the remaining lemon, onion and garlic, celery and carrot in the bottom of a roasting pan. Lay the chicken on top, breast side up and rub with olive oil. Generously season the top and the bottom with salt and pepper and the remaining red pepper flakes, and top with the remaining butter. Add 3/4 cup white wine to the bottom of the pan and place it in the oven, uncovered.
Roast for 1 1/2 hours or until the meat thermometer says about 175-180 degrees.Meanwhile add all the ingredients for the sauce into a blender and blend on high until a raw sauce forms and is emulsified. Set aside until ready to serve. Half way through cooking baste the chicken with its pan juices and add the remaining wine, if needed. If the breast is getting too brown cover (just the breast) with a piece of aluminum foil.
When the chicken reaches 175 degrees remove it from the oven and cover it completely with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes. This will help it cook the rest of the way up to 180 and help the bird maintain its juiciness. Serve on a platter with the vegetables, spooning the pan juice over the whole thing before serving. Add the lemon sauce on the side.