Sunday, May 14, 2006

Roast Lemon Chicken with Garlic & Herbs

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.

Serves four.

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 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 Three steps to great roast chicken). 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.

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 min., reduce the heat to 375°F, set the garlic halves in the pan near the chicken, and continue roasting for about 45 min. more for a total of about 1 hour for a 3-lb. chicken. For larger birds, add another 10 min. 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 A double reduction intensifies the sauce). Carve the chicken and serve the meat drizzled with some sauce and with the roasted garlic on the side.

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