Perfect Roast Chicken with Lemon & Za’atar
This method takes a little more attention than other roast ing methods – you’ll have to flip the chicken over twice – but it’s well worth the effort. Flipping the chicken has the effect of roasting it on a spit, distributing the juices throughout the meat and keeping the breast from drying out. You’ll also want to truss your chicken (bind its legs) and inset a lemon or onion into the cavity to prevent hot air from flowing into it and overcooking the breast. Check out this video for a tutorial on how to truss your chicken without twine or other material – it’s what I did here and thought it was genius.
Za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend, is one of my favorite all purpose seasonings. You can use whatever you like though – herbs de provence is great, as is a simple rub of thyme, salt, and pepper.
For an easy side dish, cut potatoes into a 1-inch dice and toss them with olive oil. Because of the high cooking heat, they’ll roast in about 30 minutes – put them in the oven the first time you flip the chicken and leave them in to finish cooking while the chicken rests.
- 1 All-Natural Chicken about 3.5 pounds
- 1 Lemon
- 1 Tablespoon Salt
- 2 Tablespoons Za’atar or seasoning of your choice
The night before you plan to roast the chicken (or early that morning), remove any giblets from the chicken and pat the skin dry with a paper towel. Cut the lemon in half, and place half inside the cavity. Slice the other half into paper thin circles and slip them under the skin – two under the breast and two under the fattest part of the thighs. Rub the salt and za’atar into the skin, then truss the chicken and transfer it to the refrigerator.
When you’re ready to begin cooking, remove the chicken from the fridge to bring it up to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 475F. Put a small pan (I used a 9-inch cake pan) in the oven while it preheats.
Make three wads of foil, each slightly smaller than a baseball, and place them in the center of the heated pan. Place the chicken, breast side up, on top of the foil, so that it’s elevated (you may need to adjust the placement of the foil so that the chicken balances). Roast the chicken for 30 minutes – the skin should be golden and will start to blister. Remove from the oven. Discard the foil wads and flip the chicken onto it’s breast. Roast for 15 minutes. Flip the chicken onto it’s back for 5-10 more minutes to recrisp the skin. Gently tip the chicken so that the juices that have accumulated into the cavity run out into the pan – the chicken is done when they are clear and have no trace of red.
Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before carving.