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Roast Lemon Chicken

Few dishes say supper like a beautifully roasted chicken, with juicy meat and burnished skin the color of chestnuts. This lemon-and-herb scented version is cooked in a frying pan instead of a roasting pan, which makes the drippings especially dark and flavorful—the perfect start to a successful gravy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole roasting chicken, (about 6 1/2 lbs.)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh lemon thyme or regular thyme
  • 8 thin slices lemon
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • About 2 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Directions:

At least 1 day before roasting the chicken, rinse the chicken under cold running water but do not dry it. Sprinkle the chicken inside and out with 2 Tbs. salt. Put it into a plastic bag and refrigerate for at least 16 hours and up to 48 hours. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 1 to 2 hours before roasting.

Preheat an oven to 425°F. Rinse the chicken inside and out under cold running water. Pat the chicken very dry with paper towels. In a bowl, mix together the butter and thyme. Starting at the cavity, slip your fingers underneath the chicken skin and loosen it all over, being careful not to tear it and reaching as far as possible into the thigh area. Using your fingers, massage the butter under the skin to distribute it as evenly as possible. Slip the lemon slices under the breast skin, 4 slices on each side. Rub the chicken all over with the oil and season with 1/2 tsp. pepper. Bend the wing tips and tuck them under the shoulders. Do not truss the chicken.

Place a large, heavy ovenproof frying pan (preferably cast iron) in the oven and heat until very hot, about 5 minutes. Twist a 12-inch length of aluminum foil into a rope, and fashion into a ring. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully place the ring in the pan. Place the chicken, breast side up, on top of the ring. Return the pan to the oven and roast, basting occasionally with the fat in the pan, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh away from the bone registers 165°F, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let stand for at least 15 minutes before carving.

Discard the foil ring. Pour the pan drippings into a large heatproof liquid measuring cup. Let stand for a few minutes, then spoon off and reserve the fat. Add enough stock to the drippings left in the cup to total 2 cups liquid.

Return the frying pan to medium heat. Add 2 Tbs. of the reserved fat and whisk in the flour. Let bubble for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the stock mixture and the cream and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, whisking frequently, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and pour into a sauceboat. Carve the chicken and serve hot, passing the gravy on the side. Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2009).