Spring has sprung (though, in Greece it already feels like summer). With the weather getting hotter and hotter I found myself looking for a light but flavorful dinner. At the butcher’s they had some lovely whole organic chickens and I thought: why not? I don’t often cook, or eat chicken though I never say no to hot wings from a particular Kentuckian establishment on lazy days, but these chickens looked really good. I could just imagine one nestled in a baking tray surrounded by little golden baby potatoes and bright yellow lemons… and that’s exactly what happened.
While I think chicken can sometimes be a bit boring flavor-wise not you hot wings, this dish is far from tasteless. This dish bursts with the flavors of roasted garlic, lemon and thyme; a classic combination of ingredients that I will never tire of eating. So, say goodbye to dry, flavorless chicken and make this whole roast chicken for your next Sunday dinner (It’s delicious on any other day of the week as well, of course). It’s quite easy to make as well as it’s basically a one pan dish with the chicken and potatoes all thrown together in a baking tray.
Now, I know some people are a bit anxious about cooking a whole chicken (me included). How do you know when the chicken is done? Well, obviously, if you’ve got a meat-thermometer, use it on the thickest part of the thigh without touching bone. I’ve read many sources saying chicken is safe to eat when the inside is at 75°C, but my meat thermometer indicates poultry should be at least 90°C. When cooking a whole chicken, I usually aim for around 80°C, or a bit under. I don’t want my chicken to be dry and overcooked, but I also don’t want to serve raw chicken…better safe than sorry, right? Don’t own a meat-thermometer? Simply pierce the thigh of the chicken with a sharp knife, or skewer: when the juices run clear, the chicken is done (you should probably look for clear juices anyway even when using a meat thermometer).
Anyway, before all that checking and stressing about whether the chicken is done, it all starts with a whole organic chicken rubbed with butter, olive oil and lots of salt and pepper. While cooking, the butter and oil mix with the herbs and chicken juices and turn into a lovely jus in the bottom of the pan that you can baste your chicken with and coat your baby potatoes in before serving. You may even get tempted to take a spoon and eat the jus straight from the roasting tin. Not saying I have done that, …but I have done that (and I’m not even ashamed).
As a main flavor-component, I like to use lemon thyme, because it adds just that extra bit of freshness and lemony-ness (is that a word?), but also because we’ve got a lemon thyme growing on the balcony at the moment… so it’s easy. Can’t find lemon thyme? Don’t worry, regular thyme will do just fine. Heck, you can use any herb you like in this recipe! Basil? Rosemary? Oregano? It’s all good! Create your own flavor combination if you want.
Speaking of flavors: for this recipe, I keep half of the garlic cloves unpeeled, but that doesn’t mean they are tossed away after the chicken is done cooking. Nuh-uh! Leaving the garlic cloves unpeeled keeps them from burning, while transforming the insides into a lovely, amazingly soft, toasty paste that can easily be squeezed out of the peel and eaten together with the meat and potatoes. It’s A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Really, will you promise me that you will not just toss the garlic cloves aside? Okay? Okay.
Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken with Baby Potatoes
- 1kg baby potatoes, unpeeled and scrubbed
- 2kg whole chicken
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 70g butter
- Bunch of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 20 sprigs fresh lemon thyme, or regular thyme
- 16 garlic cloves, 8 of them peeled
- 1 medium red onion
- 2 lemons
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Piece of kitchen string
- Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Scrub and rinse your baby potatoes until all the dirt has come off. Place them in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, half of the roughly chopped parsley, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.
- Take your whole chicken and transfer to a large roasting pan, breast-side up. Generously salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with half of the lemon-thyme sprigs, 4 peeled garlic cloves, and a whole lemon.
- Tie the legs of the chicken together with a piece of kitchen string. Stuff a peeled garlic clove between the legs and the body and the wings and the body (4 in total).
- Rub the outside of the chicken with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, half of the butter and the remaining chopped parsley. Liberally salt and pepper the outside of the chicken.
- Scatter the potatoes, the remaining unpeeled garlic cloves and clumps of the remaining butter around the chicken. Cut the red onion into 8 equal pieces and thinly slice a lemon. Scatter onion, lemon slices and lemon thyme on top of the potatoes and chicken.
- Cover baking dish and ingredients with aluminum foil. Roast the chicken for 45 minutes in the middle of the oven.
- After 45 minutes, remove the aluminum foil (don’t burn yourself!). Gently turn the potatoes and scoop some of the juices over the chicken. Transfer the lemon slices that were on top of the chicken onto the potatoes to allow the chicken’s skin to crisp up in the remaining cooking time.
- Return chicken to the oven uncovered and roast for another 50 minutes, or until your chicken is cooked through (ways to check if the chicken is done are in the post above). If the skin of the chicken hasn’t become crispy and brown yet, feel free to leave it in the oven for another 5 - 10 minutes. Turn up the heat, or turn on the grill, or broiler.
- When the chicken is cooked, place the chicken on a cutting board and cover with a piece of aluminum foil. Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes. Return the roasting pan with the potatoes, herbs and vegetables to the oven for the remaining 15 minutes.
- To carve the chicken: remove the piece of string and cut between the leg and the breast right though the joint (you may have to pull the leg a little). Repeat on the other side. Then remove the wings on each side. To cut the breasts, place your cutting knife at a slight angle right next to the breastbone and gently carve along the ribs. Place the carved pieces of meat on a serving platter. (You can use your hands to pluck off the remaining pieces of meat, but be careful not to burn yourself… don’t forget the bits of meat on the back!)
- Serve chicken with the baby potatoes and some extra lemon wedges (and maybe a simple salad on the side).