I stole this recipe from Nigella Lawson many years ago and have not stopped making it. I've internalized it at this point, so I'm not sure how closely mine resembles hers, but it is simple and delicious, which were the hallmarks of the original.
- A chicken from an upstanding farm
- 1 lemon
- grass-fed butter or ghee
- perhaps herbs
Turn the oven to 425°. Rinse the chicken. Cover it with butter (this will be easier if the chicken is not straight-from-the-refrigerator-cold). Put half a lemon in the cavity. Salt copiously, all sides. Cook the chicken breast-side down so the juices collect at the bottom of the pan and keep the meatiest part of the bird the moistest. Sorry if you hate that word.
Use a small, sharp knife to pierce the chicken skin but not the meat underneath. Make as many incisions as you can, breast to bottom. This will help the skin cook up crispy. Put fresh herbs in the cavity along with the lemon: sage, rosemary, oregano...whatever you got! Along with salt, cover with dried herbs and / or spices. I like fennel + rosemary and cumin seeds + rosemary. Crowd the pan with vegetables and other things you would like to eat that will taste like delicious chicken fat drippings. Potatoes, garlic, rhubarb, apple, onions, cabbage, mushrooms...I have used all of these things (though not all at the same time) and adjusted the spice profile accordingly. Rhubarb, apple, and onion is my current favorite.
Cook the bird until it's done. Definitely longer than an hour (unless your chicken is really, really tiny) and probably no more than two. The kitchen will smell like roast chicken and the skin will be crispy and brown. I took this bird out too early once; we cut into it, decided not to risk it, and put it back in the oven. Twenty minutes later it was perfect. The whole thing is pretty forgiving.
Don't forget to thank the chicken. And the farmer who killed it. It's a big deal. Take a moment.