Lemon Roasted Chicken

I had a lot of ideas about where I wanted to focus today's post about this Lemon Roasted Chicken. I thought about angling it towards the author of this recipe, Lidia Bastianich, Italian immigrant turned celebrity chef, a renowned cookbook author, TV host, and owner of 4 restaurants in New York City. I toyed with the idea of making this a nostalgic post -- my mom made us lots of roast chicken and potatoes and similarly cozy meals growing up -- but I already got all nostalgic on you last week when I reminisced about these blondies. Then, I had it -- the focus would be Fall comfort food, now that we've put away the basil and tomatoes and turned our sights towards apple and pumpkin and soup, not to mention lately I come home at the end of the day at my newish and stressful-ish job craving comforting fare just like this chicken.

So after a bit of contemplation, of starting this post and discarding ideas and then starting over, it came to me: a recipe this classic and this straightforward doesn't need a story or an explanation or a song and dance to describe it. Roast chicken is the definition of simple, to the point, no nonsense, just plain good. So, I'll cut to the chase -- this recipe is good. More than good, it’s great, delicious, a perfect roast chicken with ultra-crispy skin and juicy meat, a hint of sunshine-y lemon and cozy rosemary, surrounded by sweet roasted onions and basted with a white wine pan sauce, Lidia’s slightly Italian touch. The whole thing comes together quickly, too, just a matter of putting the chicken in a pan with a few other ingredients and letting them all  hang out in the oven for a bit, and voila, dinner is served. And I know I said I had already gotten nostalgic on you last week, but food is very nostalgic for me, so indulge me here: as this chicken was roasting my whole house smelled like white wine and rosemary, two scents I associate with my nonno's (grandfather’s)house growing up. He was always cooking something when we came in the door.

A couple of notes: In her instructions below, Lidia specifies cutting the onions in such a way that they're kept together at the root end -- I suspect this is because if they're not attached at the end, they break in to individual rings and the pieces are too thin and thus risk burning in the oven, so try and do your best to keep the onions cut the way she advises. Be sure to use un-zested lemons to roast in the pan and put in the cavity of the chicken; the zested ones will result in a bitter pan sauce as the white part of the lemon (the pith) will be exposed and that has a very bitter flavor -- therefore I recommend you buy two more lemons in addition to the ones that Lidia asks for. I halved this recipe and used a smaller chicken as I was cooking for just two people (if the chicken in the photos seems small, that's why). This would also be good served with mashed potatoes or roasted carrots in addition to the suggested roasted potatoes.


1 (5 pound, or 2.3 kilos) roasting chicken
4 lemons
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium onions, peeled, cut in to quarters but left attached at the root end (see notes)
A couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary, plus more for garnish
1 cup (180 ml) white wine

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Celsius. Zest two of the four lemons and set the lemon zest aside. Gently slide your fingers under the skin of the chicken to loosen it. Spread the grated lemon zest under the skin, then sprinkle the chicken with 1 teaspoon salt, and rub it all over with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Cut the remaining two lemons in to quarters and add them to the roasting pan along with the onions. Toss the lemons and onions with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place some of the lemon quarters in the chicken cavity, along with the sprigs of rosemary. Set the chicken on the onions and remaining lemons and tie the legs together with kitchen twine so the chicken holds its shape as it roasts. Pour the wine in to the pan. Your chicken is now ready to roast.
Place the chicken in the preheated oven and let it roast, basting once or twice with the pan juices, until the meat between the thigh and breast reaches 165 degrees on a meat thermometer and the skin is crispy and golden, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Remove the chicken to a cutting board, and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Transfer the chicken, lemon, and onions to a serving platter, drizzle with some of the pan juices, and eat while hot, ideally accompanied by roast potatoes. Serves 4.

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