Make Ahead

Lemon and Onion Roast or Roasted Chicken

February 22, 2010
4 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 35 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Serves 4 portions
Author Notes

In asking several of my friends and family what dish they would remember me by, I got a number of different answers. Many loved my meat pie, and a few an Israeli chicken dish I have made for years and years. But the most meaningful comment came from my father, who recently died. My grandmother and then my dad taught me how to roast a chicken. They roasted them by the dozens for our almost exclusively Jewish guests at our hotel in Pennsylvania. One time when my dad and mom visited us, he asked me to make him roast chicken like he used to make it. When we sat down to this meal, the look on his face was priceless, and I will always remember him saying, "I taught you well!" But, he was tickled with all the vegetables that were roasted with the chicken, and the sliced onions under the skin, and the lemony fragrance. These supplements to a roast chicken were new to him. He was proud that he gave me the experience of a lifetime by watching him serve home cooked meals for the summer months of every year, and he loved that food is such a big part of our lives as a family, still. We serve this chicken as one of our holiday meals, including for Passover, and baking 2 chickens will amply serve 8 with two gorgeous carcasses for chicken stock. That's not to dismiss the fact that I roast this bird about every other week, once the weather is cool enough for me to crank up the oven. With all the vegetables of our choice intact in the pan, there is no need to make another dish for dinner.

If you are roasting this for two, leftovers easily become chicken curry, chicken pot pie with the addition of the leftover vegetables, and, finally, chicken soup.

NOTE: In addition to or in place of any of the vegetables listed, I have added turnips, large winter radishes, celeriac, sun chokes, shallots, brussels sprouts, and whole mushrooms. Many vegetables taste great when roasted with the chicken juices.

What You'll Need
  • 3 large carrots, peeled
  • 3 parsnips, peeled
  • 1 fennel bulb, quartered
  • 2 handfuls fingerling potatoes
  • 1 large sweet onion, quartered
  • 1 sweet potato, cut in medium chunks
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (4 to 5 pound) roasting chicken
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 sprigs thyme or rosemary
  • 1 large onion
  • 8 sage leaves
  • 1 lemon
  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Choose any of the vegetable selections in any combination you like. Cover the bottom of a 9" x 13" glass baking dish or roasting pan with the vegetables. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and a tablespoon of olive oil over the vegetables. Use your hands to smear the vegetables thoroughly with the salt, pepper and oil.
  3. Thoroughly wash the chicken, and pat dry. Salt and pepper the chicken cavity, and throw in the garlic cloves and either rosemary or thyme as well. Place the chicken breast side up on top of the vegetables in the baking dish.
  4. Peel the onion and slice crosswise, keeping the onion slices intact, and making each slice about 1/4" to 1/3" wide. Basically you will have about 8 onion "plates" of various sizes.
  5. Run your hand under the breast skin, releasing the skin from the meat. Run your fingers under the legs as well to separate the skin from the meat.
  6. Take the larger onion segments and place them under the skin, 2 segments per side of the breast. Take the smaller onion segments and place them under the leg skin. Any remaining, loose onion slices can be thrown into the cavity.
  7. Slide 6 or 8 sage leaves under the skin, and you can place them on top of the onion slices. Conversely, you can place a sage leaf on each onion segment as you slide the onions under the skin.
  8. Cut the lemon in half, and squeeze the juice all over the chicken, working the lemon into the skin with your hands. Thrown the lemon halves into the cavity.
  9. Rub the remaining olive oil all over the chicken. Sprinkle the remaining salt and pepper over the bird.
  10. Place the bird in the middle of the oven. Baste the bird occasionally with the pan juices that accumulate. The chicken will be done in 80 to 90 minutes. Test the bird for doneness by wriggling the leg, and if the leg comes out of the joint easily the chicken is done.
  11. Let the chicken rest about 10 minutes before carving. To serve, place the chicken on a serving platter, surrounded by the roasted vegetables. Serve the jus on the side.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Patti
  • auroramia
  • Georgetown-DC
  • madame cuisine
    madame cuisine
  • TiggyBee

Recipe by: Bevi

Cooking is an important part of my past. I grew up and worked on our family resort. These days, I cook good food to please my friends and family.

52 Reviews

Audre B. January 25, 2019

Excellent recipe - Just wish I could print the pictures with the recipes, but can't get pictures from food 52
Bevi April 18, 2019
I am wondering if there is another way. I will experiment.
caroline0ne April 15, 2016
I loved this very rustic whole chicken. I made it in a 10-inch cast iron (heated) skillet which was a perfect size for all the ingredients. It was more than moist, as it turned out to be a braise due to all the juices from the veggies, the lemon and the chicken. That was fine with me; and I will do it again and again - mostly for the wonderful rustic look. The parsnips were not edible however, so I wrapped them in a piece of foil and then roasted then later in the week when I had a potato baking in the oven. They were so cartelized at that point that I couldn't resist nibbling on them while I was cooking. They became my appetizer. With so many roasted veggies left, I made Merrill's Hot Chicken Salad for the second round; and the two recipes worked wonderfully. I still have roasted veggies left and may have to use them as a pasta sauce or in a soup. I will definitely be doing this again and again.
Bevi August 31, 2016
Hi! The parsnips may have been old or just tough - this has happened to me once or twice. I find that halving or even quartering the top, wider part of the parsnip root can sometimes get them caramelized and sweeter.
Patti January 26, 2014
I made this last night and cannot believe how delicious it was; not sure what made it so good - all the onions? the lemon juice? It was super moist and the veggies were great too - definitely a winner!
Bevi January 26, 2014
It's terrific that you liked it so much. The onions under the skin keep the meat moist and the skin crisp. I now roast turnips, radishes and celeriac with the chicken when they are in season. So good!
auroramia January 21, 2013
This has become our regular Sunday Dinner.
auroramia January 21, 2013
I have started to butterfly the chicken and set it on top of the root vegetables.
Bevi January 21, 2013
That's great, and a good way to cut down on roasting time! So glad you like it!
Georgetown-DC January 20, 2013
First and foremost this was delicious! Comforting and downright good. This was a first for me with the onion under the skin on the breast meat. I have often done the sage, but the addition of the onion takes the flavors to an entirely new level. All of that being said, I had some issues. I used the same proportion of vegetables and size chicken, however, after 2.5 hours my chicken was still pink and the vegetables perfect almost perfect with the exception of the parsnips which were still hard. I'm a fairly decent cook and I believe my oven is calibrated properly, however, I will check that this week. Perhaps my oven had a momentary malfunction or my roasting pan was too jammed with veggies to allow proper ventilation. When we were too hungry to wait any longer we cut off the legs and wings, ran a knife down the spine, jacked the oven to 500 and in 10 minutes it was all done! My guests didn't mind, the conversation was good and the house smelled so wonderful and when we ate the rave reviews were endless. Thank you so much for sharing a truly great recipe. I am considering briefly par-boiling the veggies, or perhaps just the parsnips to ensure those are more evenly cooked at the end of the meal. This is a keeper of a recipe! Thanks again!
Bevi January 20, 2013
I am so glad it all worked out for you. I have noticed that some parsnips can be woody. You may have had a few of those. I am surprised the chicken was still pink after 2.5 hours. Next time you try this, you might want to roast any extra veggies in a separate half sheet pan, so as to increase heat circulation. Also, was the chicken at room temperature when you put it in the oven? If not, try that as well. Again, so glad you enjoyed it in the end!
Georgetown-DC January 21, 2013
I do leave my chicken out to ensure it's at room temperature. I have considered 2 things - 1st to use my turkey roasting pan which is larger than the roasting pan I typically roast a chicken in. 2nd, although I have never used it - sitting the chicken on the rack that comes inside the roasting pan. I loved the flavor of the vegetables with the chicken drippings, which is how I do a whole fish, I lay it on top of the sliced onions, potatoes and lemons. I think my event last night was a fluke. The last thing I will say is this, the one thing I love about my friends & family and cooking in my home, when an unexpected fluke like my meal not cooking occurs - no one stresses about it, including myself, when you stay calm your guests are calm. Just remember, life happens and go with it, plus it makes for an adventurous evening and fun memories of when the dinner took forever to cook!
Ree March 27, 2012
This was wonderful...easy to do and full of flavor.. Not to mention how good the house smells
Warm and full of happiness and love...oh yea and good food. Thank you
Bevi March 27, 2012
I am so glad you enjoyed it!
pschissel February 17, 2012
I am making it for the second time tomorrow and will use two chickens and tons of vegtables to make sure that we have lots of leftovers for the weekend. It was wonderful the first time. Who would have believed that a simple chicken recipe could be so memorable - thank you! I had never used the technique of placing the onions in the cavity between the skin and the meat which made it so juicy! Also - the mixture of sweet and white potatoes was delicious.
Bevi February 17, 2012
I am so glad you liked it enough to make it again! It's a great idea to make 2 birds. Enjoy your weekend!
Good C. January 8, 2012
Where is the print symbol to print this recipe out? There isn't any print symbol on the left side as Ellen wrote in answer to my question.
Bevi January 8, 2012
There is a side bar to the left of the recipe photo. Below the cook's name is a Facebook icon and below that a twitter icon. Below that is an email icon in a grey shaded
Horizontal bar and below that the print icon in a grey shaded horizontal bar.
madame C. October 29, 2011
This looks really good. I think I'll try it tonight.
Bevi November 27, 2011
I hope it worked out!
TiggyBee June 7, 2011
I have this in the oven as I type! Can't wait!!!
Bevi June 8, 2011
This was a cosmic roasted chicken couple of days! A friend
Whom I was staying with in California asked me to make the chicken for her.
She bought the chicken and veggies--she chose wax potatoes, carrots, onions
Turmips and Brussels sprouts to roast with the bird. Amazing flavors! A few hours later
My niece contacted me about the recipe, and now you have made
It!! Please let me know how it all turned out, Tiggybee, and I
Hope you enjoyed!!
Oui, C. April 28, 2011
There really is nothing more memorable than a good roast chicken, and this one looks simply superb. - S
Bevi April 28, 2011
Thanks, Steve. I hope you try this some time.
AntoniaJames April 28, 2011
Wonderful stories in your headnote. And such a gorgeous-looking roast chicken, too. ;o)
Bevi April 28, 2011
Thanks, Antonia. Sarah took the photo, and really did the dish justice.
auroramia April 28, 2011
a girl after my own heart. I was going to add a similar recipe...but yours is better! Well done...Nothing like a roasted chicken to lift up our hearts :)
Bevi April 28, 2011
It's really a staple, isn't it?
wssmom April 27, 2011
Personally, I will always remember you for this, which was an AMAZING dinner last night!
Bevi April 27, 2011
That's so nice! I am so glad you enjoyed it, wssmom!
healthierkitchen April 27, 2011
The smell of this cooking must be phenomenal! Have fun with those babies!
Bevi April 27, 2011
Oh thanks so much! I will have a great time - hope to help new mom catch up on her sleep!
mrslarkin April 27, 2011
Beautiful story! And my favorite meal, too.
Bevi April 27, 2011
Thanks. Then there is the added benefit of using leftovers for other recipes - if there are leftovers!
Midge April 27, 2011
That's so sweet. I really think roast chicken = love. Will definitely try this!
Bevi April 27, 2011
I hope you like it, Midge. Please let me know how it goes!
lapadia April 27, 2011
Nothing like a roasted chicken and vegetables, a great tribute to your dad, wonderful story, wonderful legacy for you. I missed this recipe the first time around, your photo is "mouth watering" good!
Bevi April 27, 2011
Thanks, Lapadia. My dad loves this revved up version of his chicken. And he loves to do the carving and cutting - one of my jobs in the hotel kitchen was to hold the platters while he carved, making sure he filled special requests; e.g. "Bubie G." always wanted a couple of legs and extra swathes of crispy skin.

I cannot take credit for the photo. Sarah took the photo when Jenny featured the recipe in her blog contribution. It really is a gorgeous photo.
pauljoseph April 27, 2011
Bevi Excellent picture and your recipe
Bevi April 27, 2011
Thanks pauljoseph. Sarah took the photo, and it is beautiful.
drbabs April 26, 2011
Wow--lovely story!
Bevi April 27, 2011
I have lots of practice with poultry shears!