Make Ahead

Lemon and Thyme Roast Chicken

February 22, 2010
2 Ratings
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Most roast chicken recipes are wasted on me because of their complexity....let's see, shall I cook it at a high temperature, a low temperature, or start it high and finish low?  Should I baste it, or not?  Do I start it on the stove-top to brown on all sides and then transfer it to the oven to finish?  Do I cook it breast down, breast up, or on one of its sides, and do I leave it in one position, or roll it around from time to time?  Shall I tent it with foil part way through cooking, or not?  Do I cook it until my trusty digital thermometer tells me it has reached 165 ?, 170 ?, or 180 ??  Would that be the temperature of the breast or the thigh?  And where is it exactly, that I am supposed to place the freakin' thermometer?  Do I cook it until the breast meat is done, then remove the bird from the oven, cut-off its legs and thighs and put them back in the oven to finish?  Should I only cook one when the moon is full, and the tide high, while performing some funky Wiccan ritual in front of my stove? You get the picture, yes?.
The key to this recipe is its simplicity, and it consistently yields a bird more moist and flavorful than a recipe with any of the complications mentioned above, I know, because I've tried them ALL. —Oui, Chef

What You'll Need
  • 1 (4-7 pound) roasting chicken (organically raised, free-range, and air chilled if you can)
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 2 tablespoons z'atar
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 ?. Remove the chicken giblets and rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and pat the outside dry with paper towels. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken and stuff the cavity with the thyme and lemon.
  2. Truss the chicken by tying the legs together with kitchen string, and wrapping the wing tips tight to the body of the chicken. Rub the outside of the chicken with the softened butter and sprinkle again with salt, pepper and z'atar.
  3. Place the chicken on a rimmed, heavy sheet tray, or in a roasting pan, and place it in the oven.  Calculate the cooking time by figuring 15 minutes per pound, plus an additional 15 minutes regardless of the size of the bird.  For example, a 5.25 pound chicken would take  (5.25 x 15) = 79 minutes + 15 minutes = 94 minutes total cooking time. You may want to rotate the bird once during cooking to compensate for uneven temperature in your oven, but beside that, there is no flipping, rolling, basting etc.  Just leave the little darling alone. When the time is up, remove it from the oven , place it on a cutting board, tent it with foil, and let it rest 10-15 minutes before carving.
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  • hennef7
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I am a father of five, who recently completed a two year professional hiatus during which I indulged my long held passion for cooking by moving to France to study the culinary arts and immerse myself in all things French. I earned “Le Grande Diplome” from Le Cordon Bleu, studied also at The Ritz Escoffier and Lenotre cooking schools, and completed the course offerings of the Bordeaux L’Ecole du Vin. About six months ago started "Oui, Chef", which is a food blog that exists as an extension of my efforts to teach my children a few things about cooking, and how our food choices over time effect not only our own health, but that of our local food communities and our planet at large. By sharing some of our cooking experiences through the blog, I hope to inspire other families to start spending more time together in the kitchen, cooking healthy meals as a family, passing on established familial food traditions, and perhaps starting some new ones.

7 Reviews

hennef7 April 29, 2011
I take it by your intro that you've tried Judy Rogers Zuni Cafe version. I love that recipe but it does take some fore thought (dry brining for 3 days). I do want to give yours a try, as Judy insists on a very small bird which I find darn near impossible to find.

AntoniaJames February 23, 2010
Which blend of z'atar do you recommend for this? Thanks!! ;o)
Oui, C. February 23, 2010
I currently use a Jordanian mix brought to me from Jordan by my brother-in-law who works for the World Bank (lucky me). I have also used Kalustyan's Lebanese, and Jordanian blends and love them both, either would work beautifully on roast chicken. You can find them here:
WinnieAb February 23, 2010
Lovely! I have got to get to Kalustyans...I walked by last week when I was in the city, but it was late and it was closed.
drbabs February 22, 2010
Ah, a man after my own (lazy) heart. Being from New Orleans, I've used Cavender's Greek seasoning in the same way you use z'atar. All good.
mrslarkin February 22, 2010
That's one beautiful bird! What's z'atar?
Oui, C. February 22, 2010
Thanks, mrslarkin. Z'atar is a Middle eastern herb mix usually consisting of ground dried thyme, sumac, oregano, marjoram, or some combination thereof, mixed with toasted sesame seeds, and salt, though other spices might also be added. At Kalustyans in NYC (thanks, Merrill) you can find many versions of Z'atar, such as Jordanian, Lebanese, and Syrian. They are all great!