This chicken reflects the accumulated wisdom of many years and many sources, from mother to Martha to Alice (Waters). Roasting it on a bed of shallots is a technique swiped from my Thanksgiving turkey; it helps the bird cook evenly--plus you can make a delicious gravy from the juice-infused shallots. You can lard the flesh under the skin with butter and any combination of herbs and aromatics, but I think the classic mix of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme with citrus zest is just about perfect. —gluttonforlife
4-lb free-range red cockerel, or other well-bred roaster, at room temp
Wash chicken and dry it very thoroughly, then leave it uncovered in a cool, drafty spot as you prepare the other ingredients.
Peel the shallots and cut them in half. Toss with the olive oil and a teaspoon of salt and line the bottom of a roasting pan with them. (Pan should be only slightly larger than the chicken.)
In a small bowl, combine the minced herbs, lemon zest and butter and mix well.
Rub the chicken cavity with salt, then stuff it with the lemons, herb sprigs and garlic. Carefully separate the skin from the chicken’s breasts and thighs and smear a thin layer of the herb butter underneath the skin, covering as much surface area as possible. Generously salt the exterior of the chicken and truss it.
Pour the wine over the bed of shallots, and set the chicken comfortably on top. Sprinkle the breast area with a few pinches of pimentón. Roast for about 75 minutes, basting with pan juices once or twice.
Remove the chicken from the oven, take it out of the pan and let it rest on a platter for 15 minutes so the juices can settle.
Meanwhile, pour the shallots and any pan juices into a food processor and make a smooth puree. Add the sherry, and salt and pepper to taste. If the gravy needs thinning, stir in a little chicken stock, any remaining juices from the chicken, some light cream or water.
Carve the chicken and pass the shallot gravy on the side.