There are many of us—most famously Julia Child—who would call a simply roasted chicken a perfect food, one that’s hard to imagine improving upon.
But while sometimes you want the simply-seasoned perfect sort of bird like Julia did, sometimes instead you want an herb-crusted, crackly-skinned, salty-briny-juicy pop in the mouth perfect sort of bird. This is the latter. Adapted slightly from the New York Times (January 28, 2015). —Genius Recipes
feta cheese, crumbled
3 1/2 teaspoons
3 1/2- to 4-pound whole chicken
1 to 2 tablespoons
cracked black pepper, to taste
dried Greek oregano
olive oil, plus more as needed
large bunch arugula or other sturdy salad greens, for serving
The day before serving, combine 2 ounces feta, 2 teaspoons salt, and 4 cups water in a blender and blend until smooth. Put chicken in an extra-large resealable plastic bag or a container large enough to submerge chicken, and cover with the feta brine. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
Before cooking, remove chicken from brine and transfer to a paper towel-lined tray. (Discard brine.) Pat chicken dry with paper towels and allow to come to room temperature for 1 hour.
In a small mixing bowl, combine remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, the pepper, the oregano, and the zest of the lemons (about 1 tablespoon). Liberally cover chicken in herb mix and gently massage entire bird. Halve lemons and place 3 halves in cavity (save remaining half for serving). Using kitchen twine, tie legs together.
Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Place a large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add oil and heat until it just smokes. Place chicken, breast-side up, in pan. Transfer entire pan to oven. Cook, basting once or twice, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the fleshy part of the thigh reads 165 degrees F and the juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a knife, 50 to 60 minutes.
Remove pan from oven, then stir remaining crumbled feta into juices in pan and stir well. Let chicken rest for 10 minutes in the pan before carving and serving on a bed of greens, with feta-laced pan juices on top, drizzled with a little lemon juice from the reserved lemon half.
Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink cooking tropes. They're handed down by luminaries of the food world and become their legacy. They get us talking and change the way we cook. And, once we've folded them into our repertoires, they make us feel pretty genius too. Watch for new Genius Recipes every Wednesday morning on our blog, dug up by Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore.