Whenever I eat roast chicken, I remember the book A Year in Provence, where Peter Mayle talks about how his friends would invite him to a leisurely outdoor lunch every Sunday, featuring lemony roast chicken and lots of wine. Herbed, moist, almost buttery–roast chicken can be such a treat, as well as a perfect weeknight meal. Here, the genius Caitlin from Roost shares her favorite roast chicken recipe…

The Best Roast Chicken You’ll Ever Have
By Caitlin Van Horn from Roost

If there’s one dish that has faithfully remained on my weekly meal rotation, it’s a roasted chicken. For years I feared making my own, usually resorting to the over-cooked and unfortunately dry store-bought rotisserie chickens. It wasn’t so much the uneasiness of working with a raw chicken that kept me from roasting myself but rather the superfluous task of trussing. I could never figure it out, and, although I understand that it’s aesthetically pleasing, I find that simply tying the legs together is more than efficient. No wrapping, tucking, or twisting; a simple tie around the legs is all you need to keep your bird from “spreading eagle.” Or is it “spreading chicken”?

Moving on. This recipe I share with you today needs to be engrained on your brain. It is so simple, and I find its effortlessness is what makes it such a flavorful and succulent bird. The addition of fresh herbs such as thyme, marjoram, rosemary and lavender lends a beautiful fragrance, while lemon and garlic infuse the meat, leaving it perfectly moist.

Unlike the most beloved Thanksgiving turkey, a small chicken can roast in less than an hour. No brining, basting or flipping required. In addition to this dish being deliciously simple it is a fabulous way to impress your family and friends. They will think you slaved away in the kitchen preparing such a feast, but don’t worry: your secret is safe with me. Enjoy!

Recipe: The Best Roast Chicken You’ll Ever Have

You’ll need:
3-4 lb free range chicken, giblets removed (mine came with the giblets already removed; you can ask the butcher to remove them, if you wish)
1 lemon, cut in half
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tbsp fresh marjoram, chopped
1 tbsp fresh culinary lavender, chopped (I used Jacobs Farm green lavender which is picked just before it flowers; they sell it at most Whole Foods stores)
Salt and pepper

Rinse chicken under cold water and pat dry. It is very important that you dry it well; any excess water will turn to steam in the oven and prevent the skin from getting nice and crispy.

Insert lemon, garlic, sprigs of thyme and rosemary in the cavity of the bird, and tie the legs together with kitchen twine.

Using your fingers, massage the butter all over the skin of the bird. Any excess can be rubbed under the skin of the breasts.

Sprinkle the chopped herbs all over the bird, and generously dash with salt and a lot of pepper.

Let chicken sit for one hour until it’s about room temperature.

While the bird is coming to room temperature, remove the middle rack in your oven and preheat to 450F. Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or roasting pan into the oven while it preheats.

When oven is ready carefully remove roasting skillet/pan, and place the chicken, breast side up, into the pan. Return pan to oven and roast for 45 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165F when inserted into the thickest part of the bird (the breast).

(Note: If you have a larger bird, you may need to increase the ingredients and roasting time.)

Thank you so much, Caitlin!

P.S. More best-of recipes, including chocolate banana bread and a lazy egg sandwich.

(Photos by Caitlin from Roost; thanks to Shoko for help with this series)