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Weekday Roast Chicken with Lemon and Garlic

photo: Quentin Bacon

Roasted chicken and potatoes that are fragrant with garlic and lemon … on a weeknight? Yes! Your butcher is the key to making this speedy version of the weekend staple. Ask him or her kindly to butterfly the chicken (or see directions below), so it can roast faster by lying flat on the baking sheet.

Buy an organic chicken whenever possible—they’re happier, healthier, much tastier, and worth every extra cent. The earlier you salt the chicken (even as far as a day or 2 in advance), the moister and more flavorful it will be. You can also cheat and get a kosher chicken, which has already been salted.

The beauty of this recipe that it only requires your attention for a few minutes. Lay the chicken on a bed of potatoes, garlic and lemons and pop it in the oven. After that, you can leave it alone while you call your kids to set the table, make a salad, and catch up on your family’s day.

Makes 4 to 6 servings. PREP TIME: 20 minutes. COOKING TIME: 50 minutes to 1 hour.

You Need:

One 3-pound chicken, preferably organic and freerange, butterflied
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound small potatoes unpeeled, halved or quartered (try purple potatoes, which are the healthiest of all)
Olive oil for the baking sheet, plus 11⁄2 tablespoons for the bird
8 garlic cloves (unpeeled)
1 lemon, cut crosswise into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices

To Make:

1. Sprinkle the chicken with 2 teaspoons salt as soon as you get it home. This is such a small step but an important one. Whenever you roast or fry anything, be it vegetable or beast, drying the surface will help it get crisp quicker and more evenly.

2. Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Grease a rimmed baking sheet with oil.

3. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, a goodly sprinkle of salt, the garlic, and the lemon slices. Arrange them on the center of the baking sheet and slide it into the oven.

4. Meanwhile, pat the chicken dry with paper towel. Rub all over with olive oil and if you did not do so earlier, sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of salt.

5. Remove the potatoes from the oven and arrange the chicken on top of them, tucking any stray potatoes and garlic under the chicken to prevent them from burning. Roast until the juices run clear when the joint between thigh and the drumstick is pricked with a knife, or when a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°F, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board to rest and return the potatoes to the oven to crisp up, 5 to 10 minutes more.

6. Cut the chicken in half along the breast, then cut each breast in half and divide the legs into thighs and drumsticks. Arrange the potatoes on a platter, top with the chicken pieces and squeeze a few of the roasted lemon slices over it.

Cook’s Tip:

How to butterfly a chicken: Place the chicken, breast-side down, on a cutting board. Starting at the tail end, cut along one side of the backbone with kitchen shears or a sharp knife. Turn the chicken (still breastside down) and cut along the other side of the backbone. Save the backbone in the freezer for stock. Flip the chicken over and open it like a book. Press firmly on the breastbone to flatten.

(photo: Quentin Bacon)


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