This recipe requires no turning or basting. Tying the legs helps the meat to cook evenly, and spreading butter over the surface before cooking ensures a delectable crispness and an appetizing golden-brown color.
- One 6-pound roasting chicken
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 medium onions, sliced crosswise 1/2-inch thick
- 1 lemon
- 3 large garlic cloves, crushed plus 2 cloves, thinly sliced
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs fresh tarragon
- 1 cup homemade or canned low-sodium chicken stock
Let the chicken and 1 tablespoon butter stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Remove and discard the plastic pop-up timer from the chicken if there is one. Remove giblets and excess fat from the chicken cavity. Rinse chicken inside and out under cold running water. Dry chicken thoroughly with paper towels. Tuck wing tips under the body. Sprinkle the cavity of the chicken liberally with salt and pepper, and set aside.
Using the palm of your hand, roll the lemon back and forth while pressing down. Pierce the entire surface of the lemon with a fork. Insert crushed garlic, thyme, and lemon into chicken's cavity. Gently loosen the skin from both sides of the breast, being careful to not tear the skin; place sliced garlic and tarragon under skin. Place chicken, breast-side up, on the bed of onion slices. Bring the legs forward, cross them, and tie them together using about 18 inches of kitchen twine.
Spread softened butter over entire surface of chicken, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Place in oven, and roast until skin is deep golden-brown and juices run clear when pierced, about 1 1/2 hours. Insert an instant-read thermometer into the breast, which will read 180 degrees when done, and then the deepest part of the thigh, which will read 190 degrees. Be careful to not touch any bones with the thermometer, which will give you a false reading.
Remove chicken from oven, and transfer to a cutting board with a well. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes so juices will settle. Meanwhile, pour pan drippings into a shallow bowl or a fat separator, leaving the onions in the pan. Using a large spoon or fat separator, skim off and discard as much fat as possible. Pour remaining drippings and any juices that have collected under the chicken back into the roasting pan. Place pan on stove, over medium-high heat, and cook for about 1 minute. Add chicken stock, increasing heat to high, and using a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits; cook, stirring, until the liquid is reduced by half, about 4 minutes.
Strain gravy into a small bowl, pressing down on onions to extract any remaining liquid. Discard onions, and stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter until melted and incorporated. Untie the legs, and remove and discard the lemon, garlic, and herbs from the cavity of the chicken and underneath the skin on the breast.
Carve the chicken on the same cutting board using a sharp knife and a large fork. To remove the legs, pull one away from the body; use the knife to find the joint that connects the leg to the body, and sever it. Cut the thigh away from the drumstick at the second joint. To remove the breasts, cut straight down between the breasts, following the contour of the rib cage, until you hit the wishbone. Cut through the joint where it meets the breastbone. Arrange pieces on a serving platter, and serve immediately with gravy.