We’ve been making the Barefoot Contessa’s Perfect Roast Chicken for about seven years. After experimenting with different techniques and treatments, we fell instantly in love with her straightforward approach and the delicious results. It tastes just the way a roast chicken should. We’ve made it now I’d guess 30 or 40 times, and will never be sick of it. That would be like getting sick of Burgundy.
But it’s been high time we tried a new variation. In the introduction to a cookbook I’m reading (La cuisine et le goût des épices, by Ethné and Philippe de Vienne) the authors make a tantalizing reference to a classic provençal treatment for roast chicken, without actually providing a recipe. They describe how its fragrance appeals to a kind of olfactory collective unconscious – something that is instantly familiar and deeply appealing, even if you have never smelled it before.
Our first try is perhaps not quite Perfect, but certainly tasted excellent, on top of being simple to make, and filling the cool Sunday evening air with the resinous perfume of roasting rosemary, thyme, marjoram, fennel, and lavender. Chicken, lemon, garlic and herbs. How easy is that?
roast chicken provençal
a roasting chicken (about 5 or 6 pounds)
a lemon, sliced in two
a few sprigs of thyme (or rosemary)
3 or 4 large cloves of garlic
salt and pepper
a quarter cup of dried herbes de provence (try to get a mix that includes lavender)
NOTE: Stop wondering about the colour of juices and where to poke the thermometer. 90 minutes at 425º works like magic. Thanks to Ina Garten for this insight.
Preheat the oven to 425ºF. (Use convection if you have the option, but set the oven to 400ºF.) Rinse and dry the chicken, then season the cavity with salt and pepper. Into the cavity, stuff the lemon halves, the garlic cloves and thyme sprigs. Rub the chicken with plenty of olive oil, season with salt, pepper, and the dried herbs.
Tie the legs together with kitchen twine, and roast for 90 minutes.