Our usual Sunday dinner is roast chicken. I generally just season it with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and brush it with melted butter. Adding lemon and herbs takes this dinner to a whole new level.
August 15 is Julia Child’s birthday. She is an American icon. The impact she had on cooking, food, wine, and the enjoyment of cooking, wine, and the food lives on in the food bloggers around the world. As a young girl, I remember hearing about her shows.
Then when I was older I got to watch her on PBS. My favorite show was with Jacques (Pepin) and Julia. Their show was Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. A companion cookbook to that show was published and my wonderful Mom bought me an autographed copy. It’s that cookbook I used to find this recipe for Julia’s chicken. A recipe all of us thoroughly enjoyed.
A few years ago we were in Washington, DC and I got to fulfill a bucket list item by visiting the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. I’ve been to this museum when I was a child but not since Julia’s kitchen has been added.
It was beautiful. Even my family enjoyed seeing her entire kitchen displayed. We marveled at all her copper pots and pans and how the things she used in her kitchen were not different at all from the things I use in mine. Except maybe the copper pots.
We eat a lot of chicken and our Sunday meal is often whole roast chicken. This was an easy pick. Roast chicken with lemon and herbs is a more sophisticated version of the roast chicken I normally make.
A few notes about how I changed her recipe up:
- I did not roast any vegetables with it.
- I used herbs de Provence because it’s what I had and we like it best.
- I did truss the bird. It’s not something I ever do but this time I did. I actually made two roast chickens this particular night. I have teenage boys, need I say more? They were hungry.
Ok, maybe that last one isn’t so much a change from the recipe but it is a change for me!
- 1 fresh 3 ½ pound chicken
- Salt and pepper
- 6 fresh sage leaves (or 4 sprigs of fresh tarragon or ½ teaspoon dried herbes de Provence)
- 1 large lemon, cut in ¼-inch slices
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- Preparing the chicken:
- Set the rack on the lower middle level and preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Rinse the chicken thoroughly, inside and out, under hot water, then dry it with paper towels. Remove any lumps of fat from inside the cavity near the tail opening.
- To make carving easier, remove the wishbone. Lift the flap of neck skin and insert a thin, sharp knife into each end of the breast; then slice diagonally along both sides of the wishbone. Use your finger and thumb to loose the bone, pry it out at the top, and pull it down. If it breaks, carefully wiggle out the pieces.
- Fold the wings up against the breast, where they will be held in place by the V-rack.
- Salt and pepper the cavity and stuff it with the sage leaves and 3 or 4 thick slices of lemon; give the slices a squeeze as you put them in. Massage the butter over the entire chicken skin, including undersides, then salt generously.
- Arrange the chicken breast-up on the rack in the roasting pan. Squeeze the juice of the remaining lemon pieces over the top.
- Roasting the chicken:
- Set the roasting pan in the oven. After 15 minutes, lower heat to 350°F. When the chicken is beginning to brown rapidly, baste with accumulated pan juices. Roast for an hour. Very carefully test for doneness, checking for easy movement in the leg joint and clear color in the juices. Return it to the oven if there is any sign of pinkness. (A small chicken will roast in about 1 ¼ hours, a larger one may take 1 ½ hours or more.) When done, remove the chicken from the rack and set it on a board to rest for 15 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to retreat back into the flesh.
A roasting pan 2 inches deep; a V-shaped roasting rack
A board or platter for resting and carving
Originally published August 15, 2017, updated August 28, 2020