One of my all-time favorite meals is roast chicken. In fact, if I had to pick my last supper, it would be roast chicken with ratatouille. Seriously good, comforting eats.
Before I really started cooking, I was intimidated by a few basic recipes -- biscuits, pie crust, and roast chicken. Seems odd, right? Well, my mom may have been a good cook when I was a kid, but I don't ever remember her roasting a chicken or making pie or biscuits from scratch. Don't get me wrong, she could throw together a mean casserole and maybe pot roast but she was always in a hurry to get dinner made.
So, when it was time for me to start learning how to cook some basic recipes, I turned to Julia Child (basic French), Marcella Hazan (basic Italian), and the Betty Crocker cookbook (basic everything). Seriously. Honestly, if I had to keep one cookbook, it would probably be Hazan's Essentials of Italian Cooking. It's a classic and one that every budding chef should have.
Hazan has a recipe for lemon roast chicken that is one of the easiest recipes around. Over the years, I've used the same basic recipe but put my own spin on it.
In the recipe, the chicken will cook in 1 hour. One piece of cookware that is essential for this is a cast iron pan. If you don't have a cast iron pan, go out and buy one. They are not expensive and will last a lifetime. Best non-stick pan out there. You can get away with using another oven safe pan but cast iron will retain the heat much better.
Roast chicken is best served after it has rested for about 20 minutes after cooking. Serve with a side of vegetables -- your preference. You can make gravy from the pan juices, if you so please, but I am not providing instructions on that. Honestly, this chicken doesn't need gravy.
Preheat oven to 490ºF. Place your oven-proof pan in the hot oven for 20 minutes.
While the pan is heating up in the oven, get your chicken prepped. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Tuck the wings under the breast. Using your fingers, make a pocket between the skin and breast. Spread the half of the olive oil mixture under the skin of the chicken so that it touches the meat directly. Spread the other half the olive oil mixture on the skin of the bird. Stuff the rosemary stems and the lemon wedges in the cavity of the bird. Tie the legs together with the butcher string; cut off excess string. Set aside until the pan is ready.
When the pan has been heated, carefully remove the pan from the oven and place the chicken, breast side up in the hot pan. Put it back in the oven and roast for 35 minutes. Turn off the heat (resist the urge to open the oven) and leave the chicken in the oven for an additional 30 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. When it reads 165ºF in the breast (170º in the thigh), the bird is done. (In case the bird is not cooked through, turn on the oven and roast at 350ºF until the chicken is at the proper temperature, about 10-15 minutes longer.)
Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.