One of my versions of this recipe is the most popular thing that I have ever written.
I make one almost every week, and the carcass and innards-not the liver-provide the makings of the often-needed chicken stock.
This is family fare and company fare. The chickens can range in size from about 3½ pounds to 6 pounds. I often make two smaller chickens in the same pan, neck end abutting butt end. It’s not so much that the smaller birds roast more quickly but that two birds gives a better shot at each person’s getting his or her favorite piece of the bird.
In any case, the chicken will take about 10 minutes a pound by my method. Two at a time will take no more than one, but enough space should be allowed in the pan so that they do not touch.
I like tarragon in the deglazing sauce or, for a more emphatic touch, a little harissa.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a main course
One 5- to 6-pound chicken at room temperature, wing tips removed
Heat the oven to 500°F with a rack on the second level from the bottom. Remove the fat from the tail and crop end of the chicken. Freeze the neck and giblets for chicken stock. Reserve the chicken livers for another use, such as pate.
Put the chicken in a roasting pan no more than 2½ inches deep. Choose a pan that just holds the chicken or has room for potatoes or other vegetables that may well surround it. Squeeze the lemon juice over the chicken. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the lemon shells and garlic. Season the cavity with salt and pepper to taste. Place the chicken in the roasting pan breast side up.
Put in the oven legs first and roast for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the juices run clear. After the first 10 minutes, move the chicken with a wooden spatula to prevent it from sticking.
Move the chicken to a platter by placing a large wooden spoon into the tail end and balancing the chicken with a kitchen spoon pressed against the neck end. As you lift the chicken, tilt it over the roasting pan so that all the juices run out into the pan.
Pour off or spoon out excess fat from the roasting pan and put the roasting pan on top of the stove. Add the stock and bring the contents of the pan to a boil while scraping the bottom vigorously with a wooden spoon. Let reduce by half. Serve the sauce over the chicken or, for crisp skin, in a sauceboat.