It's what Lazy Saturdays and Sundays are Made for
Two things were certain when I was a child - if dad did the grocery shopping instead of mom, cream-filled and chocolate-covered eclairs would mysteriously appear in the refrigerator, and if we were home on a Saturday evening, we were having roast chicken for dinner. More specifically, we were having 'chicken, chips and peas, please!' This tradition of a weekly bird roast, was one that began in my mother's childhood, and was continued as a welcome constant in the ever-evolving, frustratingly unpredictable and hormonally charged day-to-day of my sister and I, whose lives would regularly turn on a teenage dime.
Our mother made a lot of deliciously complicated dishes while we were growing up - she had a love of new challenges, being inspired and slaving over creative dishes for a small, but captive, audience of three. Dinner was always homemade, interesting and, above all else, yummy. Dinner was also always enjoyed together, around the table. (For anyone who has teenagers, or remembers what they were like as a teenager, you know how much of a feat that is, and that it's more enjoyable at some times than others!)
If you were lucky enough to dine in my mother's kitchen, weekdays were inventive, unpredictable and full of experimentation.
Saturdays, however, were not.
On Saturdays, after a week of dealing with moods, carpool and 'all things Tess and Alexandra', mom put on her 'comfy pants', poured herself a glass of wine, popped a chicken in the oven and served it up with peas and potato chips. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, in a family where junk food was not on the menu and lunch boxes were devoid of anything made by a Debbie, little or otherwise, chips were a legitimate side dish on Saturdays. (They were, of course, the fancy, skin-on, kettle-cooked variety, because there were standards to be upheld.) And I'm telling you now, if I ever opened a restaurant, that trio would be on the menu. It was, quite simply, the best, because it was exactly that - simple.
To this day, it is still one of my favorite family meals, and it is one I look forward to serving to my own one day.
These days, when I roast a chicken, I start by essentially steaming it. By roasting it covered for the first hour, all the moisture remains where you want it, and the flavors of garlic, white wine, thyme and lemon truly permeate the meat. Also, when you create an elevated bed for the bird to rest on, it doesn't spend an hour and a half boiling in liquid, which means crispy skin all around - yes, please!
Optional: New or fingerling potatoes
Set the oven to 375*F.
Grease a roasting pan with butter or oil.
Peel your onion, slice off the root end and the opposite end, and slice it in half. so that you have two fat discs of onion for the chicken to lie on top of. Then, slice the pointy ends off of two lemons, and slice them in half, so that you have four fat discs of lemon, as well.
Place the onion and lemon discs in the center of the roasting pan, to create a raised bed for the chicken to lie on.
Pat the chicken dry, and be sure to remove any giblets from the cavity. Lightly oil the chicken with olive oil, then season both the inside and outside with a generous amount of salt and pepper. (Remember to season both sides of the chicken.) Pull the leaves off of two thyme sprigs and scatter them onto the chicken.
Stuff the cavity with the remaining thyme (about 10 sprigs) and the remaining lemon, sliced in half.
Scatter the smashed garlic cloves around the chicken, and, as an option, spread your potatoes around the chicken, in the pan.
Drizzle the potatoes with a little olive oil and season them with salt and pepper.
Finally, add the wine to the pan.
Cover the pan with aluminum foil and seal the edges, then roast the chicken, covered, for an hour.
Remove the chicken from the oven, pull off the foil and baste the bird with some of the pan drippings. Increase the oven temperature to 450*F.
Roast the chicken, uncovered for a further 35 minutes, until browned and cooked through.
Serve it with the potatoes and white wine drippings from the pan.
Chips and peas are optional, but I'm telling you, it's pretty magical. Comfy pants, however, are not - comfy pants are a prerequisite.
*Note: If you can find a brined chicken, by all means, buy it! The meat is packed with flavor, and the end result is far juicer. Trader Joe's sells brined, organic chickens, if you're not sure where to find them, you can brine your own. It's really simple!