Djedj Mechoui (Algerian Poulet Roti/Roast Chicken)

Total Time
20 mins
1 hr 40 mins

This recipe comes from Farid Zari, who adapted his traditional way of spit roasting chicken to roasting it in his Los Angeles oven. He advises that the spices are a matter of personal taste--use what you like. He says the method does approximate the really crispy skin that he remembers from Algeria, but stresses that the quality of the chicken makes a huge difference, saying that at home in Algeria all the chickens were organic, free range and very fresh, and suggests that a soak in a salt water bath overnight would improve a run-of-the-mill supermarket chicken. Interestingly this cooking method follows the basic French method for roasting a bird -- and, after all, there is some cross-cultural history there.

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  1. Pre-heat oven to 450°F.
  2. Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan and slide your fingers under the skin of the breast and thighs to loosen/separate it from the flesh.
  3. Mash the garlic with the salt, using a fork or a mortar and pestle.
  4. Work the garlic/salt paste into the butter and then work in the spices; using your fingers, spread the spiced butter into the cavities between the skin and the flesh of the chicken.
  5. Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the chicken; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  6. Season the cavity with salt and pepper and place the four lemon halves and the thyme inside.
  7. Roast the chicken breast side down for 15 minutes.
  8. Turn the chicken breast side up and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  9. Baste frequently, using additional water and olive oil as needed.
  10. If the skin begins to brown too soon, cover with foil (but remove the foil about 15 minutes before the roasting time is up).
  11. The chicken should be done in about 90 minutes; the skin between the breasts and the legs should become almost transparent, the legs should move easily in the socket, and any juices should be clear.
  12. Let rest before carving.
  13. Strain excess fat out of the cooking juices and squeeze in some lemon juice for a lovely flavor.
  14. Note: Zari suggests serving with orange salads dressed with pomegranate vinaigrette and carrot salads dressed with lemon, cumin and olive oil.