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Za'atar is a Middle Eastern herb mix based heavily on thyme. If you cannot locate it, you can make your own or substitute Herbes de Provence or just use dried thyme. This recipe is adapted from a recipe by Lauren Keating, on Healthy-Delicious.com. She says of her recipe,"Flipping the chicken has the effect of roasting it on a spit, distributing the juices throughout the meat and keeping the breast from drying out."
- Several hours or the night before cooking the chicken, remove giblets from the chicken and pat the skin dry. Cut the lemon in half, and place half inside the cavity. Slice the other half crosswise as thinly as you can into four slices and insert the slices under the skin, one under each breast half and one under the fattest part of each thigh. Rub the salt and za’atar into the skin, then truss the chicken and refrigerate it for several hours or overnight.
- Remove the chicken from the fridge to bring it up to room temperature before roasting. Preheat the oven to 475°F.
- Place an elevated roasting rack in a roasting pan. Toss the quartered potatoes with a small amount of olive oil and salt (maybe even a little more za'atar) and place them in the bottom of the roasting pan, arranging them around the rack. Place the chicken on the rack, breast-side-up. If you do not have an appropriate rack, improvise with wadded up aluminum foil, or place the chicken right on the potatoes.
- Roast the chicken for 30 minutes – the skin will turn golden and may start to blister. Remove from the oven and flip the chicken onto its breast. Turn the potatoes, put the pan back into the oven and roast for 15 minutes more, then remove the pan from the oven, turn the potatoes again if needed, and turn the chicken onto its back for 5-10 more minutes to crisp the skin. Carefully tilt the chicken so that the juices that have accumulated into the cavity run out into the pan – the chicken is done when the juice runs clear and has no trace of red.
- Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before carving.