Prep 20 mins
Cook 1 hr 20 mins
Easy, peasy and so very yummy. This skin crisps up like it is fried but this is cooked in the oven. This is from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan (Knopf, 1995). She recommends the following: "If you want to eat it while it is warm, plan to have it the moment it comes out of the oven. If there are leftovers, they will be very tasty cold, kept moist with some of the cooking juices and eaten not straight out of the refrigerator, but at room temperature."
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Wash chicken thoroughly in cold water, both inside and out. Remove all bits of fat hanging loose. Let bird sit for about 10 minutes on slightly tilted plate to let all water drain out of it. Pat thoroughly dry all over.
- Sprinkle generous amount of salt and pepper on chicken, rubbing it with your fingers over all it's body and into its cavity.
- Wash lemons and dry. Soften each lemon by placing it on counter and rolling back and forth as you put firm downward pressure on it with the palm of your hand. Puncture the lemons in at least 20 places each, using a fork, trussing needle or toothpick.
- Place lemons inside cavity. Close up opening with toothpicks or trussing needle and string. (I don't always do this but it helps keep the lemons from falling out). Don't make an absolutely airtight job of it because the chicken may burst. Leave legs in natural position without pulling them tight. If skin is unbroken, chicken will puff up as it cooks.
- Put chicken in roasting pan, breast down. Do not add fat. Bird is self-basting. Place in upper-third of oven. After 30 min turn chicken breast side up. when turning do not puncture skin. If kept intact, the chicken will swell like a balloon, which makes for an arresting presentation at he table later.
- Cook for another 30-35 minutes, turn oven thermostat up to 400°F, cook and additional 20 min (Calculate 20-25 min total cooking time for each pound).
- Whether your bird has puffed up or not, bring it to the table whole and leave the lemons inside until it is carved and opened. The juices that run out are perfectly delicious. Be sure to spoon them over the chicken slices. The lemons will have shriveled up, but they will contain some juice; do not squeeze them, they may squirt.
Wow! This was fabulous and so juicy. I had never tried the breast down method before. Do take the suggestion for small lemons, mine were average size and was tough to fit them into my bird which was about 3.5 lbs. The drippings were wonderful as well. I roasted the chicken in a cast iron skillet along with some fingerling potatoes with rosemary and garlic. I made some braised leeks with a dijon vinaigrette and it was a fabulous meal. My chicken didn't puff, but I had stuck a probe into the thigh so I knew it would puff. The cooking time was spot on so next time I won't break the skin and hope for an interesting presentation!