Maureen Fraîche

Mixing Business and Pleasure in the Kitchen

Roast Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon Thyme

I tell you, as soon as the weather drops into the 60’s, I am all about fall cooking.  Though we never really relinquish the grill, I do find myself inspired to heft out the ole’ Dutch oven and I catch myself daydreaming about roasts and braises, almost wishing for the cold weather so I can get to some serious comfort cooking already.  This time of year, I also get excited about my herb garden, particularly those herbs I tend to neglect in the hot summer months.  I don’t know about you, but rosemary, sage, and even thyme scream autumn to me and I look for excuses to sneak them into just about everything.

Which brings me to this recipe.  Now, everyone should know how to roast a chicken.  Though wrestling with the whole bird may seem a little daunting, there is really nothing to it.  In this recipe, you’ll first create a compound butter, which is simply a butter that has been mashed up with all sorts of aromatic deliciousness–fresh herbs, garlic, lemon zest, and seasoning.  Once made, you’ll then spread your creation under the skin of your bird.  Season the outside with a generous sprinking of salt and pepper and–voila!–your chicken is ready to pop in the oven.  Baking a few russets alongside is a no-brainer.

Oh, before you get going, let me share with you a few tips for roasting a chicken:

  • Really do check the size of your chicken when grocery shopping.  I usually go for a 4# bird as these tend to cook up nicely without some parts being left a bit too squidgy and others looking parched.
  • When spreading the butter under the skin, try the spoon trick.  Take a scoop of the butter on a spoon and then slide the spoon under the skin.  Once you’ve got it a fair way in, use your fingers on top of the skin to push the butter off the spoon.  You can then smear the butter around by pressing your fingers on the skin and smooshing it around until everything looks nicely covered.  I love this trick because otherwise I’d be up to my elbows in sticky butter and chicken goo.
  • While some cookbooks recommend trussing your bird (a method of tying it together with string), I actually prefer not to because the thigh meat seems to cook more thoroughly.  Nothing worse than carving up your beautiful chicken only to discover that parts are still raw!  Oh, and Cooks Illustrated agrees with me on this one.
  • If it makes your life easier, feel free to prep the bird in advance, cover, and pop it in the fridge until ready to roast.  When it’s time to get cooking, I try to time it so that the chicken is done 20 minutes before dinner time.  This gives the bird time to rest before carving, letting all those juices settle back into the meat.
  • Definitely check your cooking temperatures.  I love a probe thermometer that I can insert at the beginning and then set for my desired finished temperature.  Talk about taking out all the guess work!  Stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, set your temperature alarm, and then forget it until the buzzer tells you the bird is done.

Roast Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon Thyme
Serves 4-6


4# whole chicken, rinsed and patted dry
½ stick butter, softened
3 sprigs rosemary
3 sprigs lemon thyme
1 lemon, half of it zested
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.  Place your chicken in the prepared pan.  Use your fingers to gently loosen the skin a bit.

Remove the leaves from 2 of your rosemary sprigs and 2 of the thyme sprigs and mince.  Stick the remaining sprigs of rosemary and thyme inside the bird’s cavity.

Put the butter, minced herbs, zest from ½ your lemon, minced garlic, ½ tsp salt, and  ¼ tsp pepper in a small bowl.  Using a fork, mash it all together until it is well combined.  Using a spoon, scoop about a quarter of your butter mixture and then slide the spoon under the chicken skin.  Aim for the left thigh and then push the butter off the spoon by pushing with your fingers from on top of the skin.  Smear the butter around until the thigh and leg are decently buttered.  Repeat this tactic for both sides of the breast and for the other leg.  Once you’ve finished, season the outside of the bird with a good sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Last thing to do is to quarter your lemon and stick the quarters inside the bird’s cavity.

Once prepped, pop it all into the pre-heated oven and cook for about an hour and 15 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165-170 degrees and 160 degrees in the breast.  Remove from the oven, tent with foil, and allow to rest for 15 minutes before carving.  Enjoy!

Nutrition Information:  Calorie and nutrient information can vary widely depending on what type of meat you take as well as whether you eat the skin or not.  Below, I’ve included calorie information for light and dark meat, without the skin.

Nutrition Information per serving (4 oz breast meat, no skin): 186 calories, 4 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 35 g protein

Nutrition Information per serving (4 oz thigh or leg meat, no skin): 236 calories, 12 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 0 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 29 g protein

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2 thoughts on “Roast Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon Thyme

  1. Great looking bird! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  2. I agree on the trussing issue!

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