I start to get a little restless this time of year. With spring so close at hand — the first blossoms already blooming, and a deceptive string of warm days last week — it’s hard for me to keep my feet and my psyche firmly planted in winter. Food is a great way to connect with the season. And while a roast chicken is terrific any time of year, it somehow feels like both a comfort and a treat at the tail end of winter.
The simplicity and versatility of roast chicken can’t be overestimated. There are as many ways to season it as there are variations in the roasting technique. I opt for higher heat and a shorter cooking time. And I like to keep it simple: salt is essential, and a few spices, but that’s all you need. A roast chicken is so generous in serving: enough to feed a large family, or keep your lunches interesting for a week at work.
1 whole chicken
1.5 tablespoons sea salt
2 teaspoons mild paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
Zest of two Meyer lemons
Zest of one orange
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine the sea salt, paprika, black pepper and citrus zests. Use your fingers to break up the zest and incorporate with the dry spices.
Rinse and dry the chicken. Apply the rub. You may have some leftover, depending on the size of the chicken. Carefully place the chicken in a roasting pan.
Quarter the lemons and oranges. Nestle some in the cavity of the bird, and tuck the rest into the roasting pan. If desired, truss the legs together with kitchen twine. It’s not necessary, but it’s a nice touch and keeps everything secure.
Let the bird sit on the counter, coming to room temperature, for about an hour. (The bird will cook more evenly if it goes into the oven from room temperature than from cold.)
Roast the chicken at 400 degrees for about an hour. It should be done when a thermometer registers 165 degrees at the thickest part of the thigh.
Remove the chicken from the oven, and allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.
All photos by Kimberley Hasselbrink.