We hit upon our favorite recipe a few summers back, when we helped out a buddy with his annual Labor Day pig roast in Connecticut. In addition to the 125-pound porker we were planning to serve, we decided we should have some chicken just in case not everyone at the party wanted to partake of the sacred swine. We got about 100 birds, halved them, and soaked them in a simple marinade of just lemon, sage, and cracked black pepper. It turned out to be one of the first times--maybe the only time--there was a pig roast where chicken was the hit of the day. What really made it special was the marinade. It lent a nice acidity to the meat, which became really tender, and the sage and lemon flavors just exploded.
For the most classic presentation, roast a whole bird and carve it tableside. If you want an especially crispy, golden-skinned chicken, have your butcher halve it, and roast the halves skin side up so they can self-baste as they roast.
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 bunch of fresh sage leaves (about 1/2 cup)
2 teaspoons kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 medium carrots, peeled and halved crosswise, optional
3 celery stalks, cut crosswise into thirds, optional
1 large onion, peeled and cut into large chunks, optional
1. Put the chicken in a large bowl. Add the oil, lemon, and sage; toss well. Cover tightly and transfer to the refrigerator to marinate for 24 hours.
2. The next day, let the chicken stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while the oven preheats to 450°F.
3. Sprinkle the chicken inside and out with the seasonings. Remove the lemon slices and sage from the marinade and stuff them inside the chicken cavity. Scatter the carrots, celery, and onion, if using, over the bottom of a roasting pan. Pour just enough water into the pan to cover the bottom. Arrange the chicken, breast side up, on top of the vegetables, if desired, or place the chicken on a roasting rack over the vegetables.
4. Transfer the pan to the center oven rack; roast for 20 minutes. Baste with the pan juices, and continue roasting, basting once or twice, for 25 minutes more (if the chicken is not golden brown all over at this point, continue to cook for 10 more minutes).
5. Reduce the heat to 325°F. Finish roasting, without basting, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°F, 20 to 25 minutes longer. Let the chicken stand for 5 minutes before carving. Serve with the pan juices and vegetables, if desired.
From Publishers Weekly
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