Old faithful: Roast Chicken with Garlic and Lemon

Chicken with Garlic and Lemon Sometimes familiarity breeds contempt and that has surely been the case with one of my trademark dishes – Roast Chicken with Garlic and Lemon. This is a dish that I have been cooking for years. It gets trotted out at regular intervals if friends are coming round for dinner and for many years it, and a variation on Apple Crumble, were my fail-safe dishes for those occasions. In fact, a poor housemate that I lived with for a couple of years must have gotten well sick of the sight and smell of garlic and lemon!

For all that I criticise it, this recipe is a great one to have up your sleeve – and it leads to endless variations. I think I got the original idea from the ever fabulous Nigel Slater but I’ve been tweaking it ever since, adding chopped or whole garlic cloves, a glass of white or red wine at the beginning or end of the cooking time, not adding any liquid at all, sitting the chicken on a bed of onions and/or other vegetables and experimenting with herbs – fresh thyme and rosemary being two of the most readily available favourites.

It is the work of minutes to prepare the ingredients then all you have to do is put your roasting tin in the oven and let the heat go to work. You can make this dish with a whole chicken or pieces. If I am cooking a whole chicken I normally put a lemon half into the bird. If not, I snuggle the halves into the tin with the chicken pieces. I normally use thighs, favouring the dark juicy meat over the white breasts. For this recipe I am going to presume that you are using chicken pieces – make sure they come with skin and bones intact. Crispy chicken skin is one of life’s pure joys. And do try to cook free-range chicken if you can at all afford it. The flavour is just so much better – and there’s none of the associated guilt that you get from eating chickens that have had an unhappy factory life. Having said that, this recipe does give flavour even to the most pallid of supermarket chooks.

Chicken with Garlic and Lemon
Free-range chicken – a couple of pieces per person
Onions – 3 or 4, peeled and sliced
Garlic – 6 cloves, unpeeled, and 2 cloves peeled and cut into slivers
Olive oil
Thyme or rosemary – a handful of sprigs
White wine – a glass
Lemon – 1, skin scrubbed of wax and halved
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Rinse the chicken pieces and pat them dry. Using a sharp thin knife, poke holes in the fleshiest parts of the meat and push the slivers of garlic into them. Put the onion slices into a roasting dish with the whole cloves of garlic and toss with a slosh of olive oil. Pour the wine into the dish then lay the herbs on top of the onions and the chicken on top of that. Squeeze the lemon over the chicken then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Tuck the squeezed lemon halves into the pan.

There’s nothing more to do. Put the chicken into the oven and let it be for about an hour. Don’t worry about forgetting it – the smells from the oven will ensure you remember. The chicken will be ready when the juices run clear when tested with a skewer. The skin should be crispy and golden, the onions slightly caramelised and it should look and smell irresistible.

I normally serve this with basmati rice and roasted carrots, making sure that everyone gets a serving of the sweet juicy onions which, to my mind, are one of the best parts of the dish.



Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

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2 Responses

  1. Rob says:

    Done!Tried this a few days ago, with a whole organic chicken (I think organic is a synonym for ‘expensive’).Anyway, it turned out very well – the chicken tasted great, and the onions! You’re right – they were fantastic to say the least.The only thing I would do differently next time would be to brown/seal the chicken slightly beforehand, since it came out looking a bit pallid.This I served up with rice as per your suggestion, and I even went so far as to add a small handful of Thai black rice to the normal white rice, which I thought would look quite nice. This turned out to be a rather unfortunate innovation – the black rice seems to be rather vigorously inclined to share its colouring with anything in reach, turning the rice portion of the meal a rich purple hue.Great recipe overall – thanks!

  2. Caroline says:

    Rob: sounds like you had an interesting time with the purple rice! I’ve never come across Thai black rice before but, as I’ve moved close to an absolutely fantastic Asian food store in Christchurch I have every intention of taking a look for it.

    The oven I tested this recipe in was temperamental, to say the least, and rarely good at keeping a consistent temperature so my chicken probably wasn’t cooked at 375°F (190°C) for the entire time. Perhaps try starting it off at 400°F (200°C) to brown it, turning it down after about 20 minutes.

    Organic and free-range chickens are expensive but you can make the most of them by boiling up the bones for stock – it’s got a far better flavour than that from the much-maligned supermarket chickens. And then you’re only moments away from a fabulous Asian-flavoured Chicken Noodle Soup!

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