This is one of those recipes you just can’t make once: that’s to say, after the first time, you’re hooked. It is gloriously easy: you just put everything in the roasting dish and leave it to cook in the oven, pervading the house, at any time of year, with the summer scent of lemon and thyme—and of course, mellow, almost honeyed garlic. I got the idea of it from those long-cooked French chicken casseroles with whole garlic cloves and just wanted to spritz it up with lemon for summer. The wonderful thing about it is that you turn the lemon from being a flavoring to being a major player; left-in chunks to cook slowly in the oven so they seem almost to caramelize, and you can eat them, skin, pith and all, their sour bitterness sweetened in the heat.
- 1 chicken (approx. 3½ to 4 pounds), cut into 10 pieces
- 1 head garlic, separated into unpeeled cloves
- 2 unwaxed lemons, cut into chunky eighths
- Small handful fresh thyme
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 10 tablespoons white wine
- Black pepper
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Put the chicken pieces into a roasting pan and add the garlic cloves, lemon chunks and the thyme; just roughly pull the leaves off the stalks, leaving some intact for strewing over later. Add the oil and using your hands mix everything together, then spread the mixture out, making sure all the chicken pieces are skin-side up.
Sprinkle over the white wine and grind on some pepper, then cover tightly with foil and put in the oven to cook, at flavor-intensifyingly low heat, for 2 hours.
Remove the foil from the roasting pan, and turn up the oven to 400°F. Cook the uncovered chicken for another 30–45 minutes, by which time the skin on the meat will have turned golden brown and the lemons will have begun to scorch and caramelize at the edges.
I like to serve this as it is, straight from the roasting pan: so just strew with your remaining thyme and dole out.
This recipe serves 6. Nutritional information is based on using a 3 1/2 pound chicken.