Savory, juicy pan-roasted chicken with caramelized lemons and a bright, fresh herb salsa come together in a little over an hour- start to finish- for a summertime dinner that’s as pleasing to the palate as it is to the eyes!
I love it when something tastes as good as it looks
And this is pretty food AND delicious food 🙂 (win-win)!
The other morning I was scrolling through Instagram and came across a beautiful photo of chicken al forno with salsa verde and I instantly knew what I’d be making for dinner that night. I love a good roasted chicken and probably make some version once a week. But what I was really intrigued by was the salsa verde. Any time I’ve seen salsa verde in a recipe it’s base has been tomatillos, chillies or avocados. But this was mostly herbs- no tomatillos, chillies or avocados to be found. It sounded more like chimichurri (which I’ve been making a lot lately) but with a few key differences. No vinegar or onion, and it called for a lot more herbs plus capers and anchovies.
I’ve been trying to be more mindful & less wasteful
…when it comes to what we eat and how I food-shop.
I really, really love food. And I get excited about ingredients- like “nerdy-excited”. If you set me loose, unsupervised, in a local farmer’s market or a good butcher shop, I just can’t help myself. I see opportunity and flavor and things I want to try everywhere. And I feel like I need to take it all home. For some people it’s shoes or maybe electronics that they can’t resist, but for me? “I neeeeed that rhubarb! And is that watercress? I’ve never seen beef neck before, I definitely need to try it! And when will I ever see grouper cheeks again???? “
The problem is I’ll buy it all at once, and it’s perishable, which means inevitably I end up wasting something because I can’t possibly cook it all in time. Actually, I COULD cook it all ..but it wouldn’t all get eaten. So, I’ve been making a concerted effort to make more frequent, smaller trips to the market. I also look for ways to use ingredients I have on hand when something I want to make calls for something I don’t already have. Sometimes those swaps have resulted in really good permanent changes to things I’ve made the same way for years.
So, the cool thing about this recipe was that all of the herbs were growing in my garden. I had everything I needed, except for the chicken, and I was already planning to pick up meat at the butcher shop later that day when I delivered cookies to the coffee shop next door.
Almost like it was meant to be – dinner kismet 🙂
First things first, prep your chicken
The most difficult part of this dinner is honestly not that difficult…but it might be new to you. We’re going to butterfly our chicken. If you’ve read any of my other chicken recipes you already know I’m a fan of spatchcocking, butterflying and deboning for all kinds of reasons. It’s partly kitchen therapy, but also there are practical reasons that making a chicken lay flat and removing some (or all) of the bones can make for a better end result.
- A butterflied bird cooks faster and because it lays flat, the dark meat cooks through without overcooking the breast
- More surface area is directly exposed to the heat, which helps the skin brown more evenly
- Removing the breast bones makes carving super simple
How to butterfly your chicken
To butterfly your bird you’ll need a sharp, heavy knife and/or kitchen shears. Lay the chicken, breast side down, on a cutting board. Use the sheers or a knife to remove the backbone by cutting along each side, being careful not to cut into the thighs. Once the spine is removed, snip through the wishbone at the top of the breasts.
Now, flip the chicken over and press down between the breasts to flatten. Cut through the breastbone to separate your chicken into two halves. Use a boning knife to remove breast bones from each half (leave the bones in the the rest of the bird). If you’re unsure how to do this here’s a video on deboning a chicken breast that should help.
Season liberally on both sides with kosher salt and cracked pepper (for a little extra flavor you could use this lemon citrus salt). You’ve butterflied and seasoned your chicken and it’s ready to cook!
How to make pan-roasted chicken
Preheat oven to 450°f . Place your chicken halves, skin side up, in an oven proof skillet just large enough to hold them. Drizzle olive oil all over and around the chicken and place lemon halves in skillet. Place skillet in the oven and roast, basting every 10-15 minutes, until chicken is cooked through, about 40 minutes.
When chicken is cooked through, remove it from oven and squeeze the lemon halves over the meat. Place chicken halves on a cutting board, cover with foil and allow it to rest for 15 minutes before carving. Resting will allow the juices to flow back into the meat, so don’t skip this step!
While the chicken cooks you’ll make the herb salsa.
How to make the herb salsa (salsa verde)
This salsa is tweaked from the inspiration recipe, so look at my version as a jumping off point, too! I really liked the combination of parsley, cilantro, basil, tarragon and chives here. I went heaviest on the parsley and lightest on the chives- you might like different proportions. You could leave some herbs out and/or add different herbs that you like. This is where you play around with flavors and create your own thing. Whatever you change, I urge you to keep the anchovy paste (it won’t taste fishy, I promise) and capers (bright, salty, briney and wonderful). I added lemon juice at the end and loved the tartness it added.
To make the salsa, place capers, garlic clove and anchovy paste in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse, off and on, scraping sides a couple of times until finely chopped. Add fresh herbs, red pepper flakes, a pinch of salt and olive oil to the bowl and process again, scraping the bowl a couple of times, until the herbs are all finely chopped.
Remove herb mixture to a bowl and squeeze a lemon half over (being careful not to get seeds in the bowl). Stir and taste. It might be perfect as is. Or you may want to add more lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper or red pepper flakes to your liking. This is your herb salsa, make it how you like it!
What should you serve along side? (bonus recipe alert!)
Last night I served this with some leftover coconut rice and these beautiful sumac roasted carrots. Roasting carrots is so easy, especially when you buy the slender, young carrots like these. When they’re young like this you don’t even need to peel them. Just wash and scrub gently, pat them dry and lay them on a rimmed baking sheet (I like to line it with parchment). Drizzle the carrots with a little olive oil, season with kosher salt and cracked pepper and give the pan a gentle shake to turn and coat the carrots evenly.
My go-to for carrots is usually fresh thyme but my good friend, Jenn, has recently become somewhat obsessed with sumac. She texted me a picture of her roasted sumac carrots the other day and I though the tart flavor and pretty color would be the perfect compliment to this chicken. So I sprinkled my seasoned carrots with some sumac and put them in the oven 5 minutes before the chicken was ready to take out. I left them in the oven to finish cooking while the chicken rested- so they cooked a total of 20 minutes at 450°f.
If your carrots are thicker they will take longer and if they’re thinner they may be done sooner. Check them halfway through by piercing the thickest part with the tip of a sharp paring knife. Does it have a little resistance but slip out easy? They’re done. Hopefully they have beautiful little charred spots, too.
What I’ll Do Differently Next Time (keeping it real)
One of my goals starting this blog was to always be real. That said, this was really, really delicious just as written here…BUT…I’m always thinking about how I can make things even better. So here’s what I’ll try next time- let me know if you beat me to it!
- MORE LEMONS- I LOVE roasted lemons. When they get little charred spots and their tartness morphs into an intense, sticky- sweet, mellow lemoniness? they’re soooooo good squeezed over roasted chicken or fish. So next time? More lemons. Maybe 2 or 3 total. And after I take the chicken out I’ll leave them in the pan, cut side down, and continue roasting until I’m ready to carve the chicken. Then squeeze one over before serving and arrange the remaining halves on the platter.
- PREP THE CHICKEN AHEAD- I love that this can be ready in an hour- so perfect for a weeknight- and that’s what I did yesterday. BUT prepping the chicken ahead and letting it set in the fridge, seasoned, for a day or so will act as a dry brine. Dry brining would intensify the flavor as well as keep the chicken moist during the high heat roasting. Something I learned years ago for getting extra crispy skin (and who doesn’t want that???) is to refrigerate chicken UNCOVERED before cooking. This dries out the skin which results in better browning and a more crispy end result.
- GO FOR THE GOLD- The chicken photo in the recipe I was inspired by was more golden than mine. Sometimes I think this has more to do with food photography and staging than with the actual cooking method. Oven temperatures vary, too, and maybe their chicken was roasting closer to the heating element. My thought for next time? I’ll sear it for a minute first, skin side down, and then flip it over before continuing with the recipe. Or maybe I’ll move my oven rack closer to the top (I had it on the middle rack).
Ready? Plate your chicken, spoon some salsa over & enjoy!
Whether you make it exactly as written or tweak it, I think this will end up on your regular dinner rotation! I’d love to know how it turns out for you – so leave me a comment or post a picture on fb or Instagram. Tag me @breathingandcooking 🙂
- 1 whole chicken (about 4 lbs)
- 1 lemon, halved
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and cracked pepper
- 2- 2 1/2 cups (lightly packed) assorted fresh herbs (I used approx 1 C parsley, 1/2 C cilantro, 1/4 C basil, 1/4 C tarragon and 2 Tbsp chives)
- 3 Tbsp brine packed capers, rinsed and patted dry
- 1 tsp anchovy paste
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 lemon
- kosher salt
- more olive oil, if needed
See notes for doing this ahead
- Prepare chicken by laying breast side down on a cutting board. Use kitchen sheers or a sharp knife to remove the backbone (save for making stock!). Cut through the breastbone to separate chicken into two halves. Use boning knife to remove breast bone from each half (leave the bones in the the rest of the bird). Salt and pepper well, flip over so that the skin side is up and season liberally with more salt and pepper.
- Make sure oven is preheated to 450°f .Place chicken in oven proof skillet just large enough to hold chicken. Drizzle olive oil all over and place lemon halves in skillet next to chicken.
- Place skillet on center rack and roast, basting every 10-15 minutes, for approximately 40 minutes or until digital thermometer inserted into center of thigh reads 170°f. *See notes for variances in cooking time*
- Remove chicken from oven and squeeze lemons over meat. Place chicken halves on a cutting board with juice moat, cover with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes before carving. Resting will allow the juices to flow back into the meat, so don't skip this step.
Make Herb Salsa While The Chicken Cooks
- Place capers, garlic, anchovy paste and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until everything is finely chopped.
- Add the herbs, red pepper flakes, a pinch of salt and the olive oil and pulse, scraping the sides occasionally, until everything is combined and finely chopped but with a little texture intact (you don't want it totally smooth).
- Scrape herb salsa into a bowl. Squeeze in a little fresh lemon juice, stir and taste. From here add salt, lemon juice and maybe a little more olive oil until it has the flavor and consistency you like.
Cut chicken into pieces and arrange on a platter,. You can drizzle with some of the herb salsa before serving or allow people to add salsa individually. Enjoy!
- You can halve and season the chicken and refrigerate up to a day ahead. Seasoning the meat ahead acts as a dry brine and will give the final dish even more flavor and help to keep the meat moist during roasting. Refrigerate UNCOVERED for extra crispy skin. If doing this ahead let the chicken rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before roasting.
- Oven temperatures vary as will the size and starting temperature of your chicken. Pay attention to the internal temperature of the meat, rather than the time your chicken has been in the oven. When basting your chicken remove from the oven and close the oven door to maintain the oven temperature. Check the internal temperature of the THIGH (being careful not to touch the thermometer to the bone) starting at 35 minutes.
- Resting for 15 minutes is VERY important. This allows for residual cooking and for the juices to flow back into the chicken. If you carve the chicken immediately after taking it out of the oven the juice will spill out onto your cutting board rather than staying inside, resulting in dry meat (yuck).
- Herb salsa will keep for 2 days, covered, in the fridge.