I have been thinking about the universal appeal of such a dish. You can serve it in any country or community, you will always have a captured audience. And yet it is so simple. In Lebanon, you will find holes-in-the-wall in the most remote villages that serve roasted chicken with a side of garlic mayonnaise.
I remember when the French chef Joel Robuchon opened his restaurant in Paris and everybody was talking about his ” pommes de terre purée” (mashed potatoes). Imagine that! Well, there are mashed potatoes and mashed potatoes. It is true! There is a huge difference between a dish of mashed potatoes out of dried potato flakes and one made with farm potatoes. I for one, adore the potatoes I eat when I am in Lebanon. They have TASTE. When I hear my kids raving about McDonalds French fries, which taste like fried cardboard to me, I really feel alienated!
Never mind! This is a plain roast chicken, stuffed with a bunch of herbs from my patio and served with potatoes, pearl onions and garlic, with a garlic sauce on the side. I made the garlic sauce in the blender while the chicken was roasting. The last half hour of baking the chicken I basted it with the garlic sauce. I cooked the vegetables on the stove because I feel like I have more control this way, but you can just as easily throw them in with the chicken and shake them from time to time as they roast.
- 1 3 1/2 pound chicken, preferably free-range and organic
- a handful of fresh herbs ( such as tarragon, parsley, sage, oregano, basil)
- 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- salt, pepper
- vegetables: 1 pound of white potatoes, peeled and cut in slices , a handful of pearl onions, a handful of garlic (at least 15 cloves, keep 5 to roast whole with the potatoes, the rest for the sauce)
- 2 lemons, cut in halves
- 1/3 cup of olive oil (for the garlic sauce)
- Preheat the oven at 400F.
- Rub the chicken with a cut lemon all over. Pat dry with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Throw a lemon half in the chicken cavity and tie the chicken with a string (if you have it), so that the wings and legs are nicely tied.
- Place the chicken on a roasting rack or in a baking pan, previously covered in foil. Cut the herbs with kitchen scissors. Loosen the skin on the breast side and stuff it underneath with all the herbs, reaching as far back as possible (so they don’t bulge up too much).
- Melt the butter and mix with the olive oil. Pour one half of the butter mixture in a skillet and use the other half to brush on the chicken. Place the chicken in the oven.
- Now heat the skillet and place all the vegetables in it, stirring from time to time as they fry gently in the butter mixture.
- After 20 minutes of baking, reduce the oven temperature to 350F and start basting the chicken.
- Make the garlic sauce: Place all the garlic cloves (minus the ones frying whole with the potatoes and onions) and a pinch of salt in a mortar or mini-processor and process with a tablespoon of oil for a few minutes, adding more oil gradually until the mixture is creamy. Squeeze half a lemon on the mixture (or a tablespoon) and process a few minutes longer.
- Start basting the chicken with the garlic sauce. At this point, the vegetables should be done and can be placed in the dish alongside the chicken. Remove the chicken from the oven and serve with the vegetables and the extra garlic sauce on the side.
It is hard to give exact time for baking the chicken; it should take about 45 minutes, depending on the oven. When the chicken flesh is pierced and the juices are clear, it is done.
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