I think there is something superlatively romantic about a roast chicken. It may not have the sex appeal of an oyster, but it has romance. How many a wife has put a roast chicken down in front of her husband (or vice versa) at the end of a cold day? And I always remember that scene at the end of The Great Gatsby when Daisy and Tom sit plotting over a plate of cold chicken—that’s when I knew she loved him. There is a domestic edge to roast chicken love, that I prefer to haute cuisine. The halcyon comfort of marriage rather than the coquettish strategies of a first date.
Mr. English and I always spent the 14th in—the 13th or 15th are when we go out. Valentine’s Day itself is often spent in pajamas, under blankets, eating something indulgent and watching reruns. I like this romantic roast chicken for this year—for one, it feels right to make something whole that two people can share. Whether that’s a chicken, a whole fish, a Chateaubriand—I just think it’s about taking down boundaries and eating together. Then, of course, this chicken is roasted in flowers—very Valentine’s. It’s a kind of Provençal sweet and sour. The chicken is slathered in a butter studded with lavender blossoms and thyme leaves, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, and light sweet honey. Because I cut the backbone out, the chicken is crisp and juicy in one pan in 45 minutes, but the skin is this complex mess of Provencal flavors.
The chicken makes its own pan juices, but I roast lemon wedges alongside. I serve it on toasted rustic brown pain au levain slices to soak up the gravy. A glass of rosé, maybe some green salad, and voila. True love.
- 1 3- to 4-lb chicken
- Sea salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 lemon
- 1 1/2 tablespoons dried edible lavender
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon thyme honey, lavender honey, or acacia honey
- 1 tablespoons butter, left out of the fridge for 5 to 10 minutes so that it’s cold, but not rock solid
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F with the rack in the center. Cut the backbone out of the chicken with kitchen shears. Lay the the chicken breast-side-up in an enameled baking dish. Press down on the breast bone to break, so that the chicken lies flat. Season generously, front and back, with salt and pepper.
In a bowl, mix together the zest of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (about half a lemon; reserve the other half lemon for later in the recipe), the lavender, the thyme, and the olive oil. Stir to combine. Add the butter, and using either a fork or an immersion blender to mash the mixture together, smash until the mixture is for the most part homogenous.
Slather the lemon, lavender, and honey butter all over the top of the chicken, and any extra, spread lightly on the under side. Roast for 45 minutes, until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F and the skin is golden and scorched. 10 to 15 minutes before the chicken is done, add the wedges from the remaining half lemon into the pan.
Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes on a board, and then cut it in half. Serve it with warm toasted slices of pain au levain, with the pan juices poured on top and the roasted lemon wedges scattered around the plate.print this recipe