Lemon and Rosemary Roast Chicken

Some flavors just meld so well together they may be intermingled with a myriad of dishes. Lemon and rosemary are two of those flavors. 

Each of these two flavors can stand up to the other and thus create a cadence for our palates that is truly delightful. I crave rosemary in the winter since it is so abundant and evergreen here in the Deep South. Lemons and other citrus coming in from Florida meld so well with the piney taste of the herb that a winter combo of the two is totally apropos.   

As is our custom, or at least my family's attempted custom, we try to have Sunday Dinner together, which may be directly after church or that evening or even on Monday. But at least we start the week with a communal meal. Mimi is always “roasting a hen” as she says, and hers are always perfect. This is my take on Mimi’s, which includes my stand by lemon vinaigrette as the basting liquid. Besides, what is better than roast chicken on a Sunday afternoon?  

Served with some pecan and cranberry rice, spicy collards, and of course, my house wine - sweet tea, we had a marvelous meal to commence one wintry week. My Cranberry Citrus Conserve with this roasted chicken was just what we needed to fight off Old Man Winter as well. Master roasting a hen with seasonal ingredients and you’ve got a meal waiting in the wings (pun intended) any time of the year. From this Farmer’s kitchen and Sunday table to yours, enjoy! 

Lemon and Rosemary Roast Chicken
  • 1 roasting hen (5-6 pounder is typical)
  • 3 lemons sliced
  • 3 small red onions or Vidalias, quartered
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Season salt
  • Olive oil
  • Butter to coat skin
  • 6 sprigs of rosemary

Lemon Vinaigrette (basting or marinade version) 
  • Juice of two lemons
  • Half a teaspoon of salt and half teaspoon of black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
  • Tablespoon of minced garlic
  • Tablespoon of finely chopped rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • Half a cup of olive oil
Wisk all these ingredients together and season further to taste.  

Wash and dry hen. Place the bird breast side up on a bed of rosemary sprigs in an oval Dutch oven or roasting pan that has been lightly greased with olive oil. Pour lemon vinaigrette over the hen and into cavity as well. Oval Dutch ovens work well for birds. 

Stuff cavity as well as piling the base of the hen with onions, chopped celery, garlic and sliced lemons.  

Rub butter all over the bird’s skin. Season well with salt and pepper… it always takes more than you think… don’t forget to season the inside…  I use about a tablespoon of each. 

Arrange any remaining rosemary springs around, in, and on top of the bird and cover with Dutch oven lid, foil if using a roasting pan, or roaster lid. 

As for roasting… for a 5-6 pound bird, I roast on 425 for about an hour and twenty minutes and the last 10 minutes, uncovered, on 450 to brown the skin. Follow the time allotment for the poundage of the bird though… until juices run clear when a knife is inserted between the thigh and leg. Allow to rest for about 15-20 minutes. Slice dark and white meat pieces for those who prefer either…save leftover for chicken salad or sandwiches! Enjoy!