Poulet rôti, or French roast chicken, is a classic of the Franco culinary empire. And it’s so simple: just season a chicken with herbs, place it on top of root vegetables, and baste it with plenty of butter. C’est incroyable, non?
This approach to roast chicken is sorta like a French woman’s approach to tossing a scarf around her neck. With very little effort but just the right knowing, something incredibly simple and commonplace is suddenly made to seem sophisticated. That’s what happens when you slip some lemon, herbs, and root vegetables in with your plain old hen. No one else needs to know just how simple it is. Just nod and graciously accept the compliments.–Renee Schettler Rossi
French Roast Chicken ~ Poulet Rôti
For the chicken
- 2 to 3 cups roughly chopped assorted root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, potatoes)
- 2 medium yellow onions thickly sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 small lemons preferably organic, zest grated from 1
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- One (3-pound) chicken
- 2 cloves garlic unpeeled but smashed
- A few sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz) salted butter at room temperature
- 1 to 2 teaspoons dried herbes de Provence or dried thyme
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz) salted butter
- 2 cloves garlic unpeeled and smashed
Make the chicken
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
- Scatter the chopped vegetables and onions in a roasting pan and drizzle with the oil. Add the lemon zest, thyme, salt, and pepper to the vegetables and, using your hands, mix until all the vegetables are coated and then spread into a single layer.
- Using paper towels, pat the chicken completely dry, inside and out.
- Cut both lemons in quarters and tuck them in the cavity of the bird with the smashed garlic and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. If all the lemon quarters don’t fit, you can pop them in the pan with the vegetables—just don’t forget to take them out when you serve the chicken.
- Cut about half the butter into small pieces and place the pieces under the skin of the bird. To do this, start at the cavity end of the chicken and slide one or two fingers between the meat and the skin. Work slowly, separating the skin from the meat as far as you can reach. Squish the butter pieces slightly and fit them under the skin as best you can.
- Spread the remainder of the butter over the outside of the skin. The easiest way to do this is with your hands. Season the bird with the herbes de Provence or dried thyme and a touch of pepper.
- Place the bird directly on the vegetables in the roasting pan and place in the oven on the bottom rack for 20 minutes, until the skin starts to brown nicely.
Make the basting mixture
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add the smashed garlic and place over very low heat. You will use this to baste the chicken while it’s roasting.
- Turn down the oven to 400˚F (200˚C) and roast the chicken for 60 to 70 minutes more, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the high part of the thigh registers 165˚F (74˚C). Normally you can count on about 20 minutes’ cook time per pound (454 g) of chicken but to be absolutely sure, a meat thermometer is the way to go!
- While the bird is cooking, baste it every 20 minutes or so with the melted butter and smashed garlic. This will season the bird even more.
- Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the oven (leave the vegetables in the roasting pan), place it on a cutting board (preferably one that has a drain ridge to catch any juices), cover it loosely with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes before you carve it.
- Give the vegetables a good stir and place the roasting pan back in the oven until you are ready to serve the meal. If the vegetables are not crisp enough, you can set the broiler to high (around 400˚F/200˚C, if your broiler has a temperature display) and broil them for about 5 minutes, but do keep an eye on them as they might burn.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This French roast chicken dish has it all—tender, juicy meat bursting with flavor and wonderful, crisp skin, and the roasted veggies bathed in rich buttery-lemon-garlic-chicken juices! I’m still thinking about it!
The dish takes a bit of time from start to finish, but what a perfect meal to make for guests when all the work is done ahead, and all you have to do after guests arrive is to peek in the oven and baste every now and then while you’re enjoying some cocktails with your friends.
The only accompaniment you need for this dish is a crisp salad with a bracing vinaigrette to cut through the richness of all that butter and a really good baguette.
This French roast chicken turned out to be one of those roast chicken recipes that I’ll reach for again and again. The end result was a chicken that was full of flavor with crisp skin and moist flesh, but the stars of the dish were the vegetables. The combination of lemon zest with the thyme, salt, and pepper was delicious and made me sorry there weren’t more morsels of carrot and potato to eat.
A classic and well written roast chicken recipe! It just goes to show that basic ingredients treated well can turn into fabulous meals! Don’t skip the basting with the garlic butter, it helps produce a beautiful golden brown, crispy skin. And, definitely use a thermometer so you don’t overcook your bird! I made this on a Monday for lunch and am looking forward to enjoying the rest of it during the week—so many possibilities!
This poulet rôti is a wonderful dish to serve for dinner and is a big hit with adults and children. The chicken is incredibly moist flavorful.
Originally published August 17, 2018