Dorie Greenspan's Herb-Butter Chicken

  • 1/2 medium lemon
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
  • About 1 cup loosely packed minced mixed fresh herbs (save the stems)
  • 4 medium scallions, white and light green parts only (save the dark green parts), minced
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 or 2 slices stale bread
  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds), at room temperature or close to it
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2/3 cup white wine or water
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, for the pan sauce (optional)
  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 450°F.
  2. Finely grate the zest of the lemon into a small bowl (reserve the lemon). Toss in the butter, minced herbs and scallions, season with salt and pepper and mash the ingredients together until well blended. Divide the seasoned butter in half and wrap one piece tightly in plastic wrap; freeze for your next chicken or another use.
  3. Pour the oil into a Dutch oven and swish it around so that it slicks the sides of the pot. Spread a little of the herb butter on one side of the bread, then place it buttered side up in the pot.
  4. Buttering the chicken can be a little tricky, messy too, but there’s also something very satisfying about it. Use your fingers to pull the chicken skin away from the meat, loosening it along the breasts and drumsticks. Work from the top and bottom of the chicken, lifting the skin up with your knuckles to help you open up some space without tearing the skin. Using a chunky pat at time, squish, squiggle and otherwise schmush most of the remaining butter under the skin of the chicken, spread-ing it as best as you can against the meat. Don’t worry about getting an even layer — the butter will melt and baste all the meat in the oven. Pat the skin dry and smear whatever butter remains over it. Season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper and stuff the cavity with the reserved herb stems and scallion greens. Squeeze the half lemon over the bird and tuck the lemon into the cavity.
  5. Sit the chicken breast side up on the bread. Toss the onion and bay leaf into the pot, pour the wine or water around the chicken and slide the pot into the oven. Roast the chicken, uncovered, for 50 to 60 minutes; if it looks as if the pan juices are running low, add some water. The chicken is done when a thermometer poked into the thickest part of a thigh registers 165°F. Alternatively, you can cut a slit in the chicken between the drumstick and breast and check that the juices run clear.
  6. Transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board and let rest for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, skim the fat from the pan juices and stir in some sherry vinegar, if you’d like.
  7. Carve the chicken and serve with the pan juices and the jus-soaked bread (if you haven’t already finished it off in the kitchen).