A chicken roasting in the oven is one of life’s greatest joys, filling the house with tantalizing aromas that have you drooling for hours. Inexpensive and perpetually adaptable, there are a hundred ways to prepare it. Today’s Lemon and Cumin Scented Chicken is a cross between French and Mexican in flavors and down right delicious.
The beauty of golden brown crispy skin and tender meat is the goal of every chef and home cook. I struggled trying to figure out what the secret was to the perfect roast chicken and finally realized that the key was using an instant read thermometer. If you cook a chicken to 160°F (in the breast) it will be perfectly moist and tender every time.
One of the main differences between home cooks and restaurant chefs is the amount of seasoning they use. I just found a t-shirt that says “Needs Salt” … I was born to wear it, LOL. You don’t have to use a lot of different seasonings, but you must use enough salt and pepper to thoroughly flavor the meat.
The primary source of the sodium we consume these days is from processed foods which are loaded with hidden salt. If you are cooking most of your meals with fresh foods, you can use a more liberal hand. Use kosher salt (it contains significantly less sodium) and season to your heart’s content. One caution – if you are using a kosher bird, it has already been salted, so season those very sparingly.
Chicken is a blank canvas and can stand up to many different flavors. I loosely stuff the chicken cavity with aromatics such as onions, garlic, lemons and fresh herbs. They flavor the meat from the inside out. Aromatics perfume a dish, adding tremendous flavor, and every cuisine has their favorite combinations. In France they call their chopped onions, celery, and carrots mirepoix. In the American South they use chopped onions, celery, and bell pepper which is known as the “Holy Trinity.” Italian soffrito typically has celery, onions, garlic, herbs, and green peppers. And in Spain the addition of saffron adds a beautiful floral quality. All of these cuisines are known for their cooking prowess and now you know part of the reason!
Another popular method for guaranteeing moist chicken is brining. The technique that I prefer is called dry brining. You rub the outside of the bird with a little salt, place in a plastic bag and refrigerate for a couple of days. The salt initially draws out moisture, but if you leave it alone, that now seasoned moisture is reabsorbed, drawing the seasoning deep into the meat. Even if you only have a few hours, this technique produces excellent chickens.
Buy a high quality organic bird, season it simply, pop it in the oven and be prepared for a wonderful, healthy dinner that everyone will love. Enjoy this Lemon and Cumin Scented Chicken and have a fun weekend!!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
I don’t bother with trussing the chicken and always get good results. If you prefer, feel free to truss your chicken for roasting.
- 1 (3 to 4 lb) whole chicken
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp ground cumin, divided
- 3 fresh lemons, quartered or sliced
- Olive oil
- 2 tsp thyme leaves
- 2 tsp rosemary leaves
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the chicken, breast side up, in a roasting pan. Liberally season the inside cavity of the chicken with the salt and pepper. Sprinkle 2 tbsp of the cumin in the cavity and stuff with one or two of the lemons - as many pieces as will fit easily.
- Brush the outside of the chicken with the oil. Sprinkle with the remaining cumin, thyme, rosemary, onion powder, and garlic powder. Tuck the rest of the lemon pieces around the chicken. Place the chicken in the oven.
- Roast for 1 to 1-1/2 hours until an instant read thermometer registers 160°F when inserted in the breast. Remove from the oven and let rest about 15 minutes before carving and serving.
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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