This recipe has its roots in More Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. For years, I made it just as she advised. Now, I’ve abandoned the elegant simplicity and embellish with garlic and vegetables.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Rinse a whole chicken, inside and out in cold water --maybe 3-31/2 pounds (many cookbooks suggest smaller chickens--but perhaps the chickens are getting bigger these days--most seem to be over 3 pounds). Remove all bits of loose fat. Drain for about ten minutes and dry well.
Rub a fair amount of salt and freshly ground pepper into the chicken. On occasion, I've slipped some chopped parsley and garlic under the skin. Certainly not essential--but feels like a fine innovation--and makes for a good visual effect. Here it is with herbs under skin before being put breast down and going into oven.
Rinse two lemons in cold water and soften them by rolling them back and forth in your palms. Poke the lemons in man places with a fork, or a round toothpick--or any other appropriate sized tool.
Place both lemons in the chicken's cavity. I also add some cloves of peeled garlic, and a few springs of parsley--depends on the size of the chicken--if the cavity is bigger--I throw in more herbs. Close the opening with a few toothpicks.
Cut four or five carrots, two onions and three or four potatoes in largish chunks. Place chicken breast side down in a roasting pan, and surround with the vegetables. (This is of course optional--if there is no room in the pan forget it--and if you want your vegetables to be vegetarian--just roast them separately).
Place in upper third of the oven. If you have lots of vegetables, you might want to add a bit of olive oil. If you don't put in the vegetables, you don't need any fat. The bird will baste itself--one of the miracles of this dish in its pure form. After about twenty minutes turn the chicken so the breast side is up (maybe even longer if it's a big bird). Cook for another 20-25 minutes. Turn the heat up to 400 and cook for another 15-25 minutes (again--cook it longer if it's bigger). Here it is nicely roasted:
Check for doneness in the usual manner--nicely browned, legs moving freely, juices running clear. And that is it.