Serves 2 to 4
To prepare the chicken, remove the backbone with kitchen shears. Flip the chicken breast-side-down and cut out the breastbone (a thin, triangular piece of cartilage that connects the two breasts). Flip the chicken breast-side-up and press down firmly all over with the palms of your hands to flatten as much as possible. (You can also ask the butcher to do this all for you.)
This method of weighting the chicken produces juicy flesh and a crisp skin. You can also cook quail or Cornish hens in this manner- or even chicken thighs and legs. A cast-iron pan is essential here to develop the crust on the skin. I love my cast-iron pans for so many things- they are great for meat, potatoes, frittatas, anytime you want a crispy crust and moist interior. These pans hold heat well and evenly and you can get them quite hot without damaging them. Make sure to clean them properly- no scouring pads or harsh cleaners, and dry thoroughly after each use.
- 1 (3 1/3-pound) chicken, rinsed and patted dry, prepared as in headnote
- 1 sprig rosemary, needles removed
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2 lemons, 1 halved, 1 cut into wedges
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Position the chicken to fit snugly in a baking dish. Scatter the rosemary leaves and garlic slices over top. Squeeze the lemon halves over the chicken and drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Turn the chicken to coat in the marinade. Cover tightly and let marinate in the refrigerator at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Let the chicken come to room temperature. Remove from the marinade and scrape off any pieces of rosemary or garlic. Season the chicken liberally with salt and pepper.
Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium high. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken, breast side down. Weight with a brick wrapped in foil or a second heavy cast-iron skillet and press down. Cook until the skin is very crisp and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the oven and roast 10 minutes more. Remove the skillet and flip breast-side-up, removing the brick. Add the lemon wedges in the spaces in the pan. Continue to roast until the chicken reads 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer and the skin is deep golden and very crisp, about 20 minutes more. Let rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes. Cut the chicken into serving pieces and serve with the roasted lemon wedges.