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Roast Chicken with Herbed Goat Cheese

In Somewhere in France, Lilly joins her brother Edward and best friend Charlotte Brown for lunch at London’s famed Savoy Hotel on Christmas Day, 1916. Everything on the menu is too rich for their tastes, so Edward asks if they may have something plain instead. The chef obliges with a delicious meal of roast chicken, potatoes Lyonnaise, and tender new Brussels sprouts.

In an homage to their meal that day, I offer my recipe for Roast Chicken with Herbed Goat Cheese. I’m not sure where I discovered this variation on the standard recipe for roast chicken, and after digging around found no trace of its origins in my embarrassingly large collection of cookbooks. It’s one of those dishes that looks terrifically impressive and difficult to prepare, but is actually very simple.

It’s also a secret weapon for anyone wishing to cook their way into someone’s heart. I know, because I served it to my now-husband the first time he came to my apartment for dinner. That was fifteen years ago—and I will never forget the look on his face when I pulled the chicken, perfectly roasted and smelling like heaven, out of the oven. 

Ingredients 

1 4- to 5-pound roasting chicken, giblets removed

1 8-ounce log soft goat cheese at room temperature

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, stems removed and finely chopped (1/2 teaspoon dried thyme may be substituted)

¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

half a lemon

½ teaspoon kosher salt

5 grinds black pepper

Roasting pan or baking dish with low sides that just fits the chicken (a lasagna dish is ideal)

Instructions 

Adjust oven rack to center; preheat oven to 425°F.

In a small bowl, mash together the goat cheese, minced garlic, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper. Zest the rind from the lemon half and mix in well (lemon itself will be used in next step).

Pat chicken dry with paper towels, inside and out, and season cavity with salt and pepper. Insert lemon half into cavity. Beginning at the edge of the chicken’s cavity, carefully loosen the skin of each breast, taking care not to tear it. Do the same with the skin on the thighs.

Insert the goat cheese mixture under the areas of loosened skin on the chicken. Take your time, ensuring the mixture is spread evenly across as much of the chicken’s breast and thighs as possible. Tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken and tie the legs together with kitchen string.

Roast for 1-¼ to 1-½ hours, until the juices run clear when you make a slit between the leg and the thigh with the tip of a sharp knife. If you wish, test the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, taking care to avoid any bones; it should read 170°F. Remove the chicken to a serving dish, loosely cover with foil and let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Pour off liquid from pan into a clear glass measuring cup or bowl. Skim off any fat that rises to the surface, season with salt and pepper if required, and serve alongside the chicken. If the mixture appears curdled (there will be a fair amount of goat cheese in it), whisk well until smooth.

Serve with roast or scalloped potatoes and steamed green beans.