Real Food From the Well Done Chef: Lemon Rosemary Chicken

This is another in a series of recipes by Jason Sandeman, the Well Done Chef. Enjoy.

There is a KFC in my neighborhood that always has a line up to the block. I have even frequented the joint a few times myself. Nothing tastes better than the secret 11 herbs and spices, and let me tell you, that’s the way they like it.

Let’s put that aside for now.  To feed your family, it costs a hefty $35-45$, and you also get all the “extras” that come with your “meal.” You know, the pureed cabbage and onion coleslaw is a real treat too!

The above picture is what I bought with a small trek to a grocery store and a farmer’s kiosk. The total cost was $18.00 CDN. The largest cost came from the chicken, which is free range. (That means it will actually taste like chicken when you eat it.)

All PETA protests aside, you need to ask yourself what is going into your chicken. There are rumors about four-winged chickens at the Colonel’s hut. You have no control over what they serve you, except to opt out. 

There has been a lot of speculation on what goes into that famous recipe. If you ask an employee, they will tell you everything comes in a mix and a powder. I had a friend who worked at the Colonel’s who can vouch for that.

The following recipe will take a bit of time. It is not something you can just whip up when you get home. You might want to save it for a day when you are all relaxed. (If that even happens now.) I find Sunday is great.

In my neighborhood, the wait at KFC can sometimes be an hour. This dish will take slightly longer, and save your hard earned dollars. Who wants to work extra so you can fill the Colonel’s pockets?

You might miss the interaction with the pimply faced teenager who takes your order with a bored look on his face. If that is the case, invite him over for dinner. You might even make a revolution for his taste buds, and that is always a good thing.

Make sure you have your family near the kitchen when this comes out, so you look like a hero. Their mouths will be watering when the chicken comes out of the oven.  They will probably not even want to wait for the chicken to rest. Slap their hands away and make them wait!

So, let’s start on a picture adventure, and the recipe will follow.

Here we combine the juice and zest of 2 lemons, 2 sprigs of rosemary, 2 cloves of garlic minced, and a 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil. This is the base of the juicy goodness for the outside of the chicken.


Stuff the chicken with the leftover lemon halves, and a couple of carrots. Tie the chicken up nicely. We put the lemon and carrots inside for two reasons: 1) The inside of the chicken will baste in their goodness, and 2) the liquid that escapes will flavor the broth. This will be important later on.

Place the chicken in your roasting pan with the breasts facing up. Don’t worry about the empty space around the bird; we will be filling that later.

This is a lovely acorn squash. It is in season right now, and it looks like it will be nice to eat with this chicken. Don’t let this vegetable intimidate you, though. Cut it in half, and scoop out the seeds.

Cut the squash into wedges. I do this so that we keep the nice shape that nature intended for us. Leave the peel on; all the goodness is there.

Here is an action shot! Place your cut new potatoes, acorn squash, chopped onions, carrots and a cup of water into the pan with the chicken. Place it into a 400°F oven in the middle rack. You will have to cook it for an hour to and hour and a half. Make sure you maintain the water level in the roasting pan by adding water as necessary.

People always ask me, “How long to cook the bird?” My answer is always until it is done. You want the bird to reach 180°F before you take it out of the oven. Here we still have a way to go.

Once your masterpiece has reached the right temperature, pull it out of the roasting pan, place it on your cutting board and cover it with foil. You want to leave it about 15 minutes so the chicken can relax, and the juices can redistribute throughout the chicken. That way it won’t taste like your Aunt’s chicken. (You know, where you all have to pretend the chicken is really nice, although it tastes like sawdust.)

Here is the final plate. I cut up the chicken, and served it with the roasted vegetables from the pan. The little cup holds the broth for dipping with the chicken. If you want, you could slightly thicken the broth, but I feel it is better to leave it in its natural state. Sure beats the Colonel’s pasty gravy!

That’s the recipe in pictures; here is the recipe for you left-brained folk:

Lemon Rosemary Chicken
Servings: 4

  • 1 chicken, whole (about 1.5 kg, or 3 lbs)
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 60 mL (1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • to taste kosher salt
  • to taste black pepper freshly ground
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced thickly
  • 1 acorn squash, seeded and cut into wedges
  • 10 baby new potatoes, scrubbed 
  1. Combine lemon zest, juice, rosemary, salt, pepper, and olive oil together in a large bowl.
  2. Stuff chicken with lemon halves,  carrots, onions, rosemary sprigs.
    Truss chicken and coat with lemon rosemary mixture.
  3. Place chicken in a roasting pan, with the breasts facing upward.
    Toss vegetables in remaining mixture; place around chicken in roasting pan.
  4. Add 250 mL (1 cup) water to the roasting pan, place into 375°F oven.
    Roast for at least 1 hour, replacing water as necessary to maintain a constant level of broth.
  5. When chicken is done (a thermometer would read 180°F) pull the chicken out of the oven and place on cutting board.
  6. Cover with aluminum foil and allow the chicken to rest for 15 minutes. (This will relax the chicken, allowing the juices to redistribute, and make sure the chicken is tender when you serve it.)
  7. Carve up the chicken and serve.
  8. The broth can be thickened slightly if you like, or it can be served as is.
  9. The carcass can be used for chicken stock — recipe here.

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6 thoughts on “Real Food From the Well Done Chef: Lemon Rosemary Chicken

  1. TonyNZ

    Sure it takes a while to cook, but that is half an hour preparation, tops. You can be spending the time that it is cooking catching up on a bit of reading or enjoying a nice dry-hopped pilsner (the floral, fruity, sometimes slightly spicy flavours would complement this dish nicely) on the deck with your dinner guests.

    I’m not sure what would happen if I cracked open a cold one while waiting in queue at KFC…

    I think you’d make some instant friends.

  2. TonyNZ


    It sounded promising, but after reading the article I just had to shake my head. What’s worse, theres not enough referencing information to even find which study they are talking about.

    It sounds to me as though their “macronutrient diets” are pretty much a load of bull#$@/.

    Well, it’s a start. I have a feeling this isn’t the result the researchers wanted. Notice how cautious they were in drawing conclusions.

  3. Gita

    Sounds like the chicken won’t have crispy skin, which we all love. Is there a reason why there is so much water involved rather than just coating the veggies with oil and letting everything roast?

  4. mezzovoice

    I find the bit about “You have no control over what they serve you” the most important – and least succulent – piece in your post. GREAT pics, tx. Actually – you can stuff your chicken with pretty anything provided you’ve got a real one and not what like to call a “rubber eagle” in German. I sometimes simply rub the chicken with olive oil and salt and stuff if with sprigs of rosemary and unpeeled cloves of garlic and put Brussels sprouts around it. When everything is done, you squeeze the garlic (it will be nice and soft) and mix it with the sauce, add salt and spices to taste and enjoy. The only real work is peeling the sprouts.

  5. Josh

    Why of why did I read this at 8 AM??? This sounds absolutely delicious! I’ll have to try this over the weekend. Thanks.


  6. Jason Sandeman

    @ TonyNZ – I would join you with that nice cold one. I am sure the teenagers in the back would fall over themselves trying to get some, so your chicken would take even longer.

    @Gita – The chicken is coated with olive oil and lemon juice, and indeed it will have a crispy skin. The water in the bottom is to help your broth along. Since the chicken is in an elevated postition, most of the heat will hit the chicken. The other benefit is the juices will actually cook the vegetables as it is cooking with the chicken. All in all, goodness. The pics don’t do it justice, but if you see the final plate, you can sort of see the crispy skin of the chicken breast.

    @mezzovoice – right on. You have hit what Italians consider the best part of cuisine. Let the ingredients speak for themselves.

    @Josh. LOL. Good luck on the chicken. Sorry about your grumbling stomach.

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