For me there is nothing better than the smell of a whole roast chicken cooking in the oven.
With wafts of garlic, lemon and tarragon, filling the kitchen which you know is going to make the base for a great sauce too.
And the best thing about this recipe? It's really easy and you'll keep making this again and again because the chicken is moist and full of flavour and makes the most amazing leftovers for salads and sandwiches.
In France if you find yourself in the butchers, a market or supermarket you might find a bewildering array of poultry or 'volaille', many at very high prices. Of course, you can buy a standard chicken much more reasonably, but the French people are rightly proud of their chicken varieties, many of which have the coveted 'Label Rouge' mark. This means that the bird has been raised with taste very much in mind, along with stringent criteria for animal welfare.
I particularly like the Challans Noir chicken, which originates from near our French home in the west of France. It's a bird with black feet and feathers and, as a free-range bird, it naturally has very little fat. This type of bird needs careful cooking so that the chicken remains moist until it is perfectly cooked.
French tarragon lemon roast chicken is perfect for standard chickens and turns any roast in something special.
What are the ingredients?
You will need a large chicken for this recipe about 2kg.
For the sauce and flavourings I have used butter, olive oil, fresh tarragon, lemon, seasoning and white wine.
How to cook a whole roast chicken
Wipe the chicken with paper towel and preheat the oven to 180 C.
Zest the lemon and cut the remaining lemon in half. Place the lemon halves in the chicken and set the chicken in a roasting dish.
Mix the butter with the tarragon, garlic, salt, pepper and lemon zest.
Carefully ease away the skin from the breast meat as far as possible down to and around the legs. Divide the butter in half and spread under the skin each side.
Cover the skin with olive oil and season with extra salt and pepper if liked.
Roast for 1 hour 40 minutes and then check to see if the chicken is cooked through.
When the chicken is cooked transfer to a serving plate and cover with foil. while you make the sauce.
How to make the sauce.
Skim off the fat from the roasting pan and squeeze the juice from the lemons from the chicken into the pan.
Use a wooden spoon to loosen any crusty bits and bring the mixture to the boil on the hob. Add the wine and allow the mixture to bubble for a few minutes to reduce.
Check the seasoning and serve with the chicken.
For a lighter version.
If the thought of adding butter and oil to the chicken is not for you you can still get all the great flavour of this dish and cut the calories.Simply omit the butter completely or use a small amount of low fat cooking spread. You can omit the olive oil on the skin completely or just spray with low fat cooking spray. I hate to throw away any of the juices after cooking so I use a gravy separator jug to skim off the fat before making the sauce.
Other ways of cooking French chicken.
If you rush home from shopping in France with a huge chicken don't even think about just popping it in the oven. Chances are that you might have bought a mature bird that will not cook quickly.
I like use a dutch oven for a whole chicken. If you have a clay pot you need to soak the pot in water before you start but you can use any lidded oven dish if you don’t have one.
Start by seasoning the chicken well inside and out with fresh ground black pepper and flaked sea salt and place it in the pot. Cut a lemon in half, squeeze both halves over the chicken then tuck them side the body cavity. Pour over 500 ml of hot chicken stock and scatter over fresh tarragon, cover and cook in the oven for about 2 hours until tender. Remove the chicken, place in an oven tin and roast for 30-40 minutes until golden, strain the fat from the juices and serve with the chicken.
Other recipes for chicken
- Asian Roast Chicken
- Chicken Cordon Bleu
- French Cassoulet with Chicken and Sausage
- Lemon Garlic Chicken Tray Bake
- Creamy Chicken with Sun dried Tomatoes and Spinach
- Chicken Thighs with Juniper Berries
- Chicken and Broccoli Pasta Bake
- Chicken and Leek Pie
- Traditional Coq au Vin
Whole Roast Chicken with Tarragon and Lemon
- 2 kg chicken
- 60 g butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 30 g tarragon chopped
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon flaked sea salt
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 lemon
- 125 ml white wine medium/dry
- Wipe the chicken with paper towel and preheat the oven to 180 C / 170 FAN / Gas 5
- Zest the lemon and cut the remaining lemon in half.
- Place the lemon halves in the chicken and set the chicken in a roasting dish.
- Mix the butter with the tarragon, garlic, salt, pepper and lemon zest.
- Carefully ease away the skin from the breast meat as far as possible down to and around the legs.
- Divide the butter in half and spread under the skin each side.
- Cover the skin with olive oil and season with extra salt and pepper if liked.
- Roast for 1 hour 40 minutes and then check to see if the chicken is cooked through.
- When the chicken is cooked transfer to a serving plate and cover with foil.
- Skim off the fat from the roasting pan and squeeze the juice from the lemons from the chicken into the pan.
- Use a wooden spoon to loosen any crusty bits and bring the mixture to the boil on the hob.
- Add the wine and allow the mixture to bubble for a few minutes to reduce.
- Check the seasoning and serve with the chicken.
Disclaimer: The nutritional information provided is approximate and is calculated using online tools. Information can vary depending on various factors, but we have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible.
Detailed instructions for this recipe, including step by step photographs, hints and tips, can be found in the main article.
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