A Sunday dinner of roast chicken is one of my favorite weekend rituals but, just because we do it on the regular, doesn't mean it's boring. One week it's Chile-Lime Chicken, others this Smoked Paprika-Oregano situation, and this last weekend it was a twist on Middle Eastern za'atar with this Sumac and Thyme Roast Chicken.
The sumac left over from their travels to Lebanon and thyme because well, every good gardener grows it and I could pluck it from my window herb garden. The chicken dry brined for a few hours before roasting in a well-worn Le Creuset cast iron skillet (via a technique Melissa Clark detailed recently in The Times). The chicken got crisp skin and a pink hue from the sumac then I served it over garlic toasts, soaked with a ladle of pan juices,and some good crusty bread because that is Sunday roast perfection.
plus more for drizzling
plust more for serving
Combine the oil, sumac, salt, thyme leaves, and garlic in a bowl and mix until well combined. Rub the chicken inside and out (and under the skin) with the mixture. Put a few turns of freshly ground black pepper all over the chicken. Squeeze the lemon quarters all over the chicken then place them in the cavity. Otherwise, let it rest uncovered at room temperature.
If you have time, do this 4 to 8 hours ahead and refrigerate the bird uncovered.
Heat oven to 475°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Meanwhile, lay a piece of foil on a baking sheet. Drizzle beets with some of the oil, season with a pinch of salt, and roast until a pairing knife comes out easily, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, place a large cast-iron or other heavy, ovenproof skillet in the oven and heat at least 15 minutes.
If you seasoned the chicken in advance, take it out of the fridge so it can warm to room temperature.
Using a sharp knife, cut the chicken skin connecting the legs to the body. Splay the thighs open until you feel the joint pop on each side. Carefully transfer chicken, breast-side up, to the hot skillet. Press down on the legs so they rest flat on the bottom of the pan and drizzle all over with a spoonful of oil. Roast for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan 180° then continue to roast the chicken until the thigh meat is no longer pink, 15 to 20 minutes more (for a total cooking time of 45 to 50 minutes). Remove chicken from oven, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let chicken rest for 5 minutes before carving.