Lebanese-ish Roast Chicken

Lebanese-ish Roast Chicken

Roast Chicken is timeless. The sight of a perfectly-golden brown bird emerging from a hot oven – and the sound of its fat bubbling beneath – is itself almost a symbol of old-fashioned, from-the-heart cooking.Learning how to cook chicken the right way is a rewarding, life-long skill. This recipe, inspired by Ilili of New York, adds some Lebanese spices to the mix, breathing some new life into this classic of classics.

Lebanese-ish Roasted Chicken with Toum 


  • Whole Chicken (ideally a heritage breed)
  • Salt (a lot)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Garlic

Spice Mix:

  • 2 Tablespoons Cumin Seed
  • 2 Tablespoons Coriander Seed
  • 1 Tablespoon Whole White Peppercorn
  • 1 Tablespoon Sumac
  • 1 Tablespoon Za’atar

For the Toum:

  • 1 cup Garlic (the best you can find, with the germ removed)
  • ¼ cup Lemon
  • ¼ Ice Water
  • 1 Teaspoon
  • 3 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    1. There are two secret ingredients in any fabulous roast chicken: salt, and time. Generously season the chicken with salt at least one day before cooking (ideally two or three), and allow it to rest in the refrigerator. The day you cook the chicken, take it out of the refrigerator two hours before cooking so that it can come to room temperature - these two steps are how to achieve that perfect, crispy-crunchy skin.

    2. In the meantime, make the spice mix for the chicken: toast cumin and coriander seed along with white pepper in a dry skillet until fragrant. Grind these spices, and mix with the Za’atar and Sumac.

    3. Coat the chicken generously with extra virgin olive oil, and rub in the spice mix. Let stand at room temperature for the rest of the two hours.

    4. Now make the Toum. Toum is a traditional Lebanese condiment that’s basically mayonnaise, or aioli, but made without eggs. Start by peeling and taking the germ out of about two full heads of garlic (if you don’t remove the germ, the resulting sauce will be extremely spicy in that raw garlic way, and you don’t want that)

    5. Throw all of the garlic, and a healthy pinch of salt into a food processor and blend. Now add one tablespoon of lemon juice until a paste begins to form. Add the next tablespoon of lemon juice until smooth and a bit fluffy.

    6. Drizzle in 1/2 cup oil in a very thin stream, followed by 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Repeat with another 1/2 cup oil and remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Continue the process, alternating 1/2 cup oil and 1 tablespoon water, until all the oil and water have been incorporated. Transfer toum to a container and store in the fridge for up to 1 month.

    7. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit. Once the chicken is definitively at room temperature, place on a roasting rack, stuff with rosemary, thyme, garlic, and lemon slices, and pop it directly into the oven.

    8. After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 350. Pull the chicken out of the oven every 15 minutes and baste with its own juices. After one hour at 350, the chicken should be cooked through, golden-brown, and smelling like heaven.

    9. Pull it out, and baste once more with its juices, and then reserve those juices until ready to serve. Let the chicken rest for twenty to thirty minutes.

    10. Break the chicken into its parts, and serve with the toum, a healthy drizzle of the pan juices.
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