Bad days are for roast chicken. I’ve been struggling with anxiety my whole life, and some times I can shake it off with a good run, and others it just sticks to me. When it does, I like to bury myself in the kitchen. I roast things, experiment, and remind myself why I love food so much. (So so much). Roast chicken is the cure-all for those days that my mind goes in circles and I forget to simply breathe in and out. This Roast Chicken with Fennel and Lemon Butter is even better than your standard roast chicken, and it roasts perfectly every time.
This recipe is great because half the fennel and olives are roasted in the pan and the other half becomes a fennel salad for the chicken to rest on. So you have this lovely combination of crunchy raw and caramelized fennel. Plus this roasting technique is the absolute best and most foolproof. If you use this method it will be crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside every single time. Let’s get started on this recipe!
First, start by cutting off the fennel fronds and reserving them. We’re going to use the lovely leaves as a garnish and in the butter. Then cut the end off each fennel bulb. Place the flat end on the cutting board and slice the fennel down the center. Then place each piece, cut side down and slice them thinly into 1/4 inch thick slices. Don’t be too precious about it! Just slice it thinly. There’s a kind of tough center of the bulb, so if you have some tough pieces from the middle, discard these. Then drizzle a tablespoon of oil in the baking dish and add just half the fennel, reserving the remaining sliced fennel for a fennel salad. You can put it in a medium bowl until you’re ready. Then add a half cup of olives to the baking dish.
In a medium bowl, add the soft butter. Zest one lemon over the soft butter. Then chop a teaspoon of fennel fronds roughly and add this to the butter. Use a fork to mix it all together. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze half the lemon over the fennel in the roasting pan. Now, pat the chicken dry and place it on top of the fennel in the dish. Salt it well and rub the salt all over the skin. Stuff some butter under the skin of the chicken breast. Then smear the remaining butter all over the chicken. Tie the two legs together with kitchen twine at the ankle bone. Place the baking dish in the oven with the legs facing to the back if possible. If not, it’s no big deal. Bake for 15 minutes at 450. Then turn down the heat to 350 F. Bake for 20 minutes per pound. My chicken is 3.5 lb and I baked it for 1 hour and 10 minutes.
The chicken is done when you place a thermometer in the thigh and it registers 165 F or when pierced and the juices run clear. A good test is to use the end of a wooden spoon in the chicken cavity to prop the chicken upright. If the juices come out red, give it another 15 minutes and test again. Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the oven and let it rest for ten minutes.
In a medium bowl, add the remaining fennel. Cut the remaining olives in half and add to the bowl. Add a few torn fennel fronds. Drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil and a half teaspoon of red wine vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper and toss. Serve the chicken over the salad on each plate and then pour the roasted fennel juices on top. See the full recipe below.
- one 3½ lb whole chicken, neck and giblets removed
- 1 lemon
- 2 fennel roots
- ¾ cup pitted green olives
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1½ tsp kosher salt
- 5 tbsp softened butter
- fresh ground black pepper
- ½ tsp red wine vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 450 F.
- Cut off the fennel fronds and the end of the bulb, reserving the fronds. Slice the fennel in half vertically, and then place the fennel cut side down on the cutting board. Slice the fennel crosswise into ¼ inch strips.
- In a large baking dish, add a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the half the fennel and ½ cup of olives to the dish and toss to coat in the oil.
- In a medium bowl, add the soft butter. Grate the zest of one lemon over the butter. Pull a few fronds off the fennel and chop roughly until you have a teaspoon of chopped fennel fronds. Add these to the butter. Use a fork to mash the butter, lemon and fennel fronds together. Set aside. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the fennel in the roasting pan.
- Pat the bird dry and remove the giblets and neck. Place the bird on top of the fennel in the dish. Sprinkle the salt all over the chicken skin and rub it in with your hands. Use your hands to carefully press some of the butter under the skin of the chicken breast. Spread the remaining butter all over the chicken skin. Tie the two legs together at the ends with a piece of kitchen twine.
- Bake the dish, legs toward the back of the oven for 15 minutes. Turn down the temperature to 350 F and bake 20 minutes per pound. For a 3½ lb bird, I baked it for an hour and 10 minutes.
- Slice the remaining olives in half. Add them to a medium bowl with the remaining fennel and drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil and a half teaspoon of red wine vinegar. Toss to coat.
- Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve the carved portions on a bed of the fennel salad and pour the remaining juices and cooked fennel and olives over the top.