A roast chicken is one of those seemingly simple dishes that takes more skill than you might imagine. But the result is well worth taking the time to plan the timing, basting, and stuffing correctly, and it is a satisfyingly hearty dish that yields leftovers for sandwiches and salads. Poultry is in good supply now, so it is an excellent time to buy a roaster.
Choose a large bird for best results, 4 or more pounds is ideal. Cooked at 350 degrees F., it should take 2 or 3 hours, depending on the size and whether or not the bird is stuffed. To be sure a chicken is throughly cooked, prick it to see if the juices are running clear -- there should be no traces of pink or red, just yellow. Also, the leg should move easily in its socket.
Here is a simple method for roasting chicken that is very popular in the French countryside. Knead a small amount of butter with tarragon and toss into the cavity of a chicken. Sprinkle the inside with freshly ground salt and pepper. Place chicken breast side up in roasting pan. Melt a half stick of butter and add to it the juice of one lemon. Brush the chicken all over with a pastry brush. As it cooks in a 350 degrees F. oven, baste every 15 minutes. In the beginning you may have to add additional melted butter and lemon juice, but after about 1/2 hour there should be enough drippings in the pan to use. Turn the chicken when you are halfway through. When it is done, remove from pan to a warm platter. Wait at least 15 minutes before carving so that the juices will not run when you are cutting up the chicken. During this period make a simple sauce by pouring the accumulated juices into a small saucepan and reheating quickly so as to thicken the sauce and concentrate the flavors. Serve in a separate dish. Rice and a steame d green vegetable go especially well with chicken.