My oven sucks. It's true, cooking times are always a bit vague in my kitchen anyways, and in the oven it's a total crap shoot. The chances of me getting a new oven are about as good as me getting a pony for Christmas (Dad, are you reading this?) since my landlord is quite the penny pincher, I'll just have go zen and carry on.
Roast chicken is something anyone (top chef, wannabe, home cook, microwave extraordinaire et al) who ever sets foot in a kitchen should be able to do. It's a very simple, low maintenance, cost effective, delicious way to feed yourself and your loved ones. Heck, it's even great to feed those you can't stand. It also has many uses - you not only get dinner for the night, but you can use leftovers for chicken salads the next day, or shredded in soup, and you can make stock with the carcass (I suppose I should talk about that in another post). I like the poulet roti recipe from the Les Halles cookbook, partly because I laugh every time I read it, but also, it lends itself to be sophisticated and simple at the same time.
Wash and dry your chicken - including the cavity - trim off any excess fat and truss that baby up. (This might be the BEST part of Anthony Bourdain's commentary, which includes a Betty Page reference and involves you getting down on the floor, I kid you not). Stuff 1/2 an onion, 1/2 a lemon, salt & pepper and whatever fresh herbs you have on hand inside the bird. Lay the giblets down with the other 1/2 the onion in your roasting pan (think of this as your flavor 'rack') with a heavy pour of white wine. Slip a couple pads of butter between the breasts and the skin, but take care not to tear the skin. Rub the outside of your bird with olive oil, a little melted butter and chop up some of those herbs. Roast for 30 minutes at 375, then an additional 25 minutes at 450. You can baste if you like...and if your oven is anything like mine, add 15 minutes and 10 minutes to your cooking time, and rotate that chicken every time you remember.