Dinner Tonight: Roast Chicken with Saffron and Lemons Recipe

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Dinner Tonight: Roast Chicken with Saffron and Lemons Recipe

Honestly, there isn't much in this Saveur recipe to differentiate it from a fairly standard roast chicken. Lemon and rosemary are customary, as is the straight 400°F cooking method. You know, and that's fine. As long as there is a good quality chicken underneath it all, good things will happen. But add one of the most expensive spices known to man, and amazing things happen.

Accept no substitutes. Saffron is expensive but it is essential. I was lucky enough to be given a packet as a wedding gift and I've been doling that sucker out carefully like the precious substance it is. Luckily, a little bit goes a long way. This whole bird only needs a large pinch, which is toasted briefly in a skillet to make it more fragrant.

It is then crushed up with some black pepper and salt, and rubbed on the inside and outside of the chicken. The small amount somehow manages to bathe the bird in a glorious yellow hue, and perfume it in a way I'd never really experienced before. I'm not sure if so few ingredients could make a bigger impression. This is easily one of the best roast chickens I've had in ages.

  • Yield:4


  • 1 chicken (3 pounds)
  • 1 large pinch saffron threads
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • Sprigs of rosemary


  1. 1.

    Preheat the oven to 400°F.

  2. 2.

    Place the saffron on a non-stick skillet set over medium heat. Toast for 1 minute. Remove and mix with the salt and black peppercorns. Grind in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.

  3. 3.

    Gently separate the skin from the flesh of the chicken. Sprinkle the spice mixture on top and rub it underneath the skin. Carefully slide lemon slices underneath the skin and around the legs. Any slices that don't fit can be tossed into the cavity along with the rosemary.

  4. 4.

    Place the chicken in a roasting pan and set in the oven. Cook for 1 hour.