The grill is on. Every day. And at least once a week this involves a whole chicken for a family dinner. In the winter we do it in the oven, and in the summer we do it on the grill. Both methods are similar, while grilling adds a smokier flavor to the chicken meat, especially when using a charcoal grill. Cilantro is also a family favorite, and the marinade for the chicken is chock-a-block full of it. For those who are faint of heart when it comes to cilantro, you can substitute rosemary or thyme with great results (be sure to omit the saffron from the paste).
Roasted Lemon Cilantro Chicken
2 large garlic cloves
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro sprigs
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 teaspoons sea salt, divided
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 whole 3-4 pound chicken
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Make the paste:
Combine garlic, cilantro, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons salt, lemon zest and saffron in a mortar with pestle or bowl of a food processor. Smash or grind to a paste. Stir or pulse in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Rub chicken between skin and breast meat and inside cavity with the paste. Rub the outside of the skin with one tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Place on tray or platter, breast-side up and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before roasting.
Prepare grill for indirect medium heat or preheat oven to 450 F. (225 C.) Place chicken, breast-side up on the grill with a pan below to catch it’s juices. (If roasting in the oven, place chicken in a roasting pan). Close the lid of the grill and roast for 20 minutes. Carefully turn chicken over with tongs. Roast, covered, another 20 minutes. Turn chicken over once more, breast-side up. Continue roasting, covered, 20 minutes. Check to see if chicken is done by carefully cutting skin between breast and thigh. If meat is pink, continue roasting additional 10 – 15 minutes. Chicken is cooked when meat is no longer pink, and clear juices run from the thigh when pierced with a knife. Remove from heat, cover loosely with foil and let rest 15 minutes before carving.