- 1 whole chicken
- 1/2 Cup olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 lemon
Crank your oven to 550 degrees F, or 500, if that’s as high as it will go.
Rinse off the chicken, pat it dry, set it in an ovenproof pan, and go crazy chiropractor on it. Using your hands, crack its back and breasts, bust up its leg joints. Really work it over. Don’t be gentle. Think of yourself as a meat tenderizer. The chicken will slump down in the pan.
Drizzle the olive oil all over the bird, and rub salt and pepper on the skin and in the cavity. Squeeze the juice from the lemon over it, then stuff the lemon rind into the cavity, too. Antonio rubs the chicken with butter, not olive oil, but I’m not big on butter in Mexican cooking. I like to make tacos with this chicken when it’s done, and something about butter and chiles just doesn’t work for me. If you want, you can toss about a tablespoon of butter in the cavity of the chicken. That’s a nice touch for extra tenderness and juiciness, without getting too heavy on the butter flavor. But, again, that’s not required.
Put the chicken in the oven and blast it at that high heat for 40 minutes. You might think you’re going to burn it. Don’t worry. You won’t. No need to open the oven to check. You don’t want to lose that heat. After 40 minutes, turn the temperature down to 175 degrees F and leave the chicken in there for another 40 minutes.
Take the chicken out, let it rest for a few minutes, then go to town. The skin will be beautifully crisp, with lots of caramelized juices in the pan. And the meat will be so tender you can pull the bird apart with your hands.
Tear up the meat that way, or chop it roughly on a cutting board, and serve with warm tortillas, fresh salsa, guacamole—whatever you like on your tacos. Or just eat that chicken straight up. It rocks either way.