Forget about those high falutin' convection ovens—you want a serious bird, a succulent bird, big and bronzed with a crackly skin and a smoky, lemony perfume. This one is a triumph of the grill: a whole chicken slow-roasted over hot coals to create that finger-lickin', crisp, and falling-apart essence of soul. The pure, simple flavors make this dish adaptable to all sorts of side-kicks, from Eat-Now Potato Salad to Sweet Heat BBQ Coleslaw. For variety, add a few sprigs of any fresh herb to the body cavity.
Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill.
Place the lemons inside the body cavity of the chicken. Truss the chicken with cotton string, tying its legs together securely. Rub the chicken with the olive oil and season inside and out with salt and pepper.
When the coals are medium hot, push them to one side; place a drip pan in the center of the fuel bed.
Place the chicken on the cooking rack over the drip pan. Cover the grill and open all the vents.
Cook the chicken for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the juices run clear when a knife is inserted between the thigh and the breast; add a handful of additional coals halfway through the cooking time.
Transfer the chicken to a carving board and cover it loosely with foil. Let it stand for 10 minutes, then carve the bird into serving pieces.
Serves 4 to 6
Modified March 2007
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