Roast chicken can be intimidating. This fail-proof recipe uses a combination of both braising and roasting techniques to make a chicken with ultra-crispy skin on the outside and unbelievably juicy, tender meat on the inside. The trick is to add just enough liquid to cover the bottom half of the chicken, leaving the skin exposed to the heat of the oven. We’ve added a touch of honey and fresh lemon juice for a bit of sweetness and acidity, plus some butter to round out the incredibly flavorful gravy. Don’t forget the crusty bread to mop up every drop of the creamy sauce.
Preheat the oven to 425° F. Season the chicken halves all over with salt and pepper.
In a large shallow braiser or cast-iron skillet large enough to fit the chicken, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Cook the chicken skin side down over moderate heat until the skin is crisp and browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Pour out all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Add the garlic cloves and shallot and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes.
Sprinkle the flour over the aromatics and cook over moderately-high heat, stirring, until the flour is fully saturated, about 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, lemon juice, and honey and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally and scraping up any bits on the bottom of the pan, until the sauce begins to thicken. Season with salt and pepper. Nestle the chicken into the sauce skin side up and add any remaining juices from the plate. Add the thyme sprigs. Transfer to the oven and cook uncovered until the chicken is cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the inner thigh registers 165°, about 30 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the chicken to a work surface. Let rest for 10 minutes. Stir the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into the sauce and season with salt and pepper.
Separate the chicken legs and breasts and arrange on a platter. Spoon the sauce over the top. Alternatively, serve right from the braiser or skillet. Drizzle the chicken with more honey and garnish with lemon rounds and fresh thyme leaves. Serve, passing crusty bread at the table.
NOTE To halve your chicken, set it on its butt, facing away from you. Using kitchen shears or a sharp chef’s knife, cut along each side of the backbone to remove it from the chicken. Lay the chicken on a work surface breast side up. Using the heel of your hand, press down firmly to flatten the breast bone. Using a sharp chef’s knife, split the chicken in half along the breast bone. Alternatively, you can ask your butcher to do this for you.