Want to update your roast spring chicken? Cover it in this easy lemon-dill butter

My favorite types of dishes are the ones that can shift with the seasons. My winter pantry pasta, for instance, is packed with slow-roasted root vegetables and caramelized shallots — but once summer hits, it transforms into a one-pot wonder of fresh tomatoes, basil and a pat or two of butter. 

Roast chicken is another such dish. 

Related: The nourishing joy of simmered whole chicken

In the fall, I bathe it in rich olive oil, seasoned with sage and thyme. Come winter, I reach for butter, rosemary and pink peppercorns. Now that it’s spring, I’m ready to change again, this time leaning on verdant aromatics and a well-placed pop of acid. 

This roast chicken recipe incorporates dill, parsley and lemon zest into a really simple compound butter, which will be spread under the chicken’s skin, keeping the meat moist and flavorful. It sits on a bed of fennel and leeks, both of which caramelize just slightly in the chicken fat. It’s almost a full meal in itself, though I’d recommend adding rice, roasted potatoes or some good bread (perhaps in the form of this panzanella?). 


Recipe: Roast chicken with lemon-dill butter, fennel and leeks 


1 3-pound roast chicken

Prep Time

15 minutes

Cook Time

65 minutes


1 3-pound roasting chicken 
Salt and pepper to taste 
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of rough-chopped dill 
1 tablespoon of rough-chopped parsley
2 tablespoons of lemon zest 
4 leeks, halved lengthwise and thoroughly rinsed 
1 fennel bulb, roughly chopped 


  1. Pat the roasting chicken dry and generously cover in salt and pepper. Be sure to get under the wings and legs and inside the interior cavity. 
  2. In a small bowl, add the unsalted butter, dill, parsley and lemon zest. Mash and mix the butter until it is softened and fully combined with the herbs and zest. 
  3. Using your hands or a small spoon, spread the butter under the chicken’s skin — again, making sure to get under the wings, legs and inside the chicken. 
  4. Add the leeks and fennel to a large cast iron skillet. Place the prepared chicken on top. 
  5. Heat the oven to 400 degrees and place the skillet inside. Roast for 60 to 70 minutes, basting the chicken with its juices and flipping the fennel and leeks halfway through. Remove the chicken and allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes before carving. 

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