Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 (3-pound) free-range chickens

4 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks

2 celery stalks, cut into large chunks on an angle

1 onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1 bunch fresh thyme

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

½ cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

4 cups Chicken Stock (see recipe below), or store-bought sodium-free chicken stock

1 (4-ounch) Parmesan rind (the rind works best here, but you can use a chunk of the cheese if necessary)

2 lemons, halved

Prep: leave the butter out to soften, peel and chop the carrots, chop the celery, peel and cut the onion, peel the garlic, halve the lemons

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  2. Place one of the chickens breast side up on a poultry-specific cutting board and remove the thighs and drumsticks, then separate the thighs from the drumsticks. Place the thighs and drumsticks on a small baking sheet and refrigerate. Cut the wings off at the first joint and discard.
  3. Flip the chicken over, cut out the backbone with kitchen shears or a sharp chef’s knife, and discard it (or save it for stock or soup).
  4. Flip the chicken over again and cut it down the middle between the breasts, breaking the breastbone and separating it into two pieces.
  5. Repeat to cut up the second chicken.
  6. In a roasting pan that will fit all four chicken breasts, combine the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and thyme. Place the four breasts skin side up on top of the vegetables. Season the skin well with salt and pepper.
  7. Use your fingers to create pockets between the skin and meat and distribute the butter evenly under the skin, pushing it into every nook and cranny.
  8. Roast the chicken for 15 minutes. After 10 minutes of cooking, season the thighs and drumsticks liberally with salt and pepper. Place them in the same pan as the breasts and back into the oven for the remaining 5 minutes.
  9. Turn the oven temperature down to 375oF and cook the chicken for 20 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile, make a Parmesan broth: In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the chicken stock and cheese rind to a simmer. Season with 1⁄4 teaspoon of the salt and keep warm over very low heat until the chicken is ready to be served.
  11. Check the doneness of the chicken by inserting a knife at the wing bone; if the juices run clear, it’s finished cooking. Alternatively, you can use a meat thermometer to check that the temperature is at least 160oF. The vegetables should be softened but still toothsome.
  12. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving.
  13. While the chicken is resting, heat a skillet over medium heat and season the halved lemons with a touch of salt. Place the lemons cut side down in the hot skillet and char the lemon, undisturbed, until caramelized, about 3 minutes.
  14. Serve the chicken with the roast vegetables and charred lemons. Pour some Parmesan broth over each serving.