This recipe was inspired by a roast chicken recipe in Moro East by Sam and Sam Clark, the book that first introduced Daniel to Lebanese cuisine. Sumac is a red berry that is high in vitamin C and has a brightly tart flavor, and using it is a great way to add acidity to a dish without the moisture that comes with lemon juice or vinegar. If you’re up for a little foraging adventure, sumac grows wild all over the northeastern United States, fruiting in the late summer and early fall. The foot-long, velvet-textured, blood-red fruits are easy to spot growing alongside highways. To harvest, you simply cut the fruit from the shrub, rub the small red berries off into a bowl, whirl them in a blender, and then sift through a medium-fine strainer, separating the small, inedible black seeds from the tart red powder. You can also find sumac powder in most spice shops and online.
- Rub the chicken inside and out generously with salt (aim for 1.5 percent by weight, or about 2 tablespoons). Season inside and out with the sumac and lemon juice, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 4 days.
- An hour before cooking, pull the chicken out of the refrigerator and rub it all over with the oil.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Place the chicken, breast side up, on a rack in a baking dish or pan. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the breast away from bone registers 125°F, about 11|4 hours.
- Remove the chicken from the oven, cover it with foil, and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Increase the oven temperature to 500°F. Uncover the chicken and return it to the oven to reheat, cooking until the skin is a deep golden brown, about 25 minutes. Let rest uncovered for 10 minutes before carving to serve.