2 chickens (4-5 pounds each), washed and dried
4 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 stick softened butter
2 heads, plus 4 cloves garlic, divided
12 small potatoes, halved
4 small onions, peeled and quartered, attached at root ends
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), for liberal drizzling
6 sprigs rosemary, leaves finely chopped
1 tablespoon fennel seed or fennel pollen
1 lemon, halved
1 box frozen artichoke hearts (10 ounces), defrosted, well drained and halved
2 limes, halved
Pre-heat the oven to 475°F.
Liberally season the chickens, inside and out, with thyme and salt and pepper, to taste. Rub each bird with a half stick of softened butter.
Cut the ends off two bulbs of garlic to expose all of the cloves for roasting. Put the potatoes and onions in a roasting pan and liberally drizzle them with EVOO and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Dress the whole cut bulbs of garlic with EVOO and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Press the bulbs into the rosemary leaves so that some adheres to the garlic, then sprinkle the remainder of the rosemary over the potatoes and onions. Put one chicken into this pan and sprinkle with fennel seed or pollen. Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the chicken and put the lemon halves in the cavity of the bird, along with two large cloves of crushed garlic. Tie the legs together with string. Add the dressed garlic heads to the pan and roast this bird for 15 minutes at 475°F. Baste the bird with pan juices, then lower the temperature to 375°F and roast until the juices run clear, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Add the artichokes to the pan during the last 20-30 minutes of roast time, mixing them in with the potatoes and the fennel. Remove the chicken to a cutting board. Let rest for 10 minutes, then carve. Arrange the chicken on a serving platter, along with the potato mixture. Pour the pan juices over the chicken. When ready to serve, divide the roasted garlic among the plates and serve with crusty warm bread for mopping.
For the second bird, put it in a roasting pan and douse it with the juice of two limes, then stuff the limes into the bird along with two large cloves of smashed garlic. Tie the legs and roast for 15 minutes at 475°F, baste, then roast for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven to a cutting board. When it's cool enough to handle, remove the chicken from the bone and pull the meat into small pieces. Reserve for a make-ahead meal.