Thursday, April 21, 2011

Marcella Hazan's Roast Chicken with Lemons (6/24)

Roasting a chicken is probably one of the easier things you can do in a kitchen. But Marcella Hazan's recipe takes that simplicity to a whole new level. Thomas Keller's was simple as well, but his recipe requires some serious cleanup and smoke screening. This roast chicken is a testament to simple, easy, and healthy cooking.

As usual, give the chicken a wash and a pat-down. Marcella Hazan uniquely suggests placing the chicken on an incline to drain out any remaining water. If you can, leave some extra time to do this step to ensure a nice, crispy skin. As the chicken warms up to room temperature, the time you leave the chicken out will balance out with any extra cooking time in the oven.

As the chicken is draining, take some time to roll out two lemons. Be careful when you do this. I got a little too overexcited and broke the rind while rolling one of the lemons. But don't be scared to get into it. The more juicing you trap in the lemon, the better.

Next, give the lemon some pokes with a toothpick. If you don't have a toothpick, finding a substitute is relatively easy if you get creative. I used the end of my cooking thermometer to make some holes. Of all the steps in this recipe, poking 20 holes into two lemons took the most time and concentration. Basically, this recipe's easy. Don't worry if the lemon starts crying. Just close your eyes, plug your ears, and keep going.

When a recipe says to season a chicken generously with salt and pepper, really go for it. In my experience with roast chickens so far, it's really hard to over-season a whole chicken. So get in there and get intimate with the chicken. If you're worried about raw chicken juices getting all over your salt or pepper mill/container, as you should, crack or pour a generous amount of salt and pepper into a small bowl before you start seasoning the chicken.

The next step was admittedly the hardest, mainly because sewing is pretty foreign to me. I also didn't have a trussing needle appropriate for kitchen twine. After placing the two lemons into the chicken, I stared at the chicken, wondering what to do. Thankfully, Marcella Hazan says that the sewing shouldn't be very airtight. So I took my trusty thermometer again and poked some holes and passed the kitchen twine through them. As suggested, I loosely tied the legs together to keep the chicken's shape.

30 minutes breast-side down at 350 degrees [pictured here], 30 minutes breast-side up at 350 degrees, and 30 minutes at 400 degrees later, out came a beautiful chicken [see the first picture of the post] with clear running juices and a delicious jus. When I put a chicken in the oven, I love listening to the the whistling noises it makes as the skin puffs up and releases air. The sound always reminds me of how cooking is often an experience that utilizes all of your senses.

As I was working through this recipe, I loved how Marcella Hazan gives the reader some reassurances throughout:

"Do not add cooking fat of any kind. This bird is self-basting, so you need not fear it will stick to the pan."
"Do not worry too much about it, however, because even if it fails to swell, the flavor will not be affected."
"There is no need to turn the chicken again."
"The lemons will have shriveled up, but they still contain some juice; do not squeeze them, they may squirt."

Simple comments like these make the recipe-following process a lot more enjoyable.

The end product was mind-blowing. Every single part of the chicken was amazingly tender and juicy. Most recipes that require lemons in the cavity only accomplish a hint of lemon in the meat closest to the cavity. With Marcella Hazan's recipe, you can taste, and smell, the lemons with each and every bite, regardless of where your meat is from. I loved how the aroma of lemons filled the entire dining table area. The skin was perfectly crispy, all without the guilt of having bathed the chicken in oil or butter. The chicken got demolished in record time, and at the end of the meal, I found myself picking at each and every nook and cranny. The chicken oysters are typically the best part of the chicken, and they're the hardest to share. These oysters were the best oysters I've had to date. Do what you have to do. Don't miss out on them.

If you don't have any ideas for dinner tonight, make a quick trip to the market and pick up the simple ingredients for this beautiful recipe: a chicken, salt, pepper, and two lemons. You won't regret it. With such simple preparation and such amazing results, this is definitely my favorite roast chicken to date. Marcella Hazan has situated herself on a clear benchmark. The rest of the year's got some serious competition.


  1. loved this post.

    marcella hazan is incredible. the italian grandmother i never had. try her pork braised in milk. so simple so good.

    i love how your trusty thermometer came to so many uses!

    also i cannot wait for you to try judy rodgers' roast chicken!

    lastly, i spy a pink box of voodoo doughnuts! mama kim would not be proud.

  2. The carcass picture is the best. Yummmm. I might try this recipe. Looks so easy.

  3. Cooking healthy foods and having a nutritious diet can be very beneficial for people who want to avoid becoming obese or overweight. Turning to a healthier lifestyle and a more reasonable diet pave the way to longer, healthier life. Healthy eating and healthy cooking should go together if we want to attain happiness and keep our bodies in shape.

    Healthy cooking tips

  4. I guess that is either a new knife, or the tomatoes cut themselves on that blade. its 1:00 here and im hungry...I could actually go for some chicken...nom nom nom

  5. btw if you have facebook find me

    Dj Park

  6. Dy: I'm putting that pork braised in milk on my list. I also can't wait until I do Judy Rodgers' recipe! I'm waiting for a special occasion to do it.

    Steph: You DEFinitely should try it. Such an easy and comforting recipe..

    dj: I tried to find you, but all I could find was your Umami Bound page, so I "liked" it. Add me if you can. Also, the tomatoes might as well have cut themselves on that blade; it's so sharp I feel like I can cut myself just by looking at it.

  7. Ooh, I've done the pork in milk. Amazing. I've also made a variant that's done with beef which I thought was even better. Definitely do it.
    Emily...of the externship.

  8. Emily! Good to know. Looking forward to trying it. Hope you're doing well!


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