Without giving away too many details, imagine a movie combining the epic scope of Schindler’s List and the emotional impact of Shawshank with the random hopelessness of Requiem for a Dream. Now set half of it in Vietnam, add unspeakable violence, and try not to remember that the great John Cazale (aka Fredo) was dying of bone cancer while it was filming. Needless to say, it’s kind of a downer. But a really, really powerful one. Enough to distract me from Marcella’s chicken.
Speaking of which, back to the food.
Health-wise, this (or any) roasted chicken is a mixed bag. A three or four-ounce portion of skinless breast meat is relatively low in fat and calories, but a skin-on thigh could cost you some serious arterial space. If you’re concerned about those insidious little globules of oil (and god knows I am), after you cook the bird, remove the skin, cut off as much fat as you can see, and/or try to pick from the breast. Then give the legs and wings to your Significant Other and/or nearby animal.
My enormous mutant 5-½ lb. oven stuffer produced a generous six servings of meat, and left about a 1-½ lbs of bones for broth-making (recipe to come next week). It also produced its own lemon sauce, which was splendid spread across the meat and spooned over rice. Marcella’s instructions are lengthy, so definitely read them a few times before gettin’ started.
Marcella Hazan’s Roast Chicken with Two Lemons
Adapted from Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan.
A 3- to 4-pound chicken (My 5-1/2 lb Perdue Oven Stuffer worked great – Kris)
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
2 rather small lemons
1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Wash lemons and set aside to dry.
2) Rinse entire chicken in cold water, taking care to remove giblets first. Cut off all the strange hanging fat. Set chicken on a tilted plate and let air dry for 10 minutes. Dry thoroughly but gently with paper towels.
3) Season the bird with lots of salt and pepper, both inside and out.
4) Using light pressure, roll the lemons across a board with your hands. (This will soften them up.) Prick each of them about 20 times with a toothpick. Stuff lemons in the chicken's larger cavity.
5) Using toothpicks or trussing string, close the cavity opening as best you can. (Don't make it airtight, or the chicken could pop.) Tie the chicken's legs together at the ends, but not tightly. They should remain in their natural place. (The skin might puff up if it cooks, but I've never seen this. - Kris)
6) Place chicken breast-side down into a large (ungreased) roasting pan. Roast in the upper third of the oven for about 30 minutes. Turn chicken over, so now the breast side is up.
7) Roast chicken for another 30 minutes. Jack oven heat up to 400°F and roast for 20 minutes longer. According to Marcella, "figure about 20 or 25 Calculate between 20 and 25 minutes total cooking time for each pound" after this. (If you have a meat thermometer, now's the time to use it.)
8) Remove bird from oven and let sit 5 or 10 minutes for juices to redistribute. Carve and serve, making sure you drizzle the juice at the bottom of the pan over the chicken. It will knock your socks off.
Marcella ahead-of-time note: "If you want to eat it while it is warm, plan to have it the moment it comes out of the oven. If there are leftovers, they will be very tasty cold, kept moist with some of the cooking juices and eaten not straight out of the refrigerator, but at room temperature."
Kris health note: Since the fat and calories vary greatly depending on the part of the bird, I’m only presenting price calculations for this recipe.
Approximate Price Per Serving
5-1/2 lb Perdue Oven Stuffer: $4.66
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill: $0.04
2 rather small lemons: $0.68
PER SERVING (TOTAL/6): $0.90