Friday, August 17, 2007

The Roast Chicken Hunter: Marcella Hazan's Roast Chicken with Two Lemons

I planned to spend most of this entry praising Marcella Hazan’s Roast Chicken with Lemons to high heaven, extolling the virtues of its simple approach and expounding on its mind-blowingly succulent end product. But I finally saw The Deer Hunter last night, and am still a tiny bit horribly traumatized.

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
Servings vary.
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
Salt: $0.03
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill: $0.04
2 rather small lemons: $0.68
TOTAL: $5.40

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Laura said...

I made this tonight and it was the best roast chicken I have ever had! Thanks for the recipe!

Kat said...

Thanks to you, I just made my first roast chicken. I took some of the info from your blog here and some advice from my mom. It turned out to be the most moist chicken I've ever had. *drool* I had 2 helpings. LOL. Thank you!

Amy Dickenson said...

I've made this recipe several many times and it NEVER disappoints. THANK YOU!!!

Rebeca said...

There's nothing like a roast chicken. So comforting, tasty and endlessly versatile. This evening I just roasted it by stuffing a lemon in the cavity, and olive oil, salt and pepper on the skin. It has been too warm for a full roast today so I did it with a salad of parma ham, olives, mixed tomatoes (fresh and sun dried) and anchovies.

nummm... said...

OMG!! So good and moist. My favorite recipe EVER!!!

... said...

Roast covered or uncovered?

mcyprice said...

I asked my food guru about covered or uncovered. "By definition the process of roasting is never covered. You want to expose the meat directly to circulating hot air."

Nora said...

I did this, plus some large diced potatoes/carrots in the pan as suggested in your 1-chicken-17-meals post, and drizzled some olive oil, rosemary, & thyme over everything.

I will never roast chicken any other way again. This was spot-on. Thank you!

wifemomandmore said...

This is so good! This was my second time making it. This time I took your suggestion and threw in some potatoes (red and blue from my CSA) and some carrots (I had baby carrots in the fridge). Sooo good!!

Anonymous said...

I have some questions about the total duration of cooking. In step 7 Marcella's directions are confusing enough since she says both figure and calculate to make the same point 20 -25 minutes total cooking time per pound. But then Kris says "after this" meaning all the cooking and flipping which has already been 1 hour and 20 minutes. I had to look on some other web sites to confirm it is 20 -30 minutes per lb for a whole chicken, so my 3.23 lb chicken should cook for a little less than 1.5 hours total. Not 1.5 hours after the 1st 30 min, the 2nd 30 min, and the next 20 min. I will use a meat thermometer just to be sure.

Kris said...

Anon, that is a great question, and it confused the heck out of me the first 50 times I read it, too.

Usually the first 90-120 minutes does it for my chickens, but I always use a meat thermometer, just to be sure.

Jes said...

What temp should the chicken be if you use a meat thermometer?

Marla @ 180turning30 said...

I've made this twice in the last month, having never roasted a chicken before, and it was by far the best roast chicken I've ever eaten. The simplicity of the ingredients and process is just incredible. Thank you for giving me such an easy, delicious route to doing something in the kitchen I've always found intimidating!

Kim @ Incandescent Blue Flame said...

I finally made this... and it's awesome. Moist. Delicious. Ridiculously easy. Thank you!

Lindy said...

This is by far the best roast chicken I've ever had! I never knew that just by adding a few lemons, salt and pepper to a chicken would bring out SO much flavor. I used a 5 pound organic, hormone free chicken and it tasted SO good. It was my first time roasting a whole chicken too! I made this last month and I'm making it again 2 nights from now. Thank you for this recipe!

Maria Jose said...

This is the best ever roast chicken. I've been doing it for years and it's simply heaven. I looked this up today as I shall be passing on the recipe to a cousin of mine. Maria Jose from Malta.

Maria Jose said...

this roast chicken is simply devine - I've been using the recipe for years...simply the best ever. Maria Jose

Nancy said...

Is the total cooking time 1 hour and 25 minutes?

George Vierra said...

Been making this recipe for decades. None better. A small twist has been tried on occasion. Before putting in lemons, thrown in a small handful of dried sage. Sew up. Rub entire body with low sodium soy sauce. Crumble dried sage over skin surface. Add S & P. Proceed as normal.