Legendary cookbook author Marcella Hazan passed away on September 29, 2013. On a recent episode of my podcast, Cook Bliss, I chatted with three women whose lives were touched by Marcella. One guest, cookbook publicist, Carrie Bachman, shared a few of her favorite "Marcella recipes". One really grabbed me: Roast Chicken with Lemons.
Carrie said that the recipe included chicken, salt, pepper, and lemons. That's it! You don't even need to use olive oil.
I needed to make this chicken.
Here's how it went. (Spoiler alert: By the end, you'll want to make this chicken too!)
See how the recipe states, "2 rather small lemons." Yeah....I kind of missed "rather small" part when I went shopping, as you'll see in a second!
Wash the chicken. Yes, I know that washing chicken is no longer recommended. But for this, I wanted to fully follow the recipe. (And then, like a maniac, I scrubbed down everything afterward.) So feel free to skip this step. In fact, it's probably better if you do.
Marcella tells us to place the bird on a titled plate to drain. My plates don't really have a ridge. So I used a cutting board with a reservoir and stuck a wooden spoon under it to angle the board.
After ten minutes, I dried it.
And pepper, inside and out.
Now, the lemons.
Poke 'em (through with a skewer.) You want about 20 pokes. My lemons were so juicy that when I pierced the skin, juice flew out of them!
And this is where I ran into trouble. My lemons were big. One lemon filled the cavity. There was no way two lemons were going inside of this 4.5 pound chicken. No way. Now I was making Roast Chicken with One Lemon. Oh well.
Then, use two sturdy toothpicks or wooden skewers and close up the cavity. I have to say, this was way harder to do than I thought. That chicken skin was tough. Really tough.
Marcella advises not to close the cavity too tight or " the chicken may burst". Let me repeat that: "the chicken may burst". I think this is the first time I've followed a recipe that included a note on dinner exploding. I LOVE IT! Danger
Then lightly tie the legs together with kitchen twine. (Does this remind anyone else of that moment in "Bridget Jones' Diary" where Bridget uses blue ribbon to tie vegetables together for her soup and then the soup turns blue? Lesson I: don't use blue twine here. Lesson II: Bridget Jones is amazeballs.)
And then, Marcella has us turn the chicken upside down! Yup! For the first 30 minutes, you roast the chicken breast-side down.
After 30 minutes, you take it out of the oven and turn it. Fun! (Really, it's pretty easy. A pair of kitchen tongs makes this a snap.)
Hee. I just flipped the bird.
During the final 20 minutes of roasting, you increase the oven temperature to 400°F. This gives the chicken a nice golden color. I must say, this step surprised me. I've roasted chicken where you start in a hot oven and then decrease but not the other way around.
After following the recipe, you're rewarded with an incredibly moist chicken with a pleasant lemon flavor. This recipe is a total keeper! And I would not have expected anything less from the late Marcella Hazan.
This recipe really requires Marcella Hazan's voice; so I'm not retyping it in my own words. CLICK HERE and you'll find the entire recipe, reprinted with permission from her book, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, at NPR.