I’m a huge fan of a Rubber Chicken, where you make as many dishes as you can from a single chicken. To date, my record is 26 plates from one chicken, and I’m pretty darned excited about the entire concept.
Lately, I’ve been starting here, with my Roasted Lemon Chicken. I created the recipe combining elements from a conversation with my local Trader Joe’s cashier and Marcella Hazan’s Roast Chicken with Two Lemons. The first time I roasted a chicken, I made a beer can chicken, and it traumatized me. No one should ever do that to a chicken. Also, my husband was super disturbed by the chicken standing up in our oven, perched over a beer can, and pretty much said he didn’t want to have to see that again.
So I did what any smart lady would do: I talked to my Trader Joe cashier about roasting chickens, and he recommended making a grid of celery and carrots on the bottom of the pan and setting the chicken on top. We also discussed the merits of adding just a little bit of butter under the skin of the chicken and agreed it’s crucial to a flavorful, moist bird. Now, the Marcella Hazan chicken recipe does require you to do something fairly inappropriate with the lemons, but it is at least marginally better than the beer can chicken.
What I’ve Learned in the Making:
You can buy whole chickens crazy cheap at Aldi and Costco. Trader Joe has a pretty good price on chickens if you’re looking for organic. Generally speaking, I buy them on sale.
- I cook my chickens on Mondays, then on Tuesday morning, I take the leftover meat off the bones and make my broth. Planning is important for this – you want about 2 hours for the broth-making, and it’s really helpful for time management throughout the week to have that meat off the bone.
- You have to use butter for this. Not a lot, but it makes a huge difference.
- I buy boxes of latex gloves at Costco that I wear when I’m working with the raw chicken and when I take the meat off the bones. There’s something “icky” to me about this entire process, plus I am a person who hates having her hands actually dirty. Latex gloves are my answer.
I like to crisscross my aromatic veggies on the bottom of the pan and rest the chicken on top. Like this:
The chicken starts on its belly.
I thought it was weird to do it this way, but I think it allows the juices to make their way down to the breast, and then when you turn the bird over…
…the breasts don’t come out dry. That’s my theory, anyway. Here’s my finished bird:
Here’s the recipe:
- 4 carrots
- 4 pieces of celery
- A 4-5 pound chicken
- 2 Tbsp butter
- Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
- Thyme, dried
- 2 rather small lemons (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Wash lemons and set aside to dry.
- Remove creepy giblets packet from inside of chicken.
- Rinse chicken in cold water and set on top of paper towels on a plate. Let dry for about 10 minutes, then pat gently with paper towels as needed.
- While chicken is drying, place carrots and celery in the bottom of a roasting pan. I put them in a grid-like configuration, but you can just lay them flat in the pan.
- Cut butter into small pieces, and slid them under the skin of the chicken in as many places as you can, then massage on top of the skin to flatten out the butter chunks a bit.
- Season your bird with salt, pepper, and thyme inside and out.
- Use a pointy toothpick, prick each lemon* about 20 times and place them inside the chicken’s cavity. *Note that I don't always use the lemons and haven't noticed a huge difference either way, frankly.
- Place chicken breast-side down on top of your celery and carrot grid. Roast in the upper third of the oven about 30 minutes. Turn chicken over so the breast side is up and roast for another 30 minutes.
- Increase heat to 400°F and roast for another 20 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the bird every 20 minutes or so. Your chicken is done when the internal temperature registers at 160°F.
- Remove your chicken from the oven and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
- Carve and serve.
- Keep the leftover meat and bones to make broth and other rubber chicken recipes.