The holidays are here! There are friends to see, parties to attend and children's holiday programs, along with the everyday hustle and bustle of life.
In the midst of all of the excitement, dinner happens, and we want something special, fast, easy and nutritious. This is my all-time favorite "when things are hectic" meal. Moist and delicious, 'Chicken with lemons!' Here is the basic recipe. A few variations follow.
I almost always double this recipe and do two chickens, as leftovers are wonderful and great to have on hand during the busy season. The chicken can be prepped in the morning, covered with plastic wrap, stored in the refrigerator and popped in the oven when you get home. Add some potatoes, while it bakes and there is time to unwind with the family.
A 3 to 4 lb chicken
black pepper ground fresh from the mill
2 rather small lemons
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Wash the chicken inside and out with cold water. Pat dry thoroughly inside and out with a paper towel.
Wash the lemons in cold water and dry them with a towel. Roll the lemons back and forth on the counter to soften. Puncture the lemons in about 25 places using a skewer or sharp pointed fork.
Place both lemons in the bird's cavity. Close up the opening with toothpicks and trussing string. Be careful not to close it up too tight as the chicken might burst. Run kitchen string from one leg to the other leaving the legs in their natural position and not pulling them tight. If the skin remains unbroken the chicken will puff up as it cooks. The string keeps the thighs from spreading apart and splitting the skin. ( Prepare to here the morning before).
Place the chicken in a roasting pan, breast facing down. The chicken is self basting so there is no need for any fat of any kind and it will not stick to the pan. Place in the upper third of a 350 degree oven. After 30 minutes carefully turn the chicken over breast side up. Be careful turning. If the skin is not punctured the chicken will puff up as it cooks making an interesting presentation at the table. However if this does not happen, don't worry as your bird will still be moist and delicious.
Cook for 30 to 35 minutes longer then turn the oven up to 400 and cook an additional 20 minutes. There is no need to turn the chicken again. Figure 20 to 25 minutes total cooking time per pound.
Bring the bird to the table whole leaving the lemons inside until it is carved and opened. The juices that run out are delicious and should be spooned over the chicken slices. Leftovers are wonderful and served at room temperature.
Here are a few embellishments and an even easier method of cooking the chicken:
Instead of putting the lemons inside of the chicken and tying up the chicken, cut the lemons in half and squeeze the juice over the outside and inside of the chicken and drizzle on a little olive oil. Sprinkle the chicken with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and fresh rosemary. Put the squeezed lemons inside of the chicken along with a sprig of fresh rosemary and a few whole garlic cloves. I do not bother tying up the chicken when I do this method. I also like to take a whole garlic bulb or two, slice off the tip, rub the bulb with olive oil and lay it in the same pan and roast it with the chicken. This is delicious spread on bread or eaten along with the chicken slices and pan juices. If you have an already cut up chicken you can sprinkle that with rosemary, lemon juice a little olive oil, kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and some whole peeled garlic cloves. Roast in a preheated 350 oven about 25 minutes per pound or till the chicken is tender and the juices run clear.
Remove the chicken from the roasting pan. Tip the pan and spoon off all but a small amount of fat. Place the pan over the stove, turn the heat on to high, add 2 T. of water, and while it boils away, use a wooden spoon to scrape loose any cooking residue stuck to the bottom. Pour the pan juices over the chicken and serve at once.
To complete the meal half or quarter a few red or Yukon gold and sweet potatoes, rub with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and add them alongside the pan to roast with the chicken. Serve with a steamed green vegetable for a complete meal.
Have an extra 8 to 10 minutes and want to really wow your family. Make this simple rich dessert. Blender Pots-de-Creme. Really it only takes 10 minutes - maybe less.
1 cup semisweet chocolate bits
1 cup hot whole milk
Add when the chocolate is melted:
Pour into 4 pots-de-creme cups. Chill 2 to 3 hours and serve garnished with whipped cream.
Sit down and enjoy a fabulous dinner with your family. Meal times are family times. Bon appetit!