Engagement chicken

Sundays have always been tricky for me, a love/hate, digging-the-Now-whilst-dreading-the-Future kind of proposition. Even as all my days become like all my other days (the curse of the freelancer), on Sunday, I still want a little something extra in the way of comfort: an extra half-hour in that toasty bed divot, a higher ratio of silence to noise in the house, a little more lazy-ass crossword-wrangling and a little less hard-ass monkey-working. Sunday is a good TV night and I think that's no accident: people want to shore up the goodness to brace themselves for the onslaught of stormy Monday.

Me, I see no better way to do it than with an ovenful of roast chicken. It's relatively inexpensive and easy to make, makes the whole house smell fantastic (unless you're a vegetarian, in which case I imagine it makes the whole house smell like death warmed over) and, unless you are a complete pig-monster, gifts you with delicious leftovers for the next couple of days.

I'm constantly in search of the Ultimate Roast Chicken Recipe, but trial-and-error has proven the genius of a high initial temp with the chicken cooked breast-side-down to sear the outside and seal in the juices, followed by a reduced tempurature for the remainder of cook time with the chicken in a more seemly, backside-down position. I'm behind the use of a rack (chicken cooked in juices puts the "ew" in "stewed") and agin' the use of the foil tent.

As of last night, I have also joined the ranks of devotees for an adaptation of a Marcella Hazan recipe that's come to be known as "Engagement Chicken," not because I like fruity monikers or am looking for good matrimonial juju, but because it produces the moistest, juiciest, delicious-est roasty-toasty chicken it's been my pleasure to consume outside of a restaurant extraordinary enough to know how to cook the simple things well. And as cooked in a convection oven (thank Jeebus for The BF and his expensive tastes in kitchen accoutrements), it may even match it:

Engagement Chicken

(Adapted from Marcella Hazan's More Classic Italian Cooking)

1 whole chicken (approx. 3 lb.) 2 medium lemons Fresh lemon juice (1/2 cup) Kosher or sea salt Ground black pepper

Place rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 400ºF*. Wash chicken inside and out with cold water, remove the giblets, then let the chicken drain, cavity down, in a colander until it reaches room temp (about 15 minutes). Pat dry with paper towels. Pour lemon juice all over the chicken (inside and outside). Season with salt and pepper. Prick the whole lemons three times with a fork and place deep inside the cavity. (Tip: If lemons are hard, roll on countertop with your palm to get juices flowing.) Place the bird breast-side down on a rack in a roasting pan, lower heat to 350ºF and bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and turn it breast-side up (use wooden spoons!); return it to oven for 35 minutes more. Test for doneness, a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh should read 180ºF, or juices should run clear when chicken is pricked with a fork. Continue baking if necessary. Let chicken cool for a few minutes before carving. Serve with juices.

*If you're using a convection oven, lower temps by 25º. Cooking time will be a little less per lb. than usual.

Supposedly, the wimmens who make this chicken for their mens end up with hardware on their digits faster than you kin say "finger-lickin' good!" Me, I just got a Band-Aidâ„¢ on that finger (casualty of spaghetti squash wrangling the night before), but the rest of 'em I couldn't keep out of the lemony schmaltz at the bottom of the roasting pan. Throw a bunch of carrots and onions (and sweet potatoes, if you're not on the SCD) underneath the rack in yer roasting pan and LORDY, you won't care if you're engaged, divorced or married-up in the seventh circle of hell.


We now return you to your regularly scheduled buzzkill Monday.

xxx c

PHOTO: "Kip", by _sammy_, as uploaded to Flickr

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