As most of you know, Ina Garten is better knows by her Food Network show, The Barefoot Contessa. She regularly invites views, as though old friends, into her beautiful home in the Hamptons for good food and wonderful entertaining. Although not formally educated in the fine art of food techniques, she is as much a household name through her show, magazines and published works as Martha Steward or – dare I say – Julia Child. Who in their right mind would dare to tweak a Ina Garten creation?
But then again, I’m not always in my right mind. While preparing her wonderful Roasted Lemon Chicken for my family recently, I found certain “changes” were in order. The recipe itself is intact – no changes. However; the way in which the chicken was roasted just wasn’t working for me, and so I changed a few minor steps. In reality, I added a few steps to the roasting process, rendering a bird that had beautiful skin both top and bottom with breasts that were succulent and moist. I remember reading in one of my many cookbooks that you needed to “lift” the skin from the meat whenever roasting a chicken to create a pocket, thus allowing the skin to brown up nicely. What the heck – I’ve had success with doing so in the past, so I added this step in the preparation to the bird before popping it into the oven to roast.
When I checked the bird after an hour of roasting, I noticed that the top of the bird was perfect – golden and gorgeous, but that underside, although cooked, appeared almost raw in coloring and rubbery. (I assume from all the moisture the thick slices of onions were imparting). So I decided to flip the bird over, breast side down, to allow the underside to brown as well. After about 15 minutes of roasting back-side-up, the skin began to turn a beautiful shade of gold. Again, I removed the bird from the oven and flipped it over, back to its original position resting on top of the onions. Oh, and the onions – my friends, these were so tender and flavorful, having soaked in the butter and lemony-juices of the bird. The final change was to tent entire roasting pan with foil during the final 15 minutes of cooking time. Call me paranoid, but I was afraid that the white meat (which naturally cooks faster than dark meat) was beginning to dry out, and I wanted to capture as much of its natural juices as possible into the meat.
The overall results were wonderful – perfect – succulent, moist and tender.
Sides included garlic mashed potatoes and pan-seared asparagus tips. Next time I might just toss some red potatoes with fresh rosemary and add to the roasting pan. Yum!
All I can say is what a wonderful Sunday Supper. Meals like this beacon the family to gather round the table, give thanks for all the blessings of life and slow down to savor the flavors and the company. Love those precious times when life isn’t getting in the way of living, don’t you?
Ina Garten’s Roasted Lemon Chicken with French Bread Croutons
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
1 Roasting Chicken, 4-5 lbs (Free-range, organic if you can find one)
2 Small Lemons, Quartered
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 Loaf French Bread, enough to make 6 cups Bread Cubes, each about ¾ inch thick
2 Tablespoons Olive oil, plus more for the onions
½ Teaspoon Kosher or Sea Salt, or to taste
¼ Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper, or to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Toss the onion with a little olive oil in a small roasting pan.
Remove the giblets from chicken and discard or reserve for another use.
Rinse the chicken inside and out, pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle inside of bird’s cavity with salt and pepper to taste. Gently raise skin from meat by slipping your hands between skin and flesh. This will help create a skin that is crisp.
Stuff lemons into cavity, pushing as deep into the neck area as possible and filling cavity of bird with lemons. Trusses to close back of cavity. Tuck wings under the tips of the body.
Place bird on top of sliced onions. Brush the skin with the melted butter and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Roast the bird for about an hour. Check – if the skin has browned nicely, remove from oven, turn over so that breast meat is down. Return to oven and continue to roast about fifteen minutes longer. Again, remove from oven, turn over and check for doneness. If more roasting time is necessary, loosely tent with foil and continue to roast bird about 15 minutes longer. (A four pound bird should take about 1 hour 15 minutes, a five-pound bird will cook in about 1 hour 30 minutes.) Roast bird until the juices run clear when a slit is made between the leg and the thigh with the tip of a sharp knife.
Remove from oven, tent to keep warm and let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
While bird is resting, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Lower heat to medium-low, and the bread cubes and “toast”, tossing frequently and adding more oil as necessary until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle bread lightly with garlic salt, if desired.
Spread croutons onto a large serving platter. Transfer chicken to a cutting board. Place onion around croutons.
Carve bird, place cut meat onto croutons. Spoon pan drippings over bird and bread.