Lemon Garlic Roast Chicken

Lemon Garlic Roasted Chicken   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Lemon Garlic Roasted Chicken | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Chicken Story”

The Set-up: Ina is using one chicken in three ways which sounds like a home ec trick I’d like to learn…

The Menu: Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken, Baby Leaf Salad with Bacon, Chicken Stock, Chicken with Tabbouleh

0:44 – First things first: Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken. Ina says she’s dressing this one up a little for  the purposes of ‘company.’

1:32 – So far this looks pretty easy – sprinkling salt & pepper, a head of garlic, a quartered lemon, sprigs of herbs. Props to Ina for finding a delicate way of telling us to put all these items inside the chicken.

2:55 – Next we truss the chicken without making it sound crass. This woman is a class act.

3:17 – Oh, my goodness the secret ingredient of this chicken is bacon strips on top. Ina’s right bacon is always good for company.

4:25 – Now we’re out in the garden where Ina’s friend Greg – dinner guest of honor and internationally renowned lighting designer – is transforming the patio. We get a small hint of what’s to come, but not much. Color me intrigued…

5:56 – Next the dressing for the Baby Leaf Salad with Bacon. Ina will be using the crisped bacon from on top of the chicken in the salad. Tricksy.

6:07 – Salt for the dressing spills eliciting a small shriek of surprise from Ina – so relatable.

9:48 – The “things are afoot” music is on as the bacon is removed from the chicken and we see some of the lighting preparations in the garden.

10:51 – Ina removes the now fully cooked chicken from the oven and it does look beautifully bronzed and delicious.

11:34 – Once the chicken is removed to the platter to rest under foil Ina continues puts the pan right over a burner to make sauce (aka pan gravy.)

12:12 – Salad is dressed and topped with parmesan cheese and bacon, which is most people’s preferred method of eating greens.

13:43 – A mini-class in chicken carving is underway now and I am trying to pay close attention since chicken deconstruction is not my forte.

14:56 – Dinner is served and lighting designer Greg has made quite a romantic little scene with torches, a fire and hanging lanterns. Ina says “come have chicken with me!”

15:28 – If I weren’t 99% sure the Garten marriage is rock-solid I’d be concerned about Jeffrey.

19:17 – Dinner is over and now Ina is working on the Chicken Stock, which involves a whole parsnip. I’m fairly sure I’ve eaten parsnip, but I can’t be entirely sure.

20:25 – I love how this recipe uses the chicken carcass from dinner – so thrifty!

21:39 – Ina says she’s going to watch a movie while the chicken stock simmers, but she doesn’t say which one, so I’m going to assume it’s an embarrassing late 90s teen comedy like She’s All That or Drive Me Crazy.

22:23 – Fast forward to the next morning and Ina has reheated and drained the chicken stock, which does look really rich and flavorful.

23:40 – Now it’s on to the Chicken with Tabbouleh which uses some of the freshly made chicken stock.

24:11 – Ina has the bulgur wheat in a bowl which only needs the hot stock and a lemon vinaigrette poured over it to cook. Sort of like rice pilaf I suppose.

27:28 – Back to the tabbouleh to prepare some vegetables to include in the salad and I think I probably agree with Ina that this is a healthy dish.

28:46 – Ina reminds us that that we have to pick the mint leaves off one by one since the stems are too tough. Alright, if you insist.

29:00 – Final touches on the tabbouleh, chicken stock in storage containers, and it’s time to close the book on Chicken Story but Ina promises a sequel….

Final Thoughts:

I have got to make Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken ASAP.

I’m really super impressed with Ina’s “Chicken Story” - if only every chef were so thoughtful about making careful use of all their ingredients.

I’m excited to hear Chicken Story II: Electric Boogaloo.

Lemon Garlic Roasted Chicken   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Lemon Garlic Roasted Chicken | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:

Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken is one of my favorite things to order in restaurants and not knowing how to make one seemed like an obvious gap in my kitchen repertoire. Why should we have to wait until we're out to dinner to have something so deliciously simple? Also, I don't know about your grocery store, but mine doesn't have its Thanksgiving stock of turkeys yet and since the techniques are the same (oven + whole bird) this seemed like good practice for the big day.

The first time out was such a success I actually made this recipe twice in one month, which is proof positive that it’s actually really easy and I have some suggestions that might help.

Point 1: Ina doesn't say to use a roasting rack but my pan came with one and I used it on my second try to see if it made a difference. I noticed that the skin on the lower part of the chicken crisped up a little more, so if that's important to you it might be worthwhile to get a rack that fits your roasting pan.

Point 2: perhaps this is obvious but keep an eye on the weight of the chicken you buy. The largest I could find was about 3 pounds - half the size of the one the recipe is based on. Which leads to Point 2.5: a meat thermometer is your friend and will help make sure the chicken is done but not over cooked and dry. Neither one is very appealing.

Point 3: With a small chicken in a large roasting pan there isn’t a lot of juice to make up the sauce and I think on try number 3 of this recipe I might put a small quantity of white wine or chicken broth in the bottom to keep any juices that do drip down from burning.

Lemon Garlic Roasted Chicken  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Lemon Garlic Roasted Chicken | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?

Actually yes, assuming you have a roasting pan or metal baking dish. I also used a chef’s knife, medium cutting board, measuring spoons, as well as tongs, a meat thermometer and aluminum foil.

The Verdict:

I made Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken for the first time when Mike's family was visiting and while normally I wouldn’t make something new for guests I knew they’d forgive me if it was a disaster. However, given the miniscule amount of leftovers remaining at the end of our meal I think my first roast chicken was an unqualified success. The flavors are so good and with a smaller, faster cooking chicken a delicious dinner could be on the table more quickly than you might think. Winner, winner chicken dinner indeed.

Lemon Garlic Roasted Chicken   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Lemon Garlic Roasted Chicken | Image: Laura Messersmith