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Marcella's chicken with 2 lemons -- my experience

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After the interesting thread a couple of weeks ago concerning Marcella Hazan's ESSENTIALS, I decided last night to follow her recipe for "Chicken with two lemons." I think I did everything to the letter, and the result was fragrant, tender, and delicious. But things did not go as she described. The bird stuck to the bottom of the Calphalon roaster -- so much for her suggestion to try not to puncture the skin when turning. The bird did not swell up. The lemons did not shrivel or give up all, or even most, of their juice. (In fact, I punctured them and squeezed the juice out.) I cannot figure out what I did wrong. Next time I'd be inclined to spray a little olive oil where the bird will make contact with the pan. This "natural" chicken was cleaned so that it was open from end to end. I closed both ends, though, with skewers and string. It's a lovely, simple recipe, and I will do this again; so I would appreciate the benefit of others' experience. It was clear in the previous thread that many Chowhounds really know this book well.

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  1. I did this recently in a dry cast iron frying pan. Followed all the directions. It turned out beautifully, even puffed up a little. On my recommendation, my daughter used this method in a Le Crueset pan for a company dinner. Most of the backs of the chickens stuck to the pan. Her's were expensive chickens. I was so disappointed for her. I have no idea why this happened. And truly my chicken was one of the most delicious I've roasted, and I've been cooking a LONG time!

    I'll be interested to see what helpful replies you may get, because this sure isn't!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Pat Hammond
      King of Northern Blvd.

      I made this a couple of times...Each time turned out different..Once I made it in a Le Creuset and I lost all my breast skin!!!!.....What a horror...It still tasted good but what was I supposed to snack on while it rested...haha...I now use a rack....

      1. re: Pat Hammond

        One of my favorites also, I made it again Saturday night. However, I no longer follow the recipe's directive to flip the bird. I cook it on its back the whole time. I have never had a bird "puff" despite my attempts at surgical sewing. I roll my lemons on the counter until soft and puncture them 15-20 times with the tip of my (shortest) deep oil thermometer. The lemons have never shriveled.

      2. I made it last weekend and it was successful. I did place the chicken on a roasting rack that I had sprayed with non-stick. My chicken did puff up but the puff was defeated because it it split the skin. Another problem was the size of the lemons thier sweling may have contributed to the skin split. It was good chicken for grocery store chicken.

        1. Was the Calphalon the standard anodized aluminum one? If so, that would explain the sticking. And make sure the bird is immaculately dry. Very. Dry.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Karl S.

            Yes, the standard anodized aluminum -- probably 10 or 12 years old. Why do you say that explains it? I'd like to know more, and there seems to be interest from others. Marcella says emphatically there is no need for oil or fat; it is "self-basting."

            1. re: Lew P.

              I found that Calphalon surface was probe to sticking, that's all.

          2. I've made this about a dozen times, and each time had the exact experience of the original poster. Maybe my data will aid the efforts. Results were lovely, delicious, but no puff, some stick, and decidedly un-shriveled lemon. I let it dry for the specified time & use tons of paper towels. Usually use a somewhat high sided, heavy-bottomed aluminum pan, sew up all orifices (orifi?). Tried extra piercings of the lemons, no diff. Tried using one lemon, thinking that perhaps lemons had grown larger since the recipe was written, and the lemons needed more room in the cavity (she specifies smallish lemons) - no diff. Have convection, so I do 300 convect rather than 350.

            I'll be interested in the responses - thanks for bringing this up. BTW, I don't know why MH advises against squeezing the lemon(s) afterwards. Just do it with tongs.

            1. I press and roll the lemons on the counter before I pierce them (about 20 pierces each) and place them into the chicken. I also truss the chicken and place it on a teflon-coated rack inside my roasting pan. This helps to keep it from sticking when I turn it.

              1. It may stick. It may tear. It may not puff up. The lemons may not shrivel. But it will taste great. At least it has for me more than a dozen times. For me, it is a no-fail recipe.

                1. I'm sure I've made Marcella's lemon chicken 100 times in the last dozen years. It's one of my partner's favorite dinners. You can never tire of it, and leftovers are just as delicious, though the crispy skin goes a little flaccid.

                  In a way, part of its charm is that there are variations in the results, as the food guy points out. Some pointers:

                  --I puncture the counter-rolled lemons about 40 times with the tip (1/4-inch in) of a trussing needle.

                  --I seal the lemons inside the cavity of the bird by folding the skin on either side of the vent over the second lemon and pushing a 4-inch trussing needle through the skins and into the lemon. Repeat with the tail flap, and again with any skin opposite the tail flap. It seals the bird pretty well, and release a little more juice during roasting. Only about one in 10 birds "swells up" during roasting.

                  --I roast the bird using a snug Le Creuset 1 1/2 quart gratin. I put 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper in the bottom of the gratin. This usually keeps the breast from sticking during the initial roast. But I've been known to give the breast a soft butter massage, too.

                  --I've never tried a rack because I think those wonderful juices--what little of them there are--would dry out under the rack. Maybe not, but I've just never tried it. I don't have a rack small enough to fit in that particular gratin, but I should get one and try this. Any thoughts about juices drying up?

                  --I think Marcella advises against squeezing the lemons because it could be dangerous when they're hot. Juice could come squirting out of any number of holes. Instead, I carve the lemons into lengthwise quarters and serve them on the side--with all-important long-grain rice, nicely buttered.

                  This really is one of the Great Recipes, and so easy and simple that a moderately skilled 12-year-old could pull it off.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Tom Steele

                    I do agree pan size is probably a factor too, and I have not used the rack for the same reason as you note. The salt/pepper solution is a tried and true kitchen method.

                  2. I am new at this could someone guide me to the receipe for marcella's chicken. It sounds great thank you

                    1. Like many others, this is one of my standard, fool-proof, always delicious recipes. I use a Le Crueset casserole dish (the ceramic kind) no rack, follow the recipe to a "T" (Marcella's are the only recipes I follow closely). Mine has puffed one or two times, never stuck, never lost the skin and the lemons have never shriveled. However, no matter what happens it is always juicy and flavorful with the meat fully infused with the lemon flavor. I don't worry about what it looks like too much as I only make it for family and close friends who I'm not trying to impress with a beautiful, burnished bird with crispy skin. That's the other thing. My skin never comes out crispy, which is ok only for this recipe because the chicken itself is so good. Sounds like this recipe is a bit of a crap-shoot in the looks department for everyone, but always tasty.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: veebee

                        Funny--the skin on mine is always crispy. Are you turning the heat up to 400 degrees for the last 20-25 minutes?

                      2. Thanks to everyone. I've learned a lot (though don't ask me to define the consensus!). I have a list of things to do differently next time, but nothing drastic. Perhaps others will post about this in the future.

                        1. Couldn't wait to try this since your post. I'm cooking the chicken now.

                          I don't expect the chicken to puff because finding a chicken with fully intact skin is difficult.

                          However, I was curious to tackle the sticking skin issue. I decided to let the pan preheat for 5 minutes before adding the chicken. I just gave it the flip and had no problem with sticking. I'll have to make sure there is no adverse effect in, say, another 40 minutes.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Allison

                            This is exciting! Please let us all know. I had decided to try some preheating next time; that is recommended with Calphalon but it hadn't occurred to me to do it with the roaster.