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Jan 9, 2007 06:57 PM

Marcella's Chicken -- will it work with a larger bird?

I've read all the raves about Marcella's Chicken with 2 Lemons recipe and I'd like to make it, but the recipe calls for a 3-4# bird and mine is almost 6#. Will it still turn out OK by leaving it in longer at the final high temp?


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  1. I've done it and it works fine.

    1. I don't think it's *as* good as using the smaller bird Marcella specifies (and Marcella specifies everything for a reason), but it's certainly not going to be bad by any means. In the future, it would be better to do two small birds rather than one large roaster.

      As a general matter, chicken recipes often specify smaller birds (3lbs, sometimes 4lbs) for good reason: those birds cook more evenly under relatively fast and high heat than larger roasters; larger birds can have the outer flesh get overdone by the time the deeper flesh is fully cooked. A lot of American home cooks tend to pay attention to the "chicken" in the ingredients list and ignore any specified weight, imagining that chickens of all sizes are interchangeable. For many recipes, they aren't. This is most infamously true for fried chicken (try frying the parts of a large roaster and you will see what I mean).

      Another reason when trying recipes out, it's good to follow them first and then compare variations against the master; some variations may be improvements, while others will likely not. Marcella is notorious demanding that her recipes be followed first before tampering with them for this reason.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Karl S

        I hear your points, but all I had was a larger bird. I had originally planned to stick in a crockpot but failed to do that on time, so decided to roast it. Anyway, the bird came out great, juicy and full of flavor. The skin didn't "balloon" like the recipe said it would, but that didn't matter to me.
        I'll defintely make it again, trying a smaller bird next time.

      2. I've messed around with a lot of Marcella's recipes and she's never once shown up at my door to reprimand me (though I suppose she may now). In my mind, cooking is supposed to be a fun adventure, not an exercise in "following the rules."

        2 Replies
        1. re: Elizzie

          Which is all well and good, and I do so myself: that's why I prefer cooking to baking, where the recipes are often more stringent for a reason. That said, it's one thing to simply want something good tasting for chow; but if one wants to form a reasonable opinion about the merits of a recipe of a noted technician chef/writer, then one should follow the recipe first before varying. There are lots of people who don't understand why recipes don't seem to work as promised when they don't follow the recipes in the first place.

          1. re: Elizzie

            I really agree with Karl - with the reservation that most cookbooks aren't really that useful in learning skills and techniques. They are often just new and different ingredient lists. I make exceptions for a few, prime among them being Julia and Marcella, and when I try a recipe from them for the first time, it's pretty much "by the book." The detailed instructions from those two women in particular have been like having teachers at my elbow.
            Then, I am free to play - at my own risk - mostly with satisfactory results but then ocassionally, I have to admit that the good old girls know what they're talking about!

          2. I agree with Karl and MakingSense that:
            Marcella and Julia know what they're talking about
            if one wants to form a reasonable opinion about he merits of a should follow the recipe as it's written (and, yeah, reading/following the recipe is usually the best course of action).
            I'd also like to point out that the OP merely wanted to know if her larger bird would turn out okay ("something good for chow"), I merely responded that I'd done it and it worked fine.
            Fully acknowledging that Marcella is an expert, I also must say that I find her "notorious demanding" somewhat...annoying at times.

            1. I'm confused by this, actually. My copy of "more Classic Italian Cooking" calls for a 2.5 lb. bird. Is this one of the things that changed when it was merged into "essentials". I always thought 2.5 was absurd to claim it'd feed 4 people anyway.


              1 Reply
              1. re: bdumes

                Italian meals are different from American meals.
                I went to a week-long cooking school there and we cooked our own meals and went out to supper each evening.
                That's the size chickens we bought for 4. It would have been served as a separate course of a multi course lunch. But then we would have had antipasti, a pasta, a separate veggie/salad course, and dessert. Five courses for lunch! Over two hours at least.
                Restaurant suppers were about the same. Small amounts at each course. I ate everything I wanted and didn't gain a pound. I guess the diet people are right when they advise portion control.