A Lemony Roast Chicken (Berlin, February 29, 2012)

Is the last day in February really here already? I can’t believe a new month begins tomorrow, although it certainly feels like winter is on its way out in Berlin. Other than a very temporary dusting of snow last Tuesday, the past few days have been dreary and wet but not all that cold. It’s still winter- and I’m find with that for now – but the sun is showing its face more frequently, and I’m fine with that too.

Now that I’m back to living solo for the moment and it’s too dreary outside to really want to leave the house, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. Not books, mind you, but other blogs. I’ve been devouring them as if they were books though  – especially [ this one ] and more recently [ this one ] – starting from the very beginning and reading them through chronologically.

I know I’ve come really late to the whole blogging thing, but it never really appealed to me until I was faced with the prospect of picking up and moving to a new place and leaving my entire social life behind. This, I think, made me explore other forms of socializing that I hadn’t considered before, and I’m glad I finally did. All the same, it’s more interesting to me to look back and read these blogs that came at a different moment when the whole medium was erupting. It’s like doing archival research but on a fun topic where there are no “implications” to consider.

Of course, the more I read other blogs, the more I am likely to reflect on sabasalads. I don’t frequently mine my own archives but recently I took a look back and, god, there’s a lot of talk about a certain d-word that ends in “-issertation.” I’m glad you all were patient and stuck with me through the fall. I guess it was important for me to process what was happening, but I think I want to take this thing in other directions and leave the d-word to the confines of the daylight hours and the museum.

Going through my own archives also brought back some truly great moments that I might have shoved to the back of my memory otherwise. My definite favorite is when two Chicagoans discovered the noble [ Brandy Old Fashioned, Sweet with Olives ] deep in the heart of Wisconsin at a fish fry. I’m going to put that on the “must do” list for this summer when I’m back in the states for a few months – it’s high time we drag that cocktail out of the depths of the midwest and start putting olives in other brandied concoctions.

OK. Enough reflecting and onto the main subject of today, which is a recipe for roast chicken. Actually, it’s more like a series of helpful tips: the proportions and some of the details can be modified to suit your tastes. The tips come from Jamie Oliver who may be a bit cheesy at times but also has some truly great recipes that I’ve gone back to time and again. In fact, I linked to this very recipe a while back on the blog in the post about the Brandy Old Fashioned mentioned above. Today, however, I’m giving it to you in my own words, in hope that you also try it out.

The steps seem fussy in writing, but it’s worth it. The key is the hot lemon (explained in the recipe), so don’t skip it.  The scent and flavor of lemon pervades everything and absolutely takes the dish from run-of-the-mill to “favorite” material. As an old roommate of mine would say, “simple… great.” You can throw in whatever root vegetables you like, but do include potatoes. They get real tasty after parboiled and then roasted with all the juices. I had some left-over, already-cooked brussels sprouts, so I chucked them in only for the last 15 minutes of cooking and they absorbed all of the delicious aromas and flavors in the bottom of the roasting pan. It was stunningly good. Serve with a green salad or braised green like kale and you’ve got a Sunday afternoon meal to be excited about, especially when the weather is dreary.

PS- I didn’t take any pictures of the chicken as I didn’t really expect to post about it. Trust me when I say it looks just as great as it tastes. The above is a snap of the tray this afternoon, when I reheated the leftovers and enjoyed them as much as I did yesterday when I made the dish.

Jamie Oliver’s roast chicken (adapted from here)

Ingredients (dinner for 2, plus a few leftovers, or dinner for 1 with lots of leftovers as pictured below)

1 good quality roasting chicken

A few medium-sized yellow potatoes (plus other starchy root veg. like kohlrabi, turnips or parsnips)

A handfull of carrots or brussels sprouts

A handfull of fresh, chopped savory herbs (e.g. oregano, thyme, parsley)

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 large lemon

Good olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


First, set your oven to 475 F. Put the roasting pan you will be using in there and let it get hot.

Next prepare your vegetables: If using brussels sprouts, go ahead and wash, peel away any especially dirty outer leaves and chop in half. If using carrots, wash and chop coarsely. Set these aside.

Get a pot of salty water going over high heat on the stove and put the lemon in there, skin and all.

Wash the potatoes and other starchy root veg. and chuck them in the pot of water with the lemon and parboil until just barely fork tender (no more than 7 minutes at a boil).

Meanwhile prepare the chicken. Set it in a shallow dish or, better yet, right on the butcher paper or packaging it came in, remove any gizzards from the cavity and trim any excess skin/fat around the edges if you like. Then douse it in olive oil and really rub it into the skin with your hands. Then, rub in the minced garlic and herbs, spreading these over the bird. Finally, aggressively salt and pepper both sides. Don’t skimp on the salt and pepper.

Remove the pan from the hot oven and set on the stove top. Set the chicken in the pan (and enjoy hearing it sizzle). Remove the lemon from the water with tongs (it should be quite hot). Pierce it with a knife a few times and stick it in the cavity of the chicken. The juices should be coming out of the lemon already. Add the brussels sprouts and carrots to the pan, moving them around so they get oily. Then slide this into the oven and turn the temperature down to 400 F immediately. Set the timer for 30 minutes.

By this time, the potatoes should be parboiled. Remove the pot from the stove, drain the water out, then chop the potatoes in half and put them back in the still hot pot with a pat of butter if you like and stir them around so that the surfaces get fluffy.

After 30 minutes, remove the roasting pan from the oven and add the potatoes, moving everything around so it all gets covered in cooking juices. Return this to the oven for at least 45 minutes or until skins on the potatoes and chicken are crisp and golden.

Let the bird sit for around 15 minutes before carving. Enjoy!


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