Glamour Magazine’s cult recipe for Engagement Chicken made the rounds over the past few years, but I just got around to seeing it the other day.
I saw a promo for the new book, 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know, which includes this “iconic” roast chicken; reputedly the impetus for dozens upon dozens of proposals as well as what I’m guessing is an infinite number of unreported but nonetheless passionate, chicken-fueled moments.
Kimberly Bonnell, a former editor at Glamour, takes credit for the popular dissemination of the recipe.
Here’s the thing: I noticed right away that the recipe was almost the exact replica of an unbelieveably simple, ultra-classic one from the Italian cooking teacher and author, Marcella Hazan. I first came across it in 1992, when it appeared in the Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, a book I’d most certainly grab on the way out of my house if it was burning down.
I cut my chicken-roasting teeth on Marcella’s foolproof chicken. It’s undergone an evolution in my own kitchen; still very true to the basic original but tweaked to my taste.
Over the years, I’ve added garlic and handfuls of fresh herbs to the chicken, and reversed the oven temperature steps: Marcella starts her chicken in a preheated 350 oven, but I like to get my bird nice and hot right away to ensure crisp, golden skin – 425 degrees – before turning it down to finish roasting.
The smell that comes out of the oven while this little bird is cooking will draw everyone into the kitchen- if not begging for your hand, than at least drooling for a bit of juicy leg.
1 (3-4 pound) whole chicken
5 teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small head garlic, sliced in half
1 small lemon, punctured about a dozen times with a skewer
1 handful mixed fresh herb bunches - rosemary, thyme, tarragon and/or lavender are good
- Pat the chicken dry with towels and place on a small rack on a shallow casserole or roasting pan. I use a quarter-sheet pan, which is the perfect size.
- Put 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 the pepper, garlic, lemon and herbs into the cavity. Rub the remaining salt and pepper all over the skin; front, sides and back. Tie the legs together firmly with a piece of kitchen string.
- Turn the chicken breast side down, and let it sit out at room temperature while you preheat the oven to 425 degrees, for at least 20 minutes.
- When the oven is hot, put the chicken in and roast for 25 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and carefully turn it so the breast is facing up. Put it back into the oven, turn the temperature down to 350 and roast for about 25 more minutes. The chicken will be sizzling and spitting, the legs joints will wiggle and skin should be golden and crisp. You can take its temperature if you're unsure - 160 -165 degrees before resting is my preference.
- Take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest, loosely covered with a piece of aluminum foil for 15 minutes. Carve and serve with reserved juices from the pan and the inside of the chicken.