lemon-lime and lemongrass roast chicken (and a salad I’d rather forget)

This turned out to be a very expensive chicken for me. I know you’re thinking whole chicken’s an economical way to go. And yes, you get at least a couple meals out of it plus a pot of stock. Except somewhere between doing the shopping for this meal and cooking it, I lost a little bet. You see, the supermarket was out of lemongrass, so as we pulled out of the parking lot, John suggested stopping at a smaller store down the street. 
Me: “Yeah right, like they ever have anything I want. $500 on no lemongrass.” 
John (stammering): “Whoa, I’m not betting $500 with someone who’s effectively unemployed. $100 they have it.” 
Me: “Fine, done.” 
We shook on it. And they had the damn lemongrass. But at least I got this chicken out of the deal. Lemony-bright, juicy, and full of flavor, this is a roast chicken to tease your taste buds into spring. It’s a chicken that makes me want to dance around the kitchen with joy. The most fantastic part about this dish in not the chicken itself, though it’s surely a star all on its own, but the heaps of pan juices that come along with it. No need to make gravy, this chicken does all the work for you, making its own rich and delicious sauce as it bakes. Make sure to drizzle the juices liberally over the chicken and whatever rice or other grain you serve alongside. Plenty pretty for Sunday supper or dinner with friends, this meal, providing you don’t loose any bets, would also be quick and economical enough to serve for a weeknight dinner (just plan ahead and marinate the chicken the night before.)

The recipe is adapted from The Arrows Cookbook, the textual interpretation of the famous restaurant in Ogunquit, ME. On their suggestion I served it with a sweet and sour fennel salad dressed with rice vinegar, soy, chili, and sugar. I love usually LOVE fennel, especially in salads, but I just couldn’t get on board with this one. It sounds great, even looks pretty (see photo above), and it’s something a little different for fennel, so I was excited to give it a go. But something with the sweetness of the dressing just didn’t work with the fennel – it brought out all its anis-y glory but just went somehow wrong with rest of the flavors. So, with some serious trepidation (I wanted to pretend it never happened, but John made me tell you), I will say that this is one salad that does not do fennel justice. My fennel revolution’s off to a rocky start. In the mean time, if you’ve never tried fennel or you think you don’t like it, make this soup and stay clear of the Arrow’s fennel salad. I’ll post a fennel revolution worthy salad soon. The chicken serves 4-6.

For the Chicken

4 stalks lemongrass, yellow bottom parts only (save the green parts to steep for tea)
1 large roasting chicken,
about 5 lbs
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime (save 1 each juiced halves for the chicken cavity)
1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp soy sauce

Salt
2-3 scallions, thinly chopped

Cut the lemongrass into one inch pieces and cut each piece in half lengthwise. Gently lift the skin on the breast of the chicken and place half of the lemongrass under the skin. Put the remaining lemongrass in the cavity of the chicken along with the reserved lemon and lime halves. Salt the chicken cavity fairly generously (this draws the juices inwards.) Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, ginger, sugar, sesame oil, vegetable oil, and soy sauce in a bowl large enough to hold your chicken. Whisk well and add the chicken, turning to coat. Cover with saran wrap and set in the refrigerator 2-6 hours or overnight. 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the chicken from the fridge and place it in a roasting pan (any large heavy pan works). Brush the chicken with the marinade and then discard the remaining marinade. Roast the chicken 1 hour to 1 ½ hours (roughly 20-25 minutes per pound) until the juices run clear and the internal temperature reads 160 degrees. Remove from the oven, cover in foil and rest for 10-20 minutes. Carve, sprinkle with the chopped scallions, and serve over steamed rice drizzled with the pan juices.
The chicken carcass makes a great base for stock – just remove the lemon and lime halves from the cavity, cover with water, and throw in some chopped onion, garlic, carrots, peppercorns, salt, and maybe a bay leaf. Simmer about an hour until you have a rich stock and then strain. With the lemongrass etc., the stock has a nice citrusy flavor that’s perfect for soups and seafood but can’t substitute regular chicken broth for everything, so use your judgment.

 

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