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Filling a chicken cavity with lemons, etc.


JAZ
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Years ago, I read about a technique (I think it was from Marcella Hazan originally, but I'm not certain) for roasting a chicken that called for filling the cavity with a couple of halves of lemons. This was supposed to result in the best roasted chicken ever, and I tried it with great anticipation. The results were disappointing; the chicken was fine, but there was no discernible lemon flavor and it didn't seem any moister than any other chicken I'd ever roasted (I recall that the lemons were supposed to result in an incredibly moist chicken).

Recently, it seems as if every roasted chicken recipe I see calls for throwing lemons, whole or cut up, herbs, and sometimes onions or garlic into the chicken before roasting (Michael Ruhlman suggests "a lemon or some onion or any fruit or vegetable you have on hand" but I'm sure that's meant as a joke -- pears? rutabagas? kiwi? a head of cabbage?).

So I tried it again with lemon and onion halves, and I still have to say: I don't get it. The onion chunks roasted, but they would have done that outside or under the chicken as well. And if I want to waste a lemon and some herbs, I can think of much better ways to do it.

Can anyone explain why this is supposed to be such a good idea?

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No, I can't. But my family eats Hazan's Lemon Chicken like they are a pack of starving wolves. Recently I found myself lemonless and threw some cored, halved apples in there and I had to go get my husband a bib.

“Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!”
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I must say I don't get it either. I have a Molly Stevens cookbook in which a recipe calls for stuffing the chicken with a pear (cut in four pieces) and some rosemary, which is then roasted. I don't see any difference in flavor. Maybe I need a stronger or riper pear? Or fresher rosemary?

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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No, I can't. But my family eats Hazan's Lemon Chicken like they are a pack of starving wolves. Recently I found myself lemonless and threw some cored, halved apples in there and I had to go get my husband a bib.

And they don't like chicken roasted without something in the cavity? Do they eat the fruit, too?

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I do it out of habit with lemons or oranges usually, but I am awash in them straight off the trees. I like the perfume when it is cooking although I do not discern a distinct citrus taste with this treatment alone. I usually also add onion and garlic in large pieces and fresh herbs from the garden. The holiday turkeys which are generally the mass produced ones (family issue...) always get this treatment. Perhaps it is akin to the "beer can chicken" concept; providing a fragrant moisture during the roasting. Dryness is never an issue with our roasted fowl and I think we do eat with our noses.

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HI,

I agree that stuffing a bird with aromatics is pointless.

I frequently stuff lemon slices or other aromatics under the skin to cover breast, thighs and legs. It also helps to add lemon juice to a pan sauce and to squirt lemon juice on the bird while it rests.

Tim

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I used to stuff my chickens with both lemons and a head of garlic but as mentioned above, I came to the realization that it didn't do anything other than result in wasting a good fresh lemon and head of garlic. The lemon barely got warmed and basically soaked up the juices of the chicken yet hardly released any lemon oil or lemon scent into the chicken--at least none that one could taste.

I moved on to placing lemon halves and cut-up garlic heads in the bottom of the roasting pan with the thought that the juices from the roasting chicken would marry with the lemon and garlic and give me a delicious lemon-garlic sauce to baste the chicken. Well, sort of. Putting the lemon and garlic in a dry roasting pan basically resulted in a burned lemon and little juices to baste the chicken. What little juice there was was burned and acrid.

The end result is that now I just season the inside of the chicken cavity with salt and butter and rub the outside with either olive oil or butter. I'll place the lemons and a cut head of garlic in the bottom of the roasting pan under the chicken and then I'll baste the chicken with a combination of fat and chicken stock-usually butter and stock but sometimes olive oil and stock. The result is a lemon-garlic flavored basting sauce without the burnt/acrid taste. This was one of those cases where the basic recipe, (roast chicken stuffed with lemon), sounded good but in practice really didn't work for me.

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Perhaps it is akin to the "beer can chicken" concept; providing a fragrant moisture during the roasting. Dryness is never an issue with our roasted fowl and I think we do eat with our noses.

Dang! I wish I could remember where I read this recently, from a chef I respect who has a science bent. He said the fruit/onion/celery whatever provides a little extra steam to keep the bird moist.

I do it when I think of it and don't sweat it when I don't.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I found these directions from the one, the only KELLER.

I did it this way on Tuesday........it was so very good and there was NOTHING to do but salt and roast.

I too tried the lemons and I think the first time I did I thought it was great BUT, I also used high quality chicken for the first time and was never able to duplicate the experience. So probably the chicken not the lemon prep.

The only problem I had with the Keller Simple way, is there was a lot of grease on the bottom of my oven.

That night I bought a roaster oven because it will be a snap to clean.

Try it, you'll like it.

edited for grammar & spelling. I do it 95% of my posts so I'll state it here. :)

"I have never developed indigestion from eating my words."-- Winston Churchill

Talk doesn't cook rice. ~ Chinese Proverb

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I am so glad to see this topic, as this has always mystified me as well. I conceed that the lemon in the cavity made the pan juices taste better, but as far as I could tell it made no difference in the bird itself... Even with the poking of the lemons with a skewer (as I believe the Marcella instructions specify), I don't really see how much steam could be created -- or at least much more than the chicken juices themselves would generate inside the bird.

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Dang! I wish I could remember where I read this recently, from a chef I respect who has a science bent. He said the fruit/onion/celery whatever provides a little extra steam to keep the bird moist.

I do it when I think of it and don't sweat it when I don't.

It's interesting that Keller seems to think that steam is the enemy:

The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better.

and

I don't baste it, I don't add butter; you can if you wish, but I feel this creates steam, which I don't want.
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It's interesting that Keller seems to think that steam is the enemy:

The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better.

and

I don't baste it, I don't add butter; you can if you wish, but I feel this creates steam, which I don't want.

The bird I did this way, was about 4.5 lb, so I went longer then the time Keller said. I went to 1 1/2 hours. The skin was shriveled and I thought oh boy there goes a few bucks. However, let it sit and it was very juicy, not dried out in the lest.

I was determined follow the rest but did not. No basting after it came out of the oven, no slathing with butter nor used mustard.

It was ONO (Delicious) I already have another bird for my new roaster and this time I am going to do the rest.

I looked for the 'oysters' and could not find them LOL....anyone know what he means ?

edited for grammar & spelling. I do it 95% of my posts so I'll state it here. :)

"I have never developed indigestion from eating my words."-- Winston Churchill

Talk doesn't cook rice. ~ Chinese Proverb

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maybe this is more an old fashioned way to keep it moist, for the chicken that did not "retain 5% water" or what ever it may be in your supermarket. Most chicken are plumped one way or an otherAfter all the chicken took a bath in a gigantic ice tub to cool down quickly after slaughter. (which is why I now only buy air dried for roasting)

If I used a lemon for some reason I stuff it in there, otherwise I leave it wide open. I also never could tell a difference in taste, but then, you don't really eat much from the inside of a chicken.

As for the oysters, it's a small meaty area around what one might call the shoulder? It's not very big on chicken. Easiest way to find it is to pull the skin off a chicken's back sometime. I'm not sure what all the fuzz is about though, tastes like chicken to me :raz:

Edited by OliverB (log)

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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I was determined follow the rest but did not. No basting after it came out of the oven, no slathing with butter nor used mustard.

It was ONO (Delicious) I already have another bird for my new roaster and this time I am going to do the rest.

I looked for the 'oysters' and could not find them LOL....anyone know what he means ?

The butter seems a bit over the top, if you've got a quality bird, but hey, if you like butter, why not?

The oysters: run your finger along one side of the backbone. There will be a tender spot just north (towards the neck) of where the thigh joins. On a three-pound bird, it's a little bigger than a quarter. You can usually just push it out with your finger -- and Keller is right, it's the best part.

I'll agree to the consensus here that lemons add little if anything to a roast chicken, and I'll raise you a beer can: another myth.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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. . .

The oysters: run your finger along one side of the backbone. There will be a tender spot just north (towards the neck) of where the thigh joins. On a three-pound bird, it's a little bigger than a quarter. You can usually just push it out with your finger -- and Keller is right, it's the best part.

I'll agree to the consensus here that lemons add little if anything to a roast chicken, and I'll raise you a beer can: another myth.

Adding to Dave's explanation of where to find the oysters:

click

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

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When I first learned how to roast a chicken, I did the "halved lemon in the cavity" thing, too. Then I moved on and started using Keller's method, no lemon required. Then, one night, I had some extra rosemary kicking around, so I tossed a couple of sprigs into the cavity. Whaddayaknow! The meat came out lightly scented of rosemary, and the stock I made from the carcass was so heavily rosemary-flavoured that I figure the only thing I could use it on is a sauce... for lamb. :blink: (Said stock is still languishing in my freezer.)

Anyway, I'm willing to believe that lemons don't do much, but I did find that rosemary made a difference, at least in this one case.

I do tend to think the beer-can approach makes little to no difference to flavour or moistness, but it does a bang-up job of keeping the chicken off the grill!

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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Sorry for the delay in answering. Yes, they ate the apples. I just did this a couple of weeks ago and haven't roasted another chicken since, so it's a one time thing so far.

They like roasted chicken in general, but when I ask them how they want it done, and run through their options, Marcella's Lemon Chicken is one they really like. Sticky chicken with forty cloves of garlic is another one.

I don't eat chicken so I am just reporting in. :biggrin:

“Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!”
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My experience is entirely different. I've a friend who cooks up several lemon-stuffed chickens each year as part of his July 4 bbq feast. If there's a trick, it's to prick the whole lemons many times through with a skewer and stuff as many as will fit inside the chicken cavity, then truss. He does this the night before, so the chickens rest in the fridge with the lemons overnight. You can smell the lemons a mile away during the cooking and the flavor of the finished bird is heavenly, lightly lemony, moist, and delectable. I don't know if this follows Marcella's recipe but I'm a believer.


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I've always found the lemon has produced lemon flavour through the chicken.

HOWEVER, when what I normally do is put the lemon in the boiling water while par boiling potatoes then when I take it out I prick holes around the lemon before (carefully!) putting it into the cavity. This allow the juice to get out more from all sides and with the heat it will squirt quite a bit.

While basting the chicken during cooking the lemon juices in the pan will then be put back over the whole chicken thus spreading the lemon flavour through the bird.

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I quarter the lemons, at least, season the inside of the chicken with salt and whatever, stuff with lemon chunks (I rough them up a bit so they're a little bruised and squishy), sew shut. There is absolutely a subtle but very nice lemon flavour and fragrance in the chicken. It isn't knock-your-socks-off lemon, but it is definitely there. Actually the flavour is more noticeable the next day with the chilled leftovers.

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