Lemon Roasted Chicken

I had a lot of ideas about where I wanted to focus today's post about this Lemon Roasted Chicken. I thought about angling it towards the author of this recipe, Lidia Bastianich, Italian immigrant turned celebrity chef, a renowned cookbook author, TV host, and owner of 4 restaurants in New York City. I toyed with the idea of making this a nostalgic post -- my mom made us lots of roast chicken and potatoes and similarly cozy meals growing up -- but I already got all nostalgic on you last week when I reminisced about these blondies. Then, I had it -- the focus would be Fall comfort food, now that we've put away the basil and tomatoes and turned our sights towards apple and pumpkin and soup, not to mention lately I come home at the end of the day at my newish and stressful-ish job craving comforting fare just like this chicken.

So after a bit of contemplation, of starting this post and discarding ideas and then starting over, it came to me: a recipe this classic and this straightforward doesn't need a story or an explanation or a song and dance to describe it. Roast chicken is the definition of simple, to the point, no nonsense, just plain good. So, I'll cut to the chase -- this recipe is good. More than good, it’s great, delicious, a perfect roast chicken with ultra-crispy skin and juicy meat, a hint of sunshine-y lemon and cozy rosemary, surrounded by sweet roasted onions and basted with a white wine pan sauce, Lidia’s slightly Italian touch. The whole thing comes together quickly, too, just a matter of putting the chicken in a pan with a few other ingredients and letting them all  hang out in the oven for a bit, and voila, dinner is served. And I know I said I had already gotten nostalgic on you last week, but food is very nostalgic for me, so indulge me here: as this chicken was roasting my whole house smelled like white wine and rosemary, two scents I associate with my nonno's (grandfather’s)house growing up. He was always cooking something when we came in the door.

A couple of notes: In her instructions below, Lidia specifies cutting the onions in such a way that they're kept together at the root end -- I suspect this is because if they're not attached at the end, they break in to individual rings and the pieces are too thin and thus risk burning in the oven, so try and do your best to keep the onions cut the way she advises. Be sure to use un-zested lemons to roast in the pan and put in the cavity of the chicken; the zested ones will result in a bitter pan sauce as the white part of the lemon (the pith) will be exposed and that has a very bitter flavor -- therefore I recommend you buy two more lemons in addition to the ones that Lidia asks for. I halved this recipe and used a smaller chicken as I was cooking for just two people (if the chicken in the photos seems small, that's why). This would also be good served with mashed potatoes or roasted carrots in addition to the suggested roasted potatoes.

LEMON ROASTED CHICKEN

Ingredients:
1 (5 pound, or 2.3 kilos) roasting chicken
4 lemons
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium onions, peeled, cut in to quarters but left attached at the root end (see notes)
A couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary, plus more for garnish
1 cup (180 ml) white wine

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Celsius. Zest two of the four lemons and set the lemon zest aside. Gently slide your fingers under the skin of the chicken to loosen it. Spread the grated lemon zest under the skin, then sprinkle the chicken with 1 teaspoon salt, and rub it all over with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Cut the remaining two lemons in to quarters and add them to the roasting pan along with the onions. Toss the lemons and onions with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place some of the lemon quarters in the chicken cavity, along with the sprigs of rosemary. Set the chicken on the onions and remaining lemons and tie the legs together with kitchen twine so the chicken holds its shape as it roasts. Pour the wine in to the pan. Your chicken is now ready to roast.
Place the chicken in the preheated oven and let it roast, basting once or twice with the pan juices, until the meat between the thigh and breast reaches 165 degrees on a meat thermometer and the skin is crispy and golden, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Remove the chicken to a cutting board, and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Transfer the chicken, lemon, and onions to a serving platter, drizzle with some of the pan juices, and eat while hot, ideally accompanied by roast potatoes. Serves 4.









Coffee Chocolate Chip Blondies

Though I finished elementary school all the way back in 2001 and graduated high school a decade ago, I still associate the month of September with the ever-so-dreaded back-to-school. Don't get me wrong here -- I liked school well enough -- but with its early hours, homework, and test, school never stood a chance against Summer vacation, with its sunshine and ice cream and days at the beach. When I was younger, I remember rolling my eyes at August's abundant back-to-school commercials, turning up my nose at my newly ordered and supremely uncomfortable elementary Catholic school uniform, and feeling downright betrayed when I realized the sun was going down a bit sooner. Though I can't remember the last time I completed a homework assignment, the remnants of the old back-to-school feelings are still there -- this morning, I threw a sympathetic look at a group of tired looking backpacked Italian teenagers waiting for the train, smug in the knowledge that my studying days are behind me. 

That being said, back-to-school meant lunch in the cafeteria, and lunch in the cafeteria meant one thing: blondies. If you're not familiar, a blondie is, well, the blonde equivalent of a brownie, a treat that is rich and butterscotch-y in the same way that a brownie is chocolate-y and fudge-y, made with lots of brown sugar and butter instead of cocoa powder and chocolate. My mom made them for us kids every Fall -- this recipe here -- tucking them in to our lunchboxes where they were coveted among our classmates at lunchtime (we could never be convinced to trade them, though, not even for a Twix bar). Nothing could make us forget the sunshine-y days of summer quite like a blondie, and to this day they're among the most nostalgic foods I know.

I've grown up a little since my cafeteria days though, and so I give you these Coffee Chocolate Chip Blondies, an updated version of my favorite childhood treat. They are, as the name suggests, made with coffee, something my younger self wrinkled her nose at and that I didn't start drinking until well in to my 20s. In the place of my once preferred super sweet milk chocolate, there's semi-sweet chocolate (the chocolate of more adult taste buds) and dark chocolate covered coffee beans, both of which provide a bitterness balances the sweet butterscotch-y flavor of the blondies perfectly. These are blondies, but a bit more mature, blondies that you want on hand to get through a break-up or writing a masters thesis, blondies to celebrate a promotion or an anniversary. Or just to eat in your pajamas while binge-watching something on Netflix. Grown up stuff.

A couple of notes: You can use either chocolate chips or chocolate chunks here; I used chocolate chunks. I also threw in a handful of chocolate covered coffee beans that I bought in Budapest, and recommend you do the same, if you can find them -- it makes the blondies all the more coffee-ish. I used dark brown sugar but I suspect light brown would work well here too. These look more like brownies than blondies in the photos, but that's because the coffee makes them a little darker than your usual blondie.

Looking for more coffee-ish desserts? I've got this Cappuccino Cake and this Coffee Nutella Cake. Looking for more bars and brownies? I've got these classic Blondies, these Fudge Brownies, these Cheesecake Brownies, these S'more Bars, these Dulce de Leche Brownies, these Pecan Pie Bars, these Dark Chocolate Gingerbread Bars, Blueberry Pie Bars, and these Lemon Squares.

COFFEE CHOCOLATE CHIP BLONDIES

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) flour 
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
12 tablespoons (168 grams, 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (345 grams) packed brown sugar (I used dark brown)
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons strong coffee, room temperature
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (yes, tablespoons)
1 1/2 cups (240 grams) semisweet chocolate chips or chunks

Chocolate covered coffee beans (see note above)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with butter and set aside.

Stir together the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl and set this aside too.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, sugar and salt. Cook, stirring often, until the butter is completely melted and the mixture is hot but not simmering. Remove from the heat and stir in the coffee until well combined (if the mixture refuses to come together, let it cool for a minute or two and try again). Let the mixture cool to room temperature, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Once the butter and sugar mixture has cooled to room temperature, add the egg and vanilla and whisk until combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir gently to combine.

Using a spatula, spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 18 to 24 minutes, until the blondies are set on the edges and the top is golden brown and just beginning to form cracks. A toothpick inserted into the blondies should come out with just a couple of crumbs.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let it cool completely. Grab opposite corners of the parchment paper and gently lift the blondies from the pan onto a flat surface. Cut them into squares (big or small, up to you) and serve.