There’s Always Room for Improving a Roasted Chicken-Roast Chicken with Olives, Garlic and Lemons
I’ve been following Susan Spicer since she was featured in the PBS series on the “new garde” of Louisiana chefs. Every few years, I drop in to her flagship French Quarter restaurant, Bayona, for a meal. In 2006, just a few months after New Orleans flooded, I got the chance to meet her briefly, and have maintained a relationship since then. Well, Bayona is almost 22 years old now (still a “must stop” when visiting NOLA), so she’s no longer part of the “new garde”, and she’s attained nationwide celebrity as a result of her featured role on the HBO series Tremè.
Last year, a client of mine was going to be stopping over in New Orleans after returning from the Caribbean, and asked me for recommendations of places to dine. Of course, I recommended Bayona. He had barely finished the meal before he called thanking me for telling him about the place, and raving about the food. When I saw him a couple of months later, he was still raving. “She uses such interesting combinations of ingredients” he gushed. That she does.
When I was in New Orleans last August, I got a chance to sit down with Ms. Spicer and chat more extensively. I asked her about the eclectic mix- which includes items like assorted chiles, curry pastes, even sambals and lime pickles- on her menus (she has since opened a second restaurant, Mondo– meaning world, in her Lakeview neighborhood). She told me that her training and experience in the culinary world was traditionally French, both classic and bistro style, but admitted that “I’ve added in everything, now… I grew up eating that way.”
Last week, I roasted this Chicken with Olives, Lemon and Garlic, adapted from Spicer’s cookbook, Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer’s New Orleans. I tossed some lovely little Pee Wee potatoes I picked up a month ago at a luncheon for food writers at the downtown L.A. facility of Melissa’s Produce, which soaked up all those fragrant, lemony juices. The aroma that hit my nose as I opened the oven door when this chick was done was incomparable! Spicer introduces the recipe by asking, “Think there’s no way to improve on perfectly roasted chicken?” I say there’s always room for a recipe like this.
Roast Chicken with Olives, Garlic and Lemons
- 1 chicken (@ 3 pound)
- 2 lemons, quartered and 1 zested
- 12-15 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 6-8 springs rosemary (strip half of the sprigs of their leaves and chop coarsely)
- 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
- 1 cup of olives (I used a combination of Kalamata, Picholine and Lindsay’s Green Naturals)
- 1 pound Pee Wee potatoes
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat it very dry inside and out. Season the chicken liberally inside and out with the salt and black pepper sprinkling the thicker parts of the chicken more heavily. Cover loosely and refrigerate for 2 days.*
- Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees and place a roasting pan inside. Remove the chicken from refrigerator. Squeeze one of the lemon quarters over the skin, and rub the juice around with your fingers. using your fingers, gently separate the skin from the breast, and place a couple of the garlic cloves and some of the zest under the skin of the breast on both sides. Let it sit 10-15 minutes, then rub the skin with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and sprinkle with the crushed red pepper flakes and some of the rosemary. Make an incision on the inside of each thigh and insert a garlic clove. Place 3 of the garlic cloves in the cavity of the chicken, along with the rosemary sprigs and 2 of the lemon quarters.
- Tie the chicken legs together with kitchen twine. Place the chicken breast side up in the pre-heated roasting pan. Roast for about 30 minutes.
- Lower the oven heat to 400 degrees. Carefully loosen the chicken from the pan with a spatula, and turn it over to brown the other side. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, then scatter the potatoes, onion, olives and remaining garlic, chopped rosemary, lemon quarters and zest aournd the chicken and roast for another 15-20 minutes. Turn the chicken over again, and turn and stir the onions, garlic, potatoes and olives around a bit. Cook another 10-15 minutes.
- When the chicken is a deep golden brown, and has reached 160 degrees on a thermometer (the internal heat will continue to rise about 5 degrees after removing from the oven), remove it from the oven, transfer it to a platter, and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Leave the lemon, garlic, onion, potato mixture in the oven for a few more minutes if the potatoes are not completely done.
- Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Tilt the pan to remove any fat, if desired (I found there wasn’t much on my bird). Stir the olive, potato, lemon mixture, pressing on the lemons a bit to extract the juices. Collect any juices that drain from the chicken, and add the to the roasting pan, scraping the bottom of the pan to lossen any browned bits. Spoon the juicy olive, onion, potato mixture around the chicken, serve and enjoy.
* Thanks to Judy Rogers’ The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant for this technique, which I use now for every chicken and turkey I roast.