Monday, October 29, 2012

Engagement on a Stormy Night

Once upon a time, on a dark and stormy night on Manhattan's Upper West Side, with a full moon looming overhead..

Sitting in the coziness of my apartment, listening to the winds howling back and forth, whistling through windows and the sounds of rain pitter pattering.  All reminding me that this so-called "Frankenstorm" of a hurricane might be on it's way (or most likely not, according to many jaded New Yorkers like myself).  Either way, it was snug, warm and comfortable inside.  Sounds of Sinatra's swinging "Blue Moon" playing in the background.  The delicious aroma of THE Engagement Chicken slow-roasting in the oven.  And when I say "slow-roasting", I mean my painstaking attempt of tenderly and slowly caramelizing this thing with love for hours until the meat is literally holding onto it's bones for dear life.

There will be no engagement tonight however.  Unless it involves Blanca, my little Maltese and quite possibly the luckiest dog ever, who will undoubtedly be sharing some of this incredible dinner with me tonight.  But someday there may be a worthy man who is considered lucky enough to have experienced THE engagement chicken himself.  Only time will tell.

But for now, I bet I have you wondering..."What exactly IS the engagement chicken?".  Well, I am about to divulge possibly my greatest and most powerful culinary secret I have been keeping all to myself...ever.  And once you have made it: you'll know why.

 Glamour Magazine first published this legendary article in the 80's about the phenomenon:

"First comes chicken, then comes marriage? Be skeptical if you must, but this recipe may be charmed. It all began 26 years ago, when then-Glamour fashion editor Kim Bonnell gave the recipe to her assistant, Kathy Suder, who made the chicken for her boyfriend, who, a month later, asked her to marry him. “It’s a meal your wife would make. It got me thinking,” says Jon Suder, who now has three children with Kathy. Details of the simple dish passed from assistant to assistant like a culinary chain letter. When Bonnell heard that her recipe had inspired three weddings, she dubbed it Engagement Chicken."

  **My version is slightly different (and a bit more decadent to kick things up a notch) because somewhere along the lines I decided to add Garlic Herb Butter.  Uh oh! What a surprise.

1) First step in preparation (*full details are below) is to wash the bird and drain it in a colander until it hits room temp (15min).   Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

 2) Now for the lemons: and lots of them.  Squeeze the juice out of 4 or 5 of them until you reach 1/2 cup of lemon juice (this will be used to cover the chicken before roasting). 


3) Now for the (holy) Herb Butter: For this you will need 2 tablespoons of unsalted softened butter, 2 minced cloves of Garlic and 2 tbsp chopped Thyme.
In a small bowl using a fork, mash together the ingredients.
This mixture you will use to massage underneath the skin of the chicken and as a rub on the outside of the chicken as well.

You might want to make sure you DON'T have any warm crusty bread laying around.
Try to resist the temptation.  Must stay focused on the Engagement Chicken.

4)  Now comes the dressing: In a colander, pour the lemon juice all of the bird, inside and out.  Season with salt, pepper and chopped thyme (inside & out).   Place the bird in a roasting pan or casserole dish. Massage the butter mixture underneath the skins and all over the exterior of the bird.
Place two whole lemons (pierced w/ a fork throughout) into the cavity of the chicken. Stuff Thyme or any other herbs you desire inside.  Tightly tie the legs together with twine to hold everything in.

5)  Now comes the roasting:  Roast breast-side-down at 425 degrees for 20 min. or until beginning to brown.   Remove from the oven and using wooden spoons, carefully flip the bird over. Pour in a base (1/4 cup to 1/2 cup depending on size of pan) of Chicken Stock to the bottom of the pan surrounding the bird.
Lower the oven temperature to 250 degrees and roast an additional 3-4 hours or until the internal temperature (inside center of the breast with a poultry thermometer) reaches 180 degrees.  Make sure to baste the bird with the juices occasionally during cooking.

This allows for some good quality time...

And now something little in the meanwhile (while salivating over the delicious scent permeating the house):

Manchego, Emmental, Fig Jam, Salt & Pepper crackers (yum!!)


 And speaking of popping the question, I am reminded of a certain couple I know well who were engaged over heart-shaped eggs in a skillet.  
My very own Dad and his wife Monica.  
This must be the male idea version of engagement culinary skills:

Engagement Chicken

Full recipe

1 whole chicken (approx. 4 lbs)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (juice of 4-5 lemons)
1/2 cup Chicken Stock (broth)
Kosher or sea salt
Ground black pepper
2 extra lemons plus 1 extra for garnish  
2 tbsp. unsalted butter (softened)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp chopped Thyme
Thyme sprigs or other fresh herbs for garmish

Preparation & Cooking Method:
1.  Place rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 425 degrees. 
2. Remove giblets and wash chicken inside and out with cold water, let it drain, cavity down, in a colander until it reaches room temperature (about 15 minutes).  Pat dry with paper towels.
3. In a small bowl, combine the softened butter, minced garlic and chopped Thyme.  Mash with a fork until it forms a paste consistency and is well combined. 
4. In colander, pour lemon juice all over chicken (inside and outside).  Season with salt & pepper.
5.  In a baking pan or casserole dish, place chicken in pan and  massage the butter mixture underneath the skins, inside the cavity and on the outside of the chicken.
6. Prick two whole lemons three times with a fork and place deep inside the cavity.  Tie the legs of the chicken together tightly with cooking twine.
7.  Place the bird breast-side down on the rack in the roasting pan and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and turn it breast-side up using wooden spoons.  Lower oven temp. to 250 degrees and bake uncovered for 3 - 4 hours or until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees. (Test for doneness by inserting the meat thermometer into the thigh or breast and juices should run clear when chicken is pricked with a fork).
8. Remove chicken from pan & juices.  Let chicken cool for 15 minutes before carving. 
9. Serve with  juices on the side and garnish with fresh herbes and lemon wedges.


***Side note:  This recipe can also be made in half the cooking time.  Just up the temperature during the 2nd stage of the roasting process (from 250 degrees to 350 degrees).  Will take almost half the amount of time but a little less savory. Still always flawlessly amazing every time!




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