Simply inspired: Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Lemons and Capers

by Terry B on March 16, 2011

Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Lemons and Capers makes a flavorful, beautiful one-pot meal when paired with a salad. Recipe below.


Recipe ideas can come from just about anywhere. This one began with a comment by Laura over at What I Like on last week’s Meyer Lemon Pizza with Goat Cheese and Bacon recipe. She said, in part, “I love roasted lemons.” I’d never thought of roasting lemons before, but suddenly synapses were firing, and I was picturing roasting little red potatoes with lemons and rosemary. Then I remembered the whole chicken lurking uncooked in the fridge, and things just kind of snowballed.

I love this kind of cooking. As much as I also love poring over cookbooks, magazines and the daily bombardment of Internet food for inspiration, there’s something exciting about starting with the simplest idea (roasted lemons, in this case) and turning it into a meal.

Here’s how this one came together in my head. It’s no secret that lemons and poultry play well together; Marion demonstrated that fact here recently with her delicious Cornish Hens with Meyer Lemons and Olives. So the chicken was in. Lemons and rosemary also complement each other nicely, so rosemary was in. The red potatoes of my original idea were definitely in, along with some salt, some pepper and some oil. A good solid one-pot meal so far, but it needed something extra. Capers were perfect, I thought. They wouldn’t influence the overall flavor of the dish, but would add bright little random hits of briny tartness. Done.

For the record, this actually started out just to be dinner, not a post. But it came out of the oven smelling so delicious and looking so photogenic, it seemed worth sharing here. Also, while I’m presenting this as a recipe, I encourage you to treat it as a jumping off point. Tweak it a little. Tweak it a lot. Rebuild it from the ground up, for that matter. After all, this dish started with just the vague notion of roasted lemons. I’d love to hear what it inspires you to do.

Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Lemons and Capers
Serves 4

3-1/2 to 4-pound chicken
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons (see Kitchen Notes)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary + 2 tablespoons rosemary leaves
10 to 12 small red potatoes, scrubbed and halved (see Kitchen Notes)
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and thickly sliced
2 tablespoons capers, drained

Preheat oven to 450ºF. Remove giblets from chicken and reserve for another use (such as adding to your trash can). Rinse chicken inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Season the inside with salt and pepper; halve one of the lemons and stuff it inside the chicken, squeezing to release some of the lemon juice. Bruise the rosemary sprig with the side of a knife and stuff it in the cavity too. Truss the chicken legs with some kitchen string (or not, but I found this kept the lemon halves in place and made the bird look better). Rub the outside of the chicken with olive oil and season all over with salt and pepper.

Lightly oil the inside of a large ovenproof skillet or a low roasting pan. (Avoid a high-sided roasting pan, as the chicken will tend to steam instead of roasting and browning nicely.) Place the chicken breast up in the pan and roast in the oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, toss the potato halves with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Slice the remaining lemon into a half dozen or so thick slices, removing the seeds as much as possible, and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Reduce the heat to 375ºF and scatter the potatoes around the chicken, along with the rosemary leaves. Roast for another 20 minutes, then add the onion, lemon slices and capers. (A quick note: Always remove the pan from the oven and close the oven door to perform these various steps—leaning over an open oven door is uncomfortable and dangerous and plays hell with maintaining proper temperatures.) Roast until chicken is just done, another 25 minutes or so. A quick-read thermometer should read 165ºF when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, avoiding the bone (see Kitchen Notes), and juices should run clear.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for five minutes or so before carving. Leave the vegetables in the pan until you’re ready to serve—it will keep them warm. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a serving dish.

Kitchen Notes

Pick your lemons. In this dish, the lemon juices add the flavor and the slices add visual appeal. You don’t have to eat them to get their benefit, so you can use regular lemons. I used Meyer lemons that I’d gotten from Christina (who has instructed me to stop thanking her, so this is merely an acknowledgment).

Pick your potatoes. I went with garden variety B size red potatoes, but there are any number of small potatoes to be had, including fancy fingerlings of many colors. Get creative.

Don’t cook your chicken to death. In a previous post on roasting a whole chicken, I toed USDA’s official line of cooking it to 180ºF, as measured in the thickest part of the thigh. I’ve since read that salmonella dies when food temperature is at 150ºF for at least 10 minutes, and that 165º is the new 180º. The incredibly moist meat of this bird, even the breast meat, made me a believer. So cook your chicken until it reaches 165ºF—the internal temperature will continue to rise while the bird rests after you remove it from the oven, and you’ll enjoy moist, tender, safe chicken.


{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Stefania March 16, 2011 at 2:21 pm

E’ gustosa questa ricetta vien voglia di farla subito, ciao ☺

Terry B March 16, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Stefania’s comment points up not only my ignorance in Italian, but how laughable online translation services are. After trying a few, I think the basic gist is, “I want to go make this tasty recipe immediately. Ciao.” To which I can only add, “Grazie, Stefania!”

Mindy March 16, 2011 at 3:53 pm

This looks delicious! I love capers, but green olives are calling my name on this one. :-)

Jen March 16, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Wow that chicken looks so delicious! I never tried with lemons, I guess there’s a first time for everything. Thanks for the recipe

Denise March 16, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Thank you so much for this recipe, which looks delicious (although I will do it without the potatoes). But especially thank you for writing “toed the line” instead of the far more common (and improper) “towed the line”. Yes, I know I’m a grammar geek.

Terry B March 16, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Mindy, I think olives would be great with this. They worked beautifully with Marion’s Cornish hens recipe.

Thanks, Jen. Hope you like it!

I know, Denise. I cringe when I find grammatical mistakes in any form of writing, and they’re unfortunately rampant in the blogosphere (including here, occasionally). If you’re skipping potatoes, you might consider cooking some pasta on the side (penne or some other short pasta would work well) and tossing it with the pan juices, onions and capers for an easy side dish. You could even include the lemon slices if you use Meyer lemons. Or you could also add drained and rinsed canned white beans at the end and just warm them through.

Teri Szostak March 17, 2011 at 3:51 pm

The recipe is a wonderful Sunday dinner…I agree, throw the giblets out:>

Janice Harper March 17, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Looks delicious — I think I’ll try making it in my countertop rotisserie (which I bought on Amazon for eight bucks thinking it was a sure bet for some future garage sale but has turned out to be my favorite kitchen gadget since the mandolin). The potatoes and lemons will go in the pan set beneath the chicken to catch the drippings — with a good fistful of fresh thyme added. And yes, olives, those dark little oil cured ones perhaps? With some roasted tri-colored peppers on the side . . .

Denise March 18, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Terry, thanks for the suggestions, but I don’t eat any starches. I do think I will try it with cauliflower, though, because it roasts so beautifully. And I love Janice’s suggestion about the oil-cured olives.

Terry B March 18, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Thanks, Teri! and we do use the giblets now and again, but most often not.

The countertop rotisserie sounds like an interesting idea, Janice. Do you think the vegetables will roast sufficiently in the bottom of the pan? I would start the potatoes the same time you do the chicken, tossing them with a little oil so they don’t scorch while waiting for the drippings. You can always remove them if they get done before the bird does and reheat them separately. The peppers sound like a delicious idea!

Cauliflower would be perfect with this, I think, Denise.

Janice Harper March 18, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Terry B. asked whether the vegetables would roast sufficiently in the bottom of the pan. It would depend on the rotisserie, but I find if I place them in the drip pan they roast quite well, though to be on the safe side at first you might want to zap them in the microwave for a few minutes (and you’re right about the prep; toss w/ oil first).

Patricia Scarpin March 22, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Looks delicious, Terry! Roast chicken is such a comforting dish. I love it, it reminds of my mom!

Alissa March 29, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Even though this looks too pretty to eat, I can’t wait to try it! Thanks for the recipe!! :)

Terry B March 31, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Thanks for the update, Janice!

Patricia—And the timing is perfect for you, as you head into fall in Brazil.

Thanks, Alissa!

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