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
3-1/2 to 4-pound chicken
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.
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.