Lemon Fennel Roasting Chicken: an exercise in procrastination

I’m in my final month of grad school.
Our capstone consists of writing a substantial research paper on a narrow, focused aspect of our discipline, like a narrative review. We also have the option to submit a case study, and that includes a shorter narrative review in addition to presenting the case study. I chose the latter, because I have a tendency to take on more work whenever possible, it seems!
Having spent many weeks deep in the literature, my creative juices have totally dried up. I had the opportunity to step away from the paper for a 3 day conference and found that the extra socializing has opened up a side of me long neglected; my Inner Kitchen Witch.

My inner kitchen witch throws random things together and creates some amazing grub. It’s total alchemy and highly intuitive and comes from having a long-standing relationship with food, flavor, and the kitchen stove.

This recipe came to me as I was assessing what veggies needed consuming after being neglected for a long weekend. I love roasting a chicken on top of vegetables; the chicken juices become a flavorful braising liquid for the vegetables to simmer in and the flavor is just a delight and perfect for cooler winter evenings. If you’ve not yet roasted veggies with your chicken I highly recommend it! Cabbage, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and many other firm vegetables work really well here. Tonight a leek, several lemons, a fennel bulb, and some potatoes were called to serve as a cushion for this soy-free, pastured chicken I found at the Farmer’s Market yesterday.

 

My intention was to use 5 uninterrupted hours to dive back into my paper and tighten up my arguments, research, and ensure the rough draft was ready for submission. However, my kitchen sang a siren song and the urge to put off that bit of drudgery was too compelling to resist. However, staying home studying all day allowed me to use a low, slow bake for this chicken, resulting in a crispy skin and moist interior. Even the wings retained moistness! The meat comes right off the bone easily, and the lemon adds a delightful brightness to the chicken and vegetables. If you have some time in the afternoon, I highly recommend getting a head start on dinner and going for a low, slow bake the next time you roast chicken. This is a great weekend meal that can be roasting away while you tackle laundry, bills, homework, or housecleaning. Leftovers are great for early-week chicken salads, tacos, or pasta.

Ingredients:

1 roasting chicken, 3 – 5 pounds
3 lemons
1 fennel bulb, sliced
6 small red potatoes, chopped in large chunks
1 large leek, sliced into rounds
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp thyme
5 bay leaves
salt, pepper and paprika to taste
oil as needed

 

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F
Pat chicken dry and remove giblets, if included.
Slice one lemon in half, lengthwise, and stuff it into chicken with 1 bay leaf.
Slice 1-2 lemons thinly and de-seed slices. Slip the lemon slices under the chicken skin on both sides and tuck them under the wings.
Slice fennel bulb, leek, and potatoes. Toss with olive oil, garlic, and remaining bay leaves.

Place vegetables in the bottom of a roasting pan.
Slice remaining lemon and set slices atop the vegetables.
Place chicken on top of the veggies and rub oil onto the skin. Season with salt, pepper, thyme, paprika, and a bit of the fennel fronds.

Bake, uncovered, in a 275 degree oven for 3-4 hours. Aim for 3 hours with a smaller chicken (3 pounds or less), 4 for a larger bird (up to 5 pounds).

Let chicken sit for 10-15 minutes before carving.

Serve with mashed celery root, cauliflower mash or rice.

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