Our farming community had a lovely and expansive hillside park situated in the southeast corner of town that was resplendent with lush shade trees that provided a verdant canopy for all social events that were enjoyed there during the spring and summer months. On top of a hill just south of the park stood the stately two story white wooden schoolhouse with its imposing bell tower that rose as a sentinel keeping watch over all activities taking place on the grounds far below. Sunday afternoons were particularly carefree and wonderful there as the gentle and warm breezes would dance their way from the south through the leaves of the trees as if giving an approving rustle to all that was taking place beneath the stately boughs. There was one Sunday in the park every year that was particularly memorable… the annual church picnic! How excited I always was for that day to arrive. As soon as the morning church services and Sunday School had ended we would drive home, quickly change from our Sunday best into clothes befitting a picnic and a day of play in the park, pack the picnic basket and a dish or two to place on the buffet table and drive back into town. We could never get there fast enough as I wanted to be able to watch the women of the Ladies Aid Society make the huge crock of fresh lemonade that would quench our thirst during the course of the afternoon. First there was the impressively huge and heavy stone crock that would be carried by a couple of men from the church basement to the park, just a block away. It was always placed at the end of the buffet tables that seemed to stretch on for a mile. The women would then begin cutting lemons, hundreds of them it seemed, and mashing them in the bottom of the crock with bag upon bag of sugar, macerating everthing until there was a wonderful syrupy mass of pulp and rind. How wonderful it all smelled! Then would come the buckets of ice-cold well water and block upon block of crystal clear ice. Finally, that first glass of lemony elixir… heaven!
With a glass of lemonade in hand I would walk the length of the immense buffet table, rapidly filling with casseroles, bowls, plates and roasters laden with the best of picnic fare as the members of the congregation would arrive with their families. There were potato salads, vegetable salads, macaroni salads. There were jello salads of every color of the rainbow filled with chopped and diced fruits and vegetables. And baked beans! There were beans baked with bacon… there were pots of beans with ham… there were kettles of beans dark and rich with molasses. Lids were lifted from roasters filled with meatballs, their wonderful aromas mixing with the savory smells being emitted by platters and roasting pans heaped with chicken prepared in ways too numerous to count! There were mounds of crisp golden legs and thighs. Wings and breasts in roasters were coated with luscious syrupy juices that caused my mouth to water. I could hardly wait for the minister to say the blessing so that the feast could begin! And what a feast it always was each year…!
I remember those events fondly to this day and continue to have a culinary love affair with the humblest of birds. Chicken is so versatile that it is suited for hundreds of dishes. We often marinate the thighs in an Asian style marinade then quickly sear them and serve with rice and stir-fried vegetables. The meal is very inexpensive, quick, easy and tasty! On occasion we will slice the breast meat, pound it out and prepare a chicken piccata or schnitzel, both preparations once again being easy to do and deliciously satisfying. At the top of the list, however, is our Rotisserie Lemon-Garlic Chicken, a succulent bird rich with the marriage of the flavors of lemon and garlic. It is so flavorful that it stands alone extremely well with it’s golden skin flecked with garlic and herbs and spices. However, it can be napped with an interesting sauce and take on a completely different character. We recently served it one evening with stir-fried baby bok choy prepared in an Asian inspired sauce and were overwhelmed by the fusion of complementary flavors!
Rotisserie Lemon-Garlic Chicken
Rinse and pat dry with paper towels:
1 4 – 5 lb roasting chicken
Tuck the wing tips under the back then generously season the cavity with:
All-Purpose Meat Rub
a heaping tablespoon of ground garlic in oil
Cut both ends from a lemon, pierce it in several places with the tip of a paring knife to release the juices while roasting and place it inside the cavity of the chicken:
Truss the bird if you like or place the rotisserie skewer through the lemon and the bird and secure the legs with the prongs:
Generously coat the complete bird with:
the garlic infused oil from the ground garlic
Sprinkle generously on all sides with:
All-Purpose Meat Rub
Place on rotisserie and roast until internal temperature registers 155 degrees in the groin, approximately 1 – 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size of the bird. Transfer to a cutting board, remove the lemon, tent with foil and allow to rest for approximately 15 minutes before carving. The internal temp will continue to rise an additional 10 degrees during the resting period.
Serve with your choice of accompaniments and enjoy this juicy, succulent and flavorful bird… Bon Appetit!
Copyright 2010 Via Aurea Designs, Inc., All Rights Reserved