I went through a semi-vegan period when I was younger, and when I came to my senses, the first craving I succumbed to was a cooked bird. Therefore, for years now, I’ve had a stack of chicken recipes – all of them ripped from the pages of newspapers and magazines – piled on top of my cookbooks. I’m methodically making every one of them, so I can respectfully lessen the pile, toss the unworthy, and store the good ones.
I think my tweak of a recipe for Roasted Chicken with Preserved Lemons from The New York Times Magazine, is worthy of a share. I’ll bet no one else has ever lined and stuffed a chicken with lemon curd. A whole 11 ounce jar. And four lemons. And a half pound of butter. (I’ve seen chicken recipes with a curd glaze, and in a sauce, but never stuffed with.) I did use two chickens, so the curd didn’t rule the roost. So, let me just do what I rarely do, and send along my most despised acronym to describe the finished product: “OMG.” It was extraordinary.
Because it was already the zero hour for dinner when I decided to make this, I was crunched for time. I made a frenzied trip to the market for the short list of ingredients: a whole chicken, butter, cumin, honey, and preserved lemons. Ellusive preserved lemons, I should add. I couldn’t find them. And in my impatience, grabbed a jar of lemon curd. I’ve never used it before, and knew nothing about it. But “curd,” kind of sounded like it could be in the “preserved” family – so why not? Plus I love the word.
But no. Lemon curd is traditionally served with desserts, and in tarts, puddings, or as a topping, and is basically sugar, lemon zest, lemons, butter, and eggs – very sweet. Preserved lemons are a whole different animal. Recipes have a Middle Eastern slant, and they are salty. You can easily make a jar in your kitchen with lemon insides rubbed with salt, smooshed into a jar and then covered with lemon juice. You can add other spices as desired. It’s recommended that the jar sit for up to a year. Nothing like the curd.
As I was prepping each bird (my face scrunched in lament at the butchery, while whispering, “I’m so sorry, baby.”) – pulling bones, ripping skin, and plying cavities – I realized I had too many lemons. They were already cut into quarters, and the pulp was scooped out, so I figured I’d just increase the curd, and the butter, to match.
I filled each lemon rind quarter with a heaping spoonful of curd, and tucked them (16 quarters in all) into every inch of space between the skin and the meat of each chicken, and filled the cavities. I rubbed the outsides with butter, as directed by the original recipe, and then shoved the leftover butter in with the lemons. (My own addition.) I sprinkled both with salt, pepper, and cumin, and roasted them for an hour. I then drizzled them with honey, and then back in the oven for another hour of roasting.
The finished product was an oozy, lemony, salty, sweet, chickeny-curd-pooled feast. You can even cut up the cooked lemon rinds into tiny pieces and sprinkle them on top. Extraordinary.