Marcella Hazan’s Roast Chicken with Lemons {recipe} – When Life Gives You the Lemonade Diet

marcella hazan roast lemon chicken recipe

In case you couldn’t infer from my distantly recent posts, I did not succumb this year to that annual December/January epidemic…

of detox.

(I didn’t get the flu either. Yet. It’s still early in the season!)

But just because I didn’t do a detox, though, doesn’t mean that I didn’t think about it.

Oh, I thought about it. I thought about it since way back in 2006 when Beyoncé lost 20 pounds and the Master Cleanse rose up like a fiery salt water flushed phoenix out of the asses. I have thought about detoxing as regularly as a normal person’s bowel movements ever since then. I am thinking about it even now as I sit here at my computer with a bar of chocolate, a genius mix of mini Cheetos and Doritos, and a bottle of wine, half-drunk (the bottle, not me).

And I thought about it, and nothing else, for every waking (and sleeping) minute when I actually attempted the mother of all masters of cleanses.

Yes, my four friends who still read my blog, I did the Master Cleanse.

And I totally succeeded!

(Or failed, depending on which end, and I do quite literally mean which end, you’re looking from.)

Here’s the long and long of it.

Slim Gim

Every summer for the last several years except last year (it’s not confusing, just process the sentence slowly), I did indeed, don a bikini and lounge in the full sunshine on the rooftop of my building for at least one hour every day.

Every day, y’all.


Ry (for Em. Pha. Sis).


That I dared wear a bikini outside is certainly not praiseworthy, but it is certainly remarkable. I am not fond of the outdoors, don’t like direct sun for the sweat-inducing heat, and am so terrified of skin cancer that I’m pretty sure that without actually going out into the sun, I will get it simply by thinking about it. But more important than any of those, it is that I have pretty severe body image issues that, under normal circumstances, would have prevented me from such gross (and by gross, I do quite literally mean “ew, gross,”) exposure of my body. Somehow, though, the reality of my aging blogger body and my extreme self-consciousness were overwhelmed by rhyming affectations.

Vanity and insanity were fueled by the promise of the end result: Tan is slimming!

(Yes, I prefer to address my flaws by superficially disguising them in ways that are hazardous to my health rather than modifying any current bad habits to actually correct them, ok?!)


Through the end of say, September of every year, I am summer slim, dare I say “skinny” yes I dare, with my St Tropez tan. However, there came a moment — okay, there came many moments — in the three months between one particular Fall which is still essentially LA’s sad, clingy summer, and the mid-wintrous end of that particular year when I crumbled under a heavy, almost literally, realization.

“I’ve gained a lot of weight since the sunny, skinny bikini clad days of summer.”

(I am being vague about the exact year for a reason – it could have been as recent as a month ago, OR it could have been the winter between 2009 and 2010 when I also decided to go on matchdotcom.)

Food Blobber. I Mean, Blogger

Weight gain? Through fall and winter?

Boo. Fucking. Who…cares?

No one does.

Firstly, I and the rest of the entire free world gain an average of five pounds of “Holiday weight.” It starts in the fall when we are forced to transition from light, watery, naturally sweet fruits and vegetables of summer to heavy, starchy, sugary cousins of the next season. Pumpkins. Potatoes. Root vegetables. Stuffing ourselves through an overstuffed Thanksgiving, then coming to a big, fat, lettuceless head at the end of the endless parade of Holiday cocktail party calories.

I gained weight. So did everyone else. So what?

Secondly, even having gained weight, I was still not fat. At least not in the traditional, American definition of “fat.” I have a fairly slight frame to begin with and from a distance, could be put in the “slender” category of a dating website or “athletic” category when describing myself on MySpace. If I actually still used MySpace. And I if I were actually “athletic.” So no, I am not fat, which means this blog post alone puts me dangerously close to that table of girls at Katsu-Ya who cry into their untouched sushi just to lose the water weight when they go up one size from double-zero (00) to still-not-normal size zer-omgimsofat, right?

Annoyingly, right.


However, as it is with so many other things in life, it is not the actual weight itself, not the final number on the scale that is hard to accept, but the gain. The change. What we you smart people call “the delta.” I can’t speak for everyone — but fuck, this is my blog so I will do what I want and speak for everyone — people don’t like change, and even if/when that change is for the better, people don’t like when their cheese moves, especially we people who want to melt that cheese over a pile of tortilla chips and call it “fourth meal.”

Obviously, you see why I had this problem in the first place.

Six of This. Half Dozen of the Other. I’ll Take…All Twelve Doughnuts

Weight gain is never one big, startling change, like a beer-filled balloon gut exploding outward right under your eyes. No, weight gain is gradual, creeps up from, literally, behind, not in the appealing, almost-attractive place like the actual behind where bigger would be better for a naturally flat-assed Asian girl like someone you might know, but in that area just above your waist, on your back, on either side. Like rear love handles. Backside muffin tops. You don’t realize they’re there because just like muffins in the oven, they puff up slowly. And they’re on the back side so you can’t see them.

You don’t notice them.

Until you fucking noti…omgwtfathowdidthatget…fuck.

And don’t ask me why I’m using “you” instead of “I.”

I only gained a few pounds. Four pounds, to be exact average, which sure doesn’t sound like much, right? Just 4 pounds? Right! Until you stop deceiving yourself about such a small number and multiply that 4 pound “average” by the three months from September to December that you’ve been gradually gaining a grand total of …

Twelve pounds.

I gained 12 pounds, y’all. That’s a corn-fed, hormone-injected chicken. A small turkey. I think the ham that was part of my family’s completely pre-cooked heat-n-eat Christmas dinner the last few years was smaller than 12 pounds (and contributed to my ever widening ass, no doubt). I’ve gained an entire ass and unfortunately, it’s nowhere near my double-wide flat ass. Instead, I’ve gained 12 pounds in the most unfortunate places — across my lower back as previously paragraphed, my inner thighs, the backs of my upper arms, and, the most traumatizing place of all, my feet.

Who gains weight in her feet?!

Someone who now wears Ughs to brunch.
Lemonade Detox Diet - Lemons Cut

The D Talks “Diet”

As every other person does during that last week of the year, that period of dead silence and solitude between Christmas and a New Year’s Eve that forces you to re-evaluate everything about your life, I resolved to lose the 12 pounds I’d gained in the previous months.

The problem is, I have this problem that I can’t really distill into a single word or phrase. The best I can do is say that it’s a takes a pretty powerful force to motivate me to do just about anything. I have mental inertia, and when it comes to the physical aspects, well, my body is slow. In every, metamucilaginous way. In order to effect any real change like, for example, weight loss, I have to shock my system into motion.


I had toyed with the idea of detoxing more than once before, but every time, I eventually talked myself out of it using the exact same “I’m a food blogger” line of reasoning. I would lose my foodblogger cred for the mere mention of a word that had re-entered the vernacular in a way that was always associated with severe, strict dieting — diet is “The Enemy” of a food blogger. Even if I were to go through with it and allow myself to eat nothing but steamed spinach for seven days, or worse, eat nothing but…nothing, I’d have no food about which to blog.

Of course, I’m a food blogger who hasn’t blogged about anything in months years, and I’ve allowed my-foodblogging-self to eat nothing but Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and orange Tic Tacs for days at a time. So really, I was just straight up bacon-fat fried chickening out every time.

This time though, reality outweighed the risk to my reputation. Outweighed by 12 very real pounds.

Oh, and did I mention that some time during this week-long period of Holiday-induced self-reflection, I somehow convinced myself to try online dating?

In all aspects of my life, it seems, desperate times had called for desperate measures.

Dating” and “eating” differ by only one letter.

But so do “date” and “diet.”

And so do “date” and “hate.”

And so do….Ok, I’ll stop now.
Lemonade Detox Diet - Lemon Juice

Royal Pain in the Flush

I am not going to give you the gory daily details of how the actual cleanse process went because you’ve already read the exact same thing many times somewhere else. I drank nothing but spicy lemonade for a few days. I did the most disgusting thing I’ve ever willingly done to my body ever, a Salt Water Flush to “stimulate” my bowels, which had been confused into paralysis because there was nothing solid in it to move out. The Flush left me dirty, dehydrated, and defeated. I collapsed onto my bed. I was starving. I was light-headed. I had a panic attack because I thought I was having a stroke which was really just the panic attack in the first place. I was cranky. I couldn’t see straight. I snapped at everyone, including my imaginary chihuahua who is actually real, but that’s how messed up I was.

And so I stopped drinking the lemon-flavored detox kool-aid right then and there. I gave up.

All of this after just two-and-a-half days. I didn’t even last long enough to write a proper blog post.

I baked Thomas Keller’s Tarte au Citron with the rest of the lemons.

When Life Gives You the Lemonade Diet

Some people swear by Detox, whether it’s the now somewhat outdated Lemonade Diet/Master Cleanse, or the most recent, slightly less severe incarnation of the same concept, juice fasting, but it isn’t for everyone. I know nothing about the true medical, biological, physiological and psychological science about whether strict Detox is good for the body, but like with any health-related issue, it depends on the person, and it definitely wasn’t for me. It took a different kind of “D” — determination, diligence, and discipline — over a much longer period of time than the 10 days (or less!) that the detox programs promise, but I eventually dropped those 12 pounds. My weight hasn’t fluctuated much since then.

Of course, that’s not to say that I don’t go through the whole gasp-omg!-cry-shut-myself-in-my-room when I can’t zip my jeans as easily after a couple of days of cheese, bread, butter, charcuterie and fried happiness, but I don’t go reaching for the latest drastic diet solution either. I force myself to sleep earlier. I take the dogs for longer, hillier walks.

And I roast a chicken with lemons that I will never drink as spicy lemonade again.

(Tarte au Citron probably isn’t a good idea in this case.)
marcella hazan roast chicken, trussed and tied

Marcella Hazan’s Roast Chicken with Two Lemons {recipe}

From Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

This is “that” recipe for the roast chicken that you “stitch” closed (see photo above) so that in the oven, it expands into a golden, crisp chicken-skinned balloon as it roasts. Mine didn’t do that. It was still awesome.

serves 4


one 3- to 4-pound chicken
black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
2 small lemons
(TDL note: whenever I roast chicken, I toss vegetables — broccoli or cauliflower florets, halved Brussels sprouts, carrots, radishes, sweet potatoes — with grapeseed oil and scattered them around the chicken in the pan)


Preheat oven to 350°F

Wash the chicken thoroughly in cold water, both inside and out. Remove all the bits of fat hanging loose. Let the bird sit for about 10 minutes on a slightly tilted plate to let all the water drain out of it. Pat it thoroughly dry all over with cloth or paper towels.

Sprinkle a generous amount of salt and black pepper on the chicken, rubbing it with your fingers over all its body and into its cavity.

Wash the lemons in cold water and dry them with a towel. Soften each lemon by placing it on a counter and rolling it back and forth as you put firm downward pressure on it with the palm of your hand. Puncture the lemons in at least 20 places each, using a sturdy round toothpick, a trussing needle, a sharp-pointed fork, or similar implement.

Place both lemons in the bird’s cavity. Close up the opening with toothpicks or with trussing needle and string. Close it well, but don’t make an absolutely airtight job of it because the chicken may burst. Run kitchen string from one leg to the other, tying it at both knuckle ends. Leave the legs in their natural position without pulling them tight. If the skin is unbroken, the chicken will puff up as it cooks, and the string serves only to keep the thighs from spreading apart and splitting the skin.

Put the chicken into a roasting pan, breast facing down. Do not add cooking fat of any kind. This bird is self-basting, so you need not fear it will stick to the pan. Place it in the upper third of the preheated oven. After 30 minutes, turn the chicken over to have the breast face up. When turning it, try not to puncture the skin. If kept intact, the chicken will swell like a balloon, which makes for an arresting presentation at the table later. Do not worry too much about it, however, because even if it fails to swell, the flavor will not be affected.

Cook for another 30 to 35 minutes, then turn the oven thermostat up to 400 degrees, and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Calculate between 20 and 25 minutes total cooking time for each pound. There is no need to turn the chicken again.

Whether your bird has puffed up or not, bring it to the table whole and leave the lemons inside until it is carved and opened. The juices that run out are perfectly delicious. Be sure to spoon them over the chicken slices. The lemons will have shriveled up, but they still contain some juice; do not squeeze them, they may squirt.

Ahead-of-time Note: If you want to eat it while it is warm, plan to have it the moment it comes out of the oven. If there are leftovers, they will be very tasty cold, kept moist with some of the cooking juices and eaten not straight out of the refrigerator, but at room temperature.

Lemons, Pierced All Over for Roasting


Afterthoughts on Roast Chicken

I know. I am totally unfocused. I just wrote 2000 words about the lemonade diet, but the “afterthoughts” are about roast chicken. Whatever. I am obsessed with roast chicken.

I used to buy whole rotisserie chicken in those clear plastic domed trays from the grocery store deli section and thought they were God’s gift to life-busy, kitchen-lazy people like me. Then on a whim, I roasted a chicken at home, discovered that roast chicken skin is actually CRISP (completely lost from grocery store rotisserie chickens that get “steamed” with their own watered down juices inside those plastic domes under heatlamps for hours on end), and the rest is history.

My go-to recipe has historically been Thomas Keller’s Roast Chicken (Mon Poulet Roti), from the Bouchon cookbook. I’ve since branched out and tried others, including, obviously, this one from Marcella Hazan. I can’t necessarily say any one of them is the best. They are all different and awesome in the right situation. However, the Thomas Keller technique is the one I use most often, simply because by the time I decide I’m going to make roast chicken for dinner, it’s the easiest and fastest to prepare.

Here are noteworthy recipes I’ve tried (in no particular order):
Thomas Keller’s Roast Chicken (Mon Poulet Roti, recipe on TasteSpotting)
Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken with Bread Salad (recipe on TasteSpotting)
Jonathan Waxman’s Roast Chicken with Salsa Verde
Simple Lemon Herb Roast Chicken
April Bloomfield’s (of Spotted Pig) Lyonnaise Vinegar Chicken
Simple Sunday Roast Chicken

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nomsnotbombs April 17, 2013 at 11:07 am

You weigh, like, three pounds. You definitely don’t need to worry about weight!


2 Sarah J. Gim April 18, 2013 at 9:43 am

Noms: but, but, but… I want to be TWO pounds!


3 Anna Goldberg April 17, 2013 at 12:02 pm

I have to say ” fiery salt water flushed phoenix out of the asses” sure does paint a picture :D


4 Elliott April 17, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Sarah, This is hysterical and biting.
But I’m really interested in taking a broader look into this: Mini-Cheetos, Doritos, Flamin’ Hot Fries and ORANGE Tic Tacs… This is all ORANGE food.
It’s all ORANGE, Sarah!


5 Sarah J. Gim April 18, 2013 at 9:45 am

this is a theme in my life, i am realizing. i don’t know what i want. i just don’t know who i am! i don’t! i hate orange! i love orange!


6 Barb | Creative Culinary April 18, 2013 at 12:02 pm

I recently met with a nutritionist to determine an eating plan for my daughter and the last thing they recommend to anyone is one of these cleanses…they are deemed worthy by the people who sell them and that’s about it.

Still I enjoyed your travelogue…and beyond that? This is a great recipe but then I’ve never made anything of Marcella’s that wasn’t.


7 tedsmitts April 18, 2013 at 8:38 pm

My goodness but you love italics.


8 Ellen April 19, 2013 at 1:30 am

Oh man, I am glad you didn’t keep up the cleanse. I think everyone I know who has done one has ended up even more food obsessed (in an unhealthy way). I tend to think “cleansing” by not eating is like saying the best way to clean a car is to run it on empty.


9 Sarah Baggs April 20, 2013 at 8:17 pm

I too have thought about cleanses. I have a friend who keeps a bottle of vinegar and a shot glass next to her sink in the bathroom so she can have her daily cleanse before breakfast. *gag*
I love Marcella though. Mmmm, chicken!


10 carolynjung April 20, 2013 at 10:03 pm

I dunno about detoxing. I love solid food too much to give up on chewing any great morsel that comes my way, I’m afraid to say. ;)


11 Oui, Chef April 22, 2013 at 5:51 am

Everything in moderation I say, unless it’s a tasty roast chicken or an awesome tart citron, then all bets are off.


12 julia January 9, 2014 at 5:54 pm

you’re the fucking best.


13 L.A. Brown January 12, 2014 at 11:11 am

Love this post and yes, I gain weight in my feet and my stupid neck. Beautiful roast chicken. Lemon and chicken are great partners.


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