When using lemon juice instead of vinegar to make a vinaigrette, the proportion is 1 part lemon juice to 1 part extra virgin olive oil.
This recipe makes 1 cup of salad dressing, enough for a couple of large salads. However, if you have limited lemon juice (for instance only 2), use a glass measuring cup and squeeze all the lemon juice into the cup, noting at eye-level the amount you have. Then, top it up with the exact same amount of oil. Add the salt and pepper and whisk vigorously, or, pour into a squeeze bottle or jar and shake at least 20 times before drizzling on salad.
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Optional: 1 teaspoon of one of the following dried herbs: basil or oregano or tarragon. Instead of using dried herbs,you can include fresh herbs with the salad greens.
In an 8-oz. jar or squeeze bottle (or measuring cup), combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and herb (if using). Whisk very well to emulsify juice and oil. If using a bottle or jar, shake at least 20 times, then apply to salad immediately.
Drizzle around edge of bowl of greens or lightly across top, taking care not to drench salad. Toss salad well to make greens shiny, but not dripping.
Refrigerate leftover dressing for up to a week. Take out from refrigerator an hour before using to liquify the olive oil.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” — Oscar Wilde
Yes, it certainly is citrus season…
…and Mark and Emily are so sweet and generous with the lemons and limes and pomelos and oranges they bring back from Palm Springs, I could feel perfectly justified in buying the Sweet and Tart cookbook I found while shopping for the White Elephant gift exchange on Christmas Eve. I mean, it was downright prudent to have such a book, a necessity for living in Southern California, right?
Besides, it turned out to have exactly the recipe I was looking to make for Christmas Eve — savory mini corn muffins with lemon zest and rosemary and Parmesan. I had searched the Web for a recipe, and hadn’t found quite the right one. I thought I was going to have to make one up, but here it was, on page 149 of this pretty book.
“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.” ― Julia Child
Who doesn’t love roast chicken and gravy?
Everybody loves roast chicken (except maybe vegetarians). It has something for everyone: white and dark meat, sliced or a bone, skin or none. It’s also a simple recipe, although everyone seems to have their own.
Besides, roasting a chicken is really the only way to make wonderful chicken gravy. Everything you do to make a great roast chicken contributes (or not) to making delicious chicken gravy.
Everybody’s Roast Chicken
Every famous chef has a signature roast chicken, but it’s really not all that complicated.
I roasted my first chicken when I was living in the Bronx with my college friend, Pam. She was an editorial assistant at Saturday Review and had brought home a review copy of a cookbook by Elizabeth David about French country cooking.
The recipe called for sprinkling on salt and pepper and some tarragon, then inserting a cut lemon inside the bird for flavoring. Many years and chickens later, this got to known as Barbara’s Lemon Chicken, or at least that’s what my husband calls it.
In culinary school, we learned how to truss a chicken – tying it up, with or without a lemon or onion inside, so that the legs are closer to the whole bird, supposedly for more even cooking. (I don’t bother with this, myself.) We roasted it on a bed of mire poix – 1-inch chunks of celery and carrots, wedges of onion, which caramelize beautifully, basted in juices from the chicken, all seasoned well with salt and pepper, a dusting of fresh thyme leaves.
The text book also called for a 400˚F oven and white wine for the gravy, but I’d been roasting chickens for too many years by that time to change my ways at home. My chickens are always slow roasted and never dry. My gravy is a rich brown, without adding commercial sauces.
Buying a Whole Chicken to Roast
The quality of your roast chicken (and gravy) starts with the quality of the chicken you buy, and the quality of the life it has had before you ever thought of roasting it.
To be straightforward: get a young, organic, free-range whole chicken with giblets (neck, heart, liver, gizzard). The flesh is firmer and tastier than meat from chickens raised in boxes, crammed in with thousands of others, and you’ll lower the risk of salmonella and use of antibiotics.
Yesterday on a walk around downtown, I stopped into Ralph’s to pick up a lemon for roast chicken — the only ones I had at home had already been zested and I wanted the full peel — and then, I found a bag of blood oranges.
Of course! Now is the prime season in Southern California for all citrus, even the exotic varieties that are only available in season. I especially love the color and sweetness of these beauties.
So, last night’s Lemon Chicken became Blood Orange Roast Chicken. It’s basically the same recipe, with a few obvious variations. I used blood oranges to perk up my drink of sparkling water. I used Temecula Olive Oil Company‘s Blood Orange Olive Oil to crisp up the skin. I even added a wedge to the giblet stock I simmered up for the gravy while the chicken was in the oven.
This roast chicken is typically made with a lemon, but you can use a lime, a blood orange, or even a shallot or onion or peeled garlic. Using an olive oil made with other fresh flavorings also brings a different note in the chicken and gravy. You can make the gravy with store-bought organic chicken stock, if you don’t have the ingredients for making your own stock, but it is never as good.
1 whole organic free-range chicken, with neck and giblets
1 lemon or other citrus, quartered
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 generous teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon tarragon, or oregano, rosemary, or thyme.
Neck and giblets from chicken
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
5 or 6 fresh parsley stems
8 or 10 whole peppercorns
1 onion, cut into wedges
2 celery stalks, in 1-inch chunks
2 carrots, in 1-inch chunks
Optional: stems from asparagus, a slice of citrus, wilted (but not stinky) parsley or cilantro or lettuce
Drippings from roasted chicken
1/4 – 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 – 1 cup red wine
3 – 4 cups chicken stock, homemade or organic store-bought
1 – 2 teaspoons salt
8 – 10 grinds of fresh black pepper
Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Unwrap the chicken and removed the giblets from inside. These might be in a bag or loose in the main cavity. Put them into a medium-sized sauce pan, along with all the other stock ingredients. Fill the pan up with water to within 2 inches of the top and set it over high heat until it comes to a simmer, then lower heat to maintain a gentle simmer during the whole roasting of the chicken. You can turn it off after you take out the chicken.
Pull off and discard any yellow fat globules from inside the cavity, near the tail.
Rinse the chicken, inside and out, under cold running water. Place the chicken in a sturdy roasting pan and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels.
Wash your hands and the sink with warm water and soap to avoid cross-contamination with other foods or containers. When handling the chicken, either use tongs or paper towels to pick it up.
Pour 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil into a ramekin, and brush it all over the chicken, breast and back.
Season thoroughly all over with salt and pepper. Tuck the tip of each wing under the middle bone of the wing to form a base for the chicken. Lay the chicken breastside up in the roasting pan.
Sprinkle the breast and legs with dried tarragon or oregano or basil or thyme. Tuck the lemon or orange pieces into the cavity.
Roast in 350˚F oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (depending on your oven and the size of the chicken), until the temperature on an instant-read thermometer registers over 165˚F when inserted into several places on the breast and leg (not touching the bone). The legs should move easily and all juices should be clear (NOT pink or red).
Remove the chicken from the oven and place it on a platter to rest for 15 – 30 minutes, while you make the gravy. Remove the citrus from the cavity and squeeze over the chicken. Any further juices that collect on the platter can be added to the gravy.
To make the gravy:
Heat the chicken drippings in the roasting pan on top of the stove, over one or two burners on medium high so that they are bubbling, stirring constantly.
Using a wooden spoon or silicon spatula, stir in enough flour to absorb the drippings. Cook for at least one minute, stirring constantly.
Stir in wine, mixing well with the flour and fat mixture (known as a “roux”).
Whisk in 2 cups of hot stock, a cup at a time, blending thoroughly. Gradually add more stock as it thickens, making it just a little thinner than you want the final sauce to be. (It can always be cooked longer to reduce and thicken.) Stir and cook for a few minutes.
Taste the gravy, using a separate tasting spoon. Could it use a little salt to bring out the flavor? Add less than you think it needs, plus a few grinds of black pepper.
Cook for a couple more minutes, until it is reduced and the consistency that you want. Taste it again. Add more salt and pepper and stock, as needed. Serve immediately.
Studying cookbooks like Kitty’s Mint Tea and Minarets and Fatema Hal’s Authentic Recipes from Morocco, I tried various dishes, getting a sense of characteristic flavors: preserved lemons, harissa (hot chili pepper paste), caraway seeds, pine nuts, mint, tomatoes, coriander seeds, cumin, dried apricots, cinnamon, chilies, olives, ginger. Many of these ingredients I knew from other cuisines, like Mexican or Indian or Greek, but these were new combinations.
Then, when I was planning a holiday party, I made up my own recipe: Moroccan Meatballs. I used ground turkey instead of lamb for a lighter (but definitely not traditional) base, and included a tangy tomato sauce.
The recipe makes lots of meatballs, which freeze well and then reheat well in the tomato sauce in a slow cooker, keeping them warm and easy.
Recently I updated my recipe, mainly because the ground turkey I bought came in a different sized pack, so I had to adjust the other ingredients. I also wanted to make it a little spicier, with a new dash of cayenne.
How to Make Preserved Lemons
Although you can buy preserved lemons from some specialty shops (but I can’t remember where I saw them…) or from Amazon (but they are heavy so shipping is expensive and the glass jar makes it risky). The best is making your own preserved lemons, but it does mean you have to think ahead about a month, or always keep a supply on hand.
Some recipes you’ll find also include adding other seasonings like bay leaf or coriander seeds, but I prefer the simplicity of the traditional, using just the basics:
Five or six organic lemons (either Meyers lemons or Eurekas), some more for juicing, if needed
At least 1/4 cup sea salt or Kosher salt (without the chemicals of common table salt)
You’ll need a wide-mouthed pint jar and a sharp knife.
Rinse and dry the lemons. Slit them in quarters down to 1/2 inch, without breaking them entirely apart, picking out any seeds that come out easily.
Put a tablespoon of salt in the bottom of the jar. Sprinkle salt liberally within each lemon, then squeeze the quarters together, and place it in the jar.
As you add each lemon, push it down into the jar, squeezing the juice from the one beneath, sprinkling on more salt to draw out the juice. You’ll be surprised how many lemons will find in the jar as they give up their juice, and you keep pressing them down beneath the level of the juice.
It’s very important that the lemons are completely covered with juice to prevent the growth of mold. If needed, add more freshly squeezed lemon juice when the jar is nearly packed, within an inch or so from the top.
Cover and set the jar in a warm place for a couple of days, maybe on your kitchen counter, so that you can shake and turn them over to distribute the salt and juice every day or so. Label the date you put them up, maybe also with the date a month later when you can start using them.
When you want to use one, use a spoon or tongs to take it from the jar sanitarily. Give it a quick rinse under cold water to remove excess salt. You can remove the seeds and inside pulp, if you like — it’s the skins you use as the flavoring, sliced or chopped.
The lemons are good for several months on the counter or in your fridge. Just make sure that the liquid fully covers the lemons.