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I don’t know really how I feel about this Engagement Chicken business we’ve been hearing about. Glamour Magazine’s editors, namely Cindi Leive, the one with the hairstyle I wish I had, have published a book about using food to get what you want. Front and center isa chicken recipe that it seems at least seventy women on record have made for their guys and proposals followed. The recipe itself started with the already-married Italian cookbook authorMarcella Hazan. The chicken recipe is basic – lemon halves within a whole chicken and roasted. We at crunchtime love a goodroasted chicken because it’s the dinner that keeps on giving asecond, even third time around. According to the book, it seems men love it too. Someone said they think it’s the combination of the aroma, the dazzling home-cooking gesture, and that the recipe simply produces a no-fail delicious meal.

My issue with engagement chicken is, of course, the idea of any woman putting such effort into manipulating a proposal rather than the relationship. If a woman wants to be married that badly, then she should just propose. Situation #34 when it’s just better to be gay.

Yet, at my wedding, our best man revealed in his toast that my husband was “taken” after I made him salmon en croute (“that salmon dinner thing”). Dan wasn’t quite the tasting menu kind of guy; most of his meals came from Pot Belly subs or Wiener Circle, but the meal must have mattered to him. He proposed to me at a dive bar where we had our first date because I had insisted on a dive bars for first dates figuring if a guy can show you a good time there, fancy restaurants and compelling movies would be easy. And isn’t most of life just a big dive bar anyway?

Back to engagement chicken. The poster child for this Engagement Chicken is Beth Stern, Howard’s Stern’s wife, who apparently did not even get a proposal out of this chicken. I guess it made Howard Stern, the man who’s made a career out of being pervy, a little “romantic” and then like eight years later he proposed. Not the most convincing of stories, but others attested as well.

I wondered about that power of this chicken, so I put it to the test with the whole family imagining what magical, loving transformation awaited. Maybe I’ll get the remote one night, maybe my son will use shampoo when he washes his hair, maybe the kids will use their arms when we hug. The possibilities were endless.

I brought the roast chicken to the table and was met with oohs and ahhs. “This dinner looks really great mom,” my son said with a smidgen of condescension. Always a white meat family, the whole bird looked impressive at the table. I gave Dan a sharpened carving knife to further exploit some dad machismo and he sliced away while we all watched.

Fall-off-the bone is usually a good thing. But when meat falls off the bone on the platter while knives and elbows are a-flying, it looks more like a massacre and less like a dinner. The chicken meat was in fact delicious, having been tenderized and enhanced with the acidity of the lemons. In the end, the succulent flavor balanced out the heinous butchery leaving me with an even score and a typical post-dinner atmosphere. Kids raced off avoiding dishes, I was force-fed some Sports Center, and then we all gathered for another episode of Modern Family.

So, I recommend that you make the chicken, carve it in the kitchen, serve your man (or woman) some wine, and then propose that (s)he make dinner tomorrow night.

engagement chicken for the whole family

1 whole chicken (approximately 4 pounds)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, plus 3 whole lemons — including 1 sliced for garnish

1 tablespoon kosher or coarse sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Fresh herbs for garnish (4 rosemary sprigs, 4 sage sprigs, 8 thyme sprigs and 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley)

  1. Position an oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the giblets from the chicken, wash the chicken inside and out with cold water, then let the chicken drain, cavity down, in a colander for two minutes.
  2. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Place the chicken breast-side down in a medium roasting pan fitted with a rack and pour the lemon juice all over the chicken, both inside and out. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper, inside and out.
  3. Prick two whole lemons three times each in three different places with a fork and place them deep inside the cavity. Chicken cavity size may vary, so if one lemon is partly sticking out, that’s fine.
  4. Put the chicken in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees, and roast, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Using tongs or two wooden spoons, turn the chicken breast-side up. Insert a meat thermometer in the thigh, return the chicken to the oven and roast for about one hour to one hour and 15 minutes, or until the meat thermometer reads 180 degrees and the juices run clear when the thigh is pricked with a fork. Continue roasting if necessary. Keep in mind that cooking times in different ovens vary; roasting a chicken at 350 degrees takes approximately 18 to 20 minutes per pound, plus an additional 15 minutes.
  6. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving. And here’s the secret: Pour the juices from the roasting pan on top of the sliced chicken — this is the “marry me juice.” Garnish with fresh herbs and lemon slices.
  7. Any simple sides will work with a main course this splendid. You can go with either white wine (Riesling is nice) or red (try Pinot Noir). Happy cooking — and an even happier future to you and the lucky person you’ve deemed worthy of this dish!

recipe from marcella hazan and provided by your friends at crunchtimefoood.com


  1. Gretchen Easterday says May 10th 2011 7:29 pm

    Loving the recipes but the commentaries even more! You inspired me to make chicken lettuce wraps for lunch yesterday and they were amazing.

    • Sherri says May 11th 2011 12:37 am

      Thanks Gretchen. I want to eat lunch at your house!

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