Baby tomatoes

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Monday, March 2, 2015

My Backyard Chicken Dreams- Roasted with Lemon and Thyme

As much as we love living at the lake, there is one thing missing from the perfect country life. Chickens. I have always wanted chickens. Not a huge mega factory farm barn full. Beautiful, colorful chickens, that roam freely around the yard, eating whatever chickens eat, loving the sunshine and fresh air, and if I am really lucky, rewarding me with a few eggs.

photo by Tracy Carlson
Darn rules! We have rules here, and the meanest one is No Chickens. Talk about crushing a girl's dreams! Instead I have to live vicariously through my friends' chickens, buy eggs from a local farmer- whose chickens roam around freely just like mine would do if I had any- and oooh and awww over pictures of beautiful chickens on Facebook. It's been a tough thing to accept, especially since even in the city people are allowed to keep chickens and the one thing I REALLY really wanted in the country wash a happy flock of lovely chickens. Surely a couple happy hens wouldn't be a bother the neighbors, right? I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want a rooster hanging around waking me up everyday. Visiting the county fairs last summer I got to see some of the show chickens, and they are absolutely beautiful birds. It would make my heart happy for have a few girls milling about the yard, pecking around on the deck, rooting through the potted plants, chomping on the marigolds, chatting up a storm with us. 

photo by Kristi Worthington
Years ago I lived in England. Everyone had chickens. Seriously- everyone. Every yard in the town I lived in was fenced and in the backyard people had long dog run type enclosures for their chickens with the cutest chicken houses. They looked like great big dollhouses- fancy Victorians, castles, mansions- just for the chickens. The hens roamed all over the yard during the day and were tucked safely into their enclosures for the overnights. Why? Apparently the British family appreciated having fresh eggs every day. Unlike here in the U.S., there we did not keep dozens of eggs on hand in the fridge. Eggs are purchased in packs of 6 and kept at room temperature in a bowl of water. They don't spoil, so the British housewife knows something we don't here in Iowa. But I just really wanted some beautiful chickens with that adorable chicken house.

Suzanne Ledford's chickens
provide plenty of eggs
In spite of all this chicken love and longing, I do enjoy eating chicken. Roast chicken, in particular, and I have found that roasting pieces is much quicker than waiting on a whole bird, and just as delicious, and possibly juicier too. I have found that the trick to perfectly moist roast chicken is to choose pieces instead of the whole bird, place them in a baking dish, dot with butter and add a little wine, fruit juice or chicken stock to the pan- cover loosely with foil for part of the roasting time, and don't be stingy with the herbs. Thyme is a natural with chicken, but sage and rosemary also are delicious.

This chicken is roasted with loads of chunks of fresh lemon- and believe me, the lemon flavor you get is amazing. The lemon chunks break down during roasting and baste the chicken with delicious juice, enhanced by the thyme, and leaves you with plenty of pan drippings for a fabulous gravy or jus for drizzling. Serve with roasted potatoes, carrots and lots of crusty bread for sopping up the sauce.

Roasted Lemon Chicken

about 2 lbs chicken pieces
2 lemons, cut in chunks
several sprigs fresh thyme
garlic cloves (whole)
3/4 cup Sauvignon Blanc
drizzle with olive oil

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the chicken pieces in a roasting pan or casserole dish. Season with salt and pepper.

Note- I also used a little Feiny's Citrus Barbeque Rub.

Scrub the lemons well and cut into quarters lengthwise; thence crosswise into chunks. Sprinkle the lemon chunks over the chicken pieces in the roasting pan. Strip the leaves off the thyme sprigs and sprinkle over the chicken pieces.

Peel and lightly smash about 10 or 15 cloves garlic. Sprinkle them over the chicken. Pour the wine in the roasting pan. Drizzle with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Cover loosely with foil and roast for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue roasting the chicken for about 45 minutes, until nicely browned.

Remove chicken pieces to serving plate. Strain juices in the pan; serve with the chicken. If you like more of a gravy rather than jus, pour the drippings into a saucepan, add a cup or two of chicken broth and thicken with roux or a cornstarch slurry.

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