Saturday, April 8, 2017

Grilled Lemon Chicken: Easy on the cook for Easter


Around here, mid-April Easter means the first sightings of the spring bulbs.

It also means bright fresh colors, chickens, eggs, lemons and fresh herbs, all things that make us think of spring.  Chocolate too, it goes without saying.

It's a wonderful time for those early veggies too.  Asparagus may not have as many loyal followers as chocolate but it’s always welcome here.  Spring also brings out the grill, which has been covered with snow most of the winter.  

We find that entertaining for traditional celebrations or for any event has become more casual, relaxing and whenever possible, make-ahead.  Because we want to be outside looking for blooms or courting mallards, we need to cut time in the kitchen.

A little privacy on a first day, if you don't mind!

We will be a small group for Easter lunch and we plan to use the grill, rain, shine or (gulp) snow!  We are planning deviled eggs with chives to start, Tuscan chicken on the grill, with sides of asparagus, lentil salad and crisp green salad.  Dessert will be choice of classic French lemon tart or classic French chocolate tart.  

Here’s the recipe for the Tuscan chicken!  It’s inspired by The Barefoot Contessa’s Back to Basics. We amped up with lemon and herbs because our grill is charcoal and we didn’t want the flavors to be overwhelmed. We loved it so much we kept ‘testing’ the recipe.


Grilled Lemon Chicken: INGREDIENTS
1   3 – 4 pound chicken, flattened
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
½ cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
3 to 4 minced cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tsp sea salt
Fresh black pepper


Zest the lemons

Split the chicken through the backbone and flatten a bit. Remove the backbone and save for soup if you want. Score (make a cut but not all the way through) the breastbone with a sharp knife and press to flatten chicken.  

You can ask the butcher to do this for you and even to take out the breastbone and back bones.  We just did a cheap and cheerful job and it worked out fine.  Salt the chicken on both sides or use your favorite salt substitute.

Whisk the oil, zest, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, rosemary and pepper in a small bowl or pitcher (we always use this one) because it’s cheerful and has happy memories. 

Transfer oil mixture to a glass baking dish and add chicken, turning to coat. Cover the dish and refrigerate a minimum of four hours or even overnight.  Turn chicken several times.

Prepare your grill with the charcoal on ONE side and ¼ coals on the other. Or you can use a gas grill on low.  Place the chicken skin side up on the cooler side and weigh it down. 

Turned but before the cast iron cover went on

We used a cast iron cover, but you could use the dish you marinated it in, as long as it’s heatproof. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes until golden, turn and cook for another 15 minutes or so until skin is golden.  Remove and cover to a carving board and cover with tinfoil for 5 – 10 minutes.  Use a meat thermometer to check that chicken is cooked.  Cut in quarters and sprinkle with salt.  

Our new favorite
We served ours with grilled asparagus and two side salads. Happiness all round.
Ina Garten puts lemon halves face down on the grill about ten minutes before chicken is cooked. We think this sounds great squeezed over the chicken at serving, but we didn’t have any lemons left. Next time! 

Keep an eye out for a dessert recipe the next time we post.


If you are new here, we’d like to point out that the shadowy figure known as Victoria Abbott is actually a collaboration between mystery writer Mary Jane Maffini and artist and photographer, Victoria Maffini.  We're here on the second and fourth Saturday each month and we drop in to the new "around the kitchen table" on the first Monday.

We have a lot of fun writing the book collector mysteries, with help from resident pug, Peaches (aka Walter)   In other matters, we have no idea what happened to all the Easter chocolate.

To change the subject, we like to think our book collector mysteries are entertaining, easy to read and surprising too!  Of course, there are recipes. All five titles are available in print, e-book and audio format. Don't miss out!

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  1. Grill, eh? Ours is still out in the barn, covered with a tasty layer of aged grease.

    I love cooking chicken this way, with any number of marinades. Lemon sounds like a good choice. Re flattening the thing: I inherited a truly serious pair of food shears from my mother (they have antler handles and could probably cut sheet metal). They make it very easy to remove the backbone from the chicken.

    1. Very jealous about the shears, Sheila! Thanks for coming by.



  2. love love love the Pug eggs! I haven't had the nerve to try cutting and flattening a chicken to grill, but this inspires me! and your Easter menu sounds lovely. xo

    1. Thanks, Lucy/Roberta. We didn't go the whole distance, but aside from accidentally cutting it in two, there's not much that can go wrong. And two half chickens could be good! Hugs. MJ

  3. Just LOVE this recipe - lemon in anything is always a plus. As for butchering - fortunately Grill Master John is pretty good at that job too. Thanks MJ!
    PS - Daisy and Lily are delightful as bunnies!
    Nancy R

    1. Thanks, Nancy! Will pass on your compliments to the 'girls'. Hugs.

  4. You four all look adorable, as always. Correction--make that 5 to include your photogenic pug!
    This does sound quite lovely.
    We lived in NY state for a while and went out one night with friends to grill in the snow. We all fought over who got the toasty dog for company!