Last summer I bought a $12 chicken. It was organic. I don’t know what I was thinking. But after I bought it, I thought I’d just put it in the freezer until I found the perfect recipe to show off my expensive taste in fowl. Last night, I tried a recipe I’ve kept thinking about for years. It was Rao’s Famous Lemon Chicken. Rao’s is a restaurant in New York where you can’t get a table unless you’re famous or you book it three years in advance.
Here’s what Rao’s Famous Lemon Chicken looks like from the Rao’s Cookbook. Pretty impressive, right? The recipe calls for cooking a chicken in a way I’d never even heard of before. The recipe tells you to hack the chicken in half. Broil it for 30 minutes, turning once. Broil it? Really? I figured a little Italian woman in East Harlem knows better than me, so I put that $12 chicken under the broiler. After about 15 minutes, I open the oven to turn the chicken over and huge plumes of black smoke billow out. Oh, oh.
But I persevere. After 30 minutes, the recipe calls for you to take the chicken out and cut each half into about six pieces. Do you know how hot chicken gets when it’s been under intense heat for a half an hour? Pretty darn hot. I make Mark cut it up. The $12 chicken is not looking golden and plump and beautiful. It is looking sad and abused. But I’m still hopeful. I haven’t added the famous lemon sauce yet. After you add the sauce, you put the chicken back under the broiler and broil it for four minutes total. I do this. I open the oven door. More black smoke rushes out. We have guests over at the time and I ask if they want to stay to supper. They hurry to the front door, remembering another imaginary appointment.
Well, this is pretty much what it looked like when it was finished. Not a pretty picture. Not at all. Lots of the skin had fallen off. The meat was dry. Mark tried to find something nice to say, but I just stopped him cold. I know when I’ve got a disaster on my hands.
I think Rao’s must have a better broiler than I do. Maybe I should have put the broiler on “low” instead of “high” but I figured I’d go for the gusto. Maybe Rao’s doesn’t use $12 chickens. You know those organic chickens are pampered and maybe they just can’t stand up to this kind of abuse.
Here’s the recipe. Obviously, it was good enough to be on Good Morning, America, so somebody out there is making this better than me. Tonight, I’m frying pork chops. I know how to fry a damn pork chop. And I got them on sale for $3.95 a package. Maybe that’s it. Cheap people aren’t supposed to mess with $12 chickens. We just don’t have the finesse.