Winner, Winner--Chicken Dinner

It is my pleasure to again welcome my husband, David, as a guest blogger. Since I don't eat chicken, I feel that I have been letting some of you chicken lovers down by not offering recipes for chicken. So, here he is and here's a great new recipe on how to cook a bird.

There's a restaurant in Manhattan, it's actually in Harlem, known as Rao's. No one can go there unless you "own" a table. And there's not that many tables to own, but that's another story.

On a trip to New York with Heather we had planned to have dinner with our friends Peter Bergen and Susie Wagner, who live in the city. Now keep in mind, Peter is the consummate New Yorker, never goes out without a jacket and tie, owns a seat on the New York Stock Exchange and is affectionately known at the local taverns as "The Judge."

Susie is a classy, PR whiz transplanted from somewhere in the midwest, but has turned into a real New Yorker and quite discriminating. She looks and dresses the part. They are real fun to be with despite the fact that there is a generation (or two) between us and they even came to visit us in Mexico.

I mentioned to them that I had heard about a restaurant named Baldoria's in the theatre district that was owned and operated by Frankie Pelligrino, Jr., the son of Frank Pelligrino, who owns Rao's.

Supposedly, the food is on an equal par with Rao's and you can actually get a table. Peter remarked that he had heard of it and said, "Let's give it a try." And for Peter, that is a bold statement because he only frequents the city's best.

So off we went and when we arrived it turns out that Frankie knows Peter and we all became fast friends. Frankie introduced us to his wife, Carla, who is imported from Italy, a chef and in charge of the kitchen.

When we told Frankie we were from Texas, even though I am really a New Yorker, he proceeded to show us his new Tony Lama black cowboy boots, which he was extremely proud of. I unfortunately had to explain to him that "real Texans" get their boots custom made and Tony Lamas are kind of like wearing Thom McCann's and that if he got his butt to Texas, I'd take him to Eddie Kimmel or the likes for a pair of "real cowboy boots."

This seemed to have cemented our relationship and began a great evening of food, wine, laughter and friendship.

So what's this got to do with chicken?

The other day I was perusing our vast cookbook collection and the Rao's cookbook jumped out at me. It opened to the page of the Rao's Famous Lemon Chicken recipe and I knew I had to make it.

It brought back lots of memories and sadly Baldoria's is now closed and Peter Bergen has passed on. Frankie and Carla have opened a Rao's in Las Vegas at Caesar's and we have kept in touch and sent them lots of customers over the years, as well as purchased many jars of the spectacular Rao's Marinara Sauce at $8.99 a pop and worth every single penny.

Frankie, by the way, never came to Texas for his cowboy boots, but, here is the recipe for an amazing lemon chicken from Rao's.

Rao's Famous Lemon Chicken
Moderately adapted by The Cowgirl Gourmet's husband, David

Print Recipe

Serves 2-3

2 1/2-3 lb. broiling chicken, preferrably organic and pastured, cut in half and backbone removed (ask your butcher to do this for you if you don't know how or don't want to do this)
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped

This recipe calls for broiling the chicken in the oven which can be difficult unless you are "the broiler master" and have a somewhat commercial style broiler. The average home oven broiler probably won't work that well. I choose to grill the chicken on an outdoor charcoal or gas grill and finish it in the oven/broiler.

Salt and pepper the chicken halves and place directly over the coals. Turn frequently to avoid burning but you do want to achieve a nice char on the outside of the bird.

Feel free to move to an indirect heat part of the grill where the coals aren't, and close the lid if you have one. You want to make sure the chicken is cooked through but not burnt. This will take approximately 30-40 minutes.

Make sure the juices run clear and the legs are a bit wobbly when you move them. This is a good test for doneness.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the lemon sauce, see recipe below.

When the chicken is cooked, place the two halves on a solid cutting board and cut into pieces—leg, thigh and cut the breast into several pieces, one piece will include the wing.

Place the cut-up pieces in a baking pan with sides and pour the lemon juice mixture over the chicken.

Place the baking pan into a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes. Then turn the broiler on to high and broil for another 3-4 minutes or until the sauce is hot, which you can taste/test with a spoon.

Remove from the oven and put the chicken on individual serving plates, adding the chopped parsley to the sauce and then pour the sauce over the pieces of chicken. If the sauce is not hot enough, heat it in a saucepan on the stove.

For a true Italian feast, you could also serve this with a side of sketti (spaghetti) with butter and olive oil and a bit of the lemon sauce.

Lemon Sauce

1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoons minced garlic (3-4 cloves)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together the juice, oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano and salt and pepper. Set aside, but be sure to whisk vigorously before using and emulsify the dressing again.
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