Recipe: Engagement Roast Chicken

I've been keeping this recipe in my back pocket for a long time (two years, in fact). I knew I'd get to share it with you eventually, I just wasn't sure when.

A few years ago Walt's mother prepared us the juiciest, tastiest roast chicken I'd ever put into my mouth. As I dunked every last morsel into the rich, fatty juices in the bottom of the pan, I said, "Tina, I need this recipe now." She leaned over and whispered in my ear, "It's Engagement Chicken. Girlfriend, you know I've got your back!"

She slipped me the recipe as we headed out the door. I tucked it in my trusty recipe binder and waited. And waited, and waited, and waited. But I'm proud to announce that all the waiting is over. 3 years and 364 days later Walt finally made it official, and in true movie-maker fashion I might add. But you want the juicy details, don't you? Okay, fine, if you insist.

Last Tuesday, I padded around the house in my pajamas and unkempt hair per usual. Around 2:30 pm I got a call from work saying we were slow so no need to come in. This is typical for a Tuesday shift, so no cause for suspicion. (I only found out later she was in on it.) Walt headed out for errands but on the way out the door casually slipped, "So are you going to look beautiful by the time I get home, or what?" Walt lovingly teases me about my lazy work-from-home ways often, so I just shrugged it off. At a certain point, I finally realized I should shower or I would never hear the end of it. Thank God I did.

Bathed and brushed, I threw together a weeknight dinner (penne alla vodka with homemade noodles, in case you were wondering). Feeling bold, I decided to whip up some from-scratch chocolate pudding for dessert—and yes, this is perfectly normal for a Tuesday if you date an aspiring cookbook author. As I sipped a glass of red wine and whisked my dessert, Walt asked if I would like to read my anniversary poem. Even though our four year anniversary was the next day, it's typical that we give each other presents early because we can't contain ourselves. I dusted off my apron as he pointed in the direction of the television. A DVD sat on top of the player; he instructed me to put it in and press play.

It only took seconds to realize this was no anniversary poem. As he reached for my hands and pulled me close, I could feel the loud thumping of his heart. A Lego man donning shaggy blond hair and denim overalls waddled across the screen. It just so happened that Walt was rocking overalls the day we first met. I looked at him and looked back at the screen. A cute brunette decked out in orange and blue (Auburn colors!) strutted by. I was speechless. Lego Walt paused a moment, contemplating life as a bachelor or life with me. You can probably guess by now which he chose...

The movie continues, documenting our ever-changing world together: I attended culinary school and discovered my passion for cooking. Walt fell in love with the camera lens and has been following me around ever since. A montage of various Lego foods slid by (each with an inside joke attached, all the way down to the buttermilk), so when a ring zipped across the conveyor belt I almost fainted. The final act reveals a beautiful Lego bride, and the wedding commences with all of our best Lego friends in tow. I mean, what's a wedding anyways without Indiana Jones and Godzilla. As for the *beaming* groom holding the shiny gold bling? His head actually came from a very enthusiastic Lego graduate, complete with cap, gown, and plastic diploma.

The next minute Walt dropped to one knee as "will you marry me" flashed across the screen. He opened the box to reveal the same Lego bride and groom; the groom holding the ring, of course. It was quite the proposal, as you might agree. It was just so Walt. And so us. If you know anything about stop motion video you know it was truly a labor of love. Needless to say, I said yes!

It has been a blur of tears and happiness ever since, and we are so excited to start the next phase of our life together. And if the wedding is anything like the proposal video than you can guess it's going to be one hell of a throwdown. (Dad, don't say I didn't warn you!) The only real question now is how to get Hans Solo unfrozen out of carbonite so he can officiate the nuptials.

Here's the actual proposal video for all you romantics out there.

Serves 2, with leftovers

This recipe is inspired by a famous recipe from Glamour Magazine, although the cooking method and times have been greatly modified to meet my personal taste. The brine and cooking method are adapted from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller. Want to land your man? Make this now.

For the Chicken:
1 whole roasting chicken, about 4 – 5 pounds
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 whole lemons
3 pounds roasting potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 sweet onions, peeled and thickly sliced
Good-quality olive oil Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the brine:
1 gallon (16 cups) water, divided
1 cup kosher salt
3 lemons, halved
5 bay leaves
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons black peppercorns

For the brine: In a large stock pot, cover the chicken with about 12 cups of cold water. In a microwave-proof bowl, heat 4 cups of water until almost boiling. Add the salt and stir until completely dissolved. Add the salted water to the stock pot. Add the lemons (squeezing some of the juice into the water), bay leaves, honey, and black peppercorns. Cover and refrigerate the chicken overnight, but no more than 12 hours.

For the chicken: Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse in cold water, and pat dry. Bring to room temperature for at least one hour and thirty minutes.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Set the chicken in a large bowl. Pour the lemon juice in and over the chicken (recycling back and forth between the bowl and measuring cup a few times to continue covering). Cut the 2 lemons in half and stuff inside the inner cavity of the bird. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper.

Toss the potatoes and onions with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a couple tablespoons of the leftover lemon juice (discard the rest). Season the vegetables generously with salt and pepper and arrange in the bottom of a large cast iron skillet. Nestle the chicken over the bed of vegetables. Roast for 25 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven, lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees, and toss the vegetables again. Add the chicken back to the pan and cook for an additional 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the thigh reaches 160 degrees.

Remove the chicken from the oven. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before carving, to let the juices settle back into the meat. Toss the vegetables in the pan juices and season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. Pour any remaining pan juices over the chicken when serving