Engagement Chicken may not lead to lasting love, but it does dress to impress

Published February 7
Updated February 21

Frankly, the very idea behind Engagement Chicken makes me a little twitchy.

It is essentially this: Make this chicken for your boyfriend and he will propose because you have proven you are a true woman now that you know your way around a roasted bird.

The lore, and there is quite a lore around this recipe, is said to have started in 1982, when, according to Glamour magazine, "an editor in Glamour’s fashion department gave her assistant a recipe for the most buttery, lemony chicken she’d ever tasted. The assistant then cooked said chicken for her then-boyfriend, who, a month later, proposed."

Like magic!

The magazine later published the recipe, dubbing it Engagement Chicken, and made it the centerpiece of a Glamour cookbook called 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know: Engagement Chicken and 99 Other Fabulous Dishes to Get You Everything You Want in Life. The rather simple recipe for roast chicken has been adapted by Ina Garten, featured on Martha Stewart’s TV show and cooked by Beth Stern, who gives the chicken credit for encouraging her husband, radio host Howard Stern, to propose. Engagement Chicken crept back into the zeitgeist in November, when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle revealed they were roasting a chicken the night Harry proposed, and rumors about the infamous recipe swirled.

It’s all very The Donna Reed Show, in a way that feels overly gender-coded for this moment in 2018. And the stories are usually heteronormative, female-to-male presentations. Don’t men cook for women? Don’t couples along the entire gender spectrum woo each other with food? That Glamour book, the one that promises that if you just cook the right foods, you can get everything you want in life? The Amazon description reads like a 100-year-old fairy tale: "Once upon a time, there was an easy roast chicken recipe, handed down by a fashion editor at Glamour magazine to her assistant …"

But the most offensive thing about Engagement Chicken may be that it’s just not that interesting. I made the recipe recently, and balked at its simplicity. Just lemon juice coating the bird? No butter or oil or other flavorings? If you’ve never cooked an entire bird, this is a solid recipe to master, even if you are not attempting to sway your committed partner toward a ring purchase. If anything, it will give you confidence in the kitchen. After you’ve stuffed whole lemons into a chicken’s cavity, it is hard to feel squeamish about much else.

And it makes for a dramatic presentation for a Valentine’s Day meal: Serve it on a platter with nothing else, and carve it right there at the table. Have plenty of cut lemons and herbs on hand to serve with the cut pieces, and definitely save all of the juices that collect in the roasting pan. Pour them into a gravy boat or something similar, and use judiciously.

When Ina Garten adapted it, she added olive oil and onions and garlic. But the original recipe doesn’t seem as proposal-worthy. It seems designed for people who may not have top-notch cooking skills, but could still pull out this chicken. Those kind of recipes are essential, especially on a holiday like Valentine’s Day when home cooks of all skill level want to impress. But is this really the best we can do for our eternal mates?

In a similar vein of recipes you can deploy to attract a significant other, we’re including Rachael Ray’s You Won’t Be Single for Long Vodka Cream Pasta, a sexy sauce you can put on any sort of noodle. Red wine, couple of flickering candles — boom. Instant romance.

But in my house, the most romantic dish is always Chocolate Lava Cake, this recipe here just enough for two small cakes, one for both you and your sweetie. It is the most delicious chocolate cake I make from scratch. Top with a dusting of powdered sugar and sliced strawberries. I can’t promise it will lead to lasting love. But at least you’ll get to eat some cake.

Contact Michelle Stark at [email protected] or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.

Engagement Chicken

This is the original recipe for Engagement Chicken, simple and fine, and impressive-looking with all the lemons and herbs strewn about. But I think you can do better. Try slathering the chicken with olive oil or melted butter before pouring the lemon juice on top, and stuffing some smashed garlic cloves in the cavity along with the whole lemons.

1 whole chicken (approximately 4 pounds)

½ cup fresh lemon juice, plus 3 whole lemons, including 1 sliced for garnish

1 tablespoon kosher or coarse sea salt

½ cup fresh lemon juice, plus 3 whole lemons, including 1 sliced for garnish

1 tablespoon kosher or coarse sea salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Fresh herbs for garnish: 4 rosemary sprigs, 4 sage sprigs, 8 thyme sprigs and 1 bunch flat leaf parsley

Position an oven rack in the upper third of the oven and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the giblets from the chicken, wash the chicken inside and out with cold water, then let the chicken drain, cavity down, in a colander for 2 minutes.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Place the chicken breast-side down in a medium roasting pan fitted with a rack and pour the lemon juice all over the chicken, both inside and out. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper inside and out.

Prick 2 whole lemons three times each in three different places with a fork and place them deep inside the cavity. Chicken cavity size may vary, so if one lemon is partly sticking out, that’s fine. (If the lemons are stiff, roll them on the countertop with your palm before pricking to get the juices flowing.)

Put the chicken in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees, and roast, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Using tongs or two wooden spoons, turn the chicken breast side up. Insert a meat thermometer in the thigh, and return the chicken to the oven and roast for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the meat thermometer reads 180 degrees and the juices run clear when the thigh is pricked with a fork. Continue roasting if necessary. Keep in mind that cooking times in different ovens vary; roasting a chicken at 350 degrees takes approximately 18 to 20 minutes per pound, plus an additional 15 minutes.

Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving. And here’s the secret: Pour the juices from the roasting pan on top of the sliced chicken. Garnish with fresh herbs and lemon slices.

Source: Glamour

You Won’t Be Single for Long Vodka Cream Pasta

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, once around the pan in a slow stream

1 tablespoon butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 shallots, minced

1 cup vodka

1 cup chicken stock

1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)

Coarse salt and pepper

1 pound pasta, such as penne rigate

½ cup heavy cream

20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn

Crusty bread, for passing

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add the olive oil, butter, garlic and shallots. Gently saute the shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add the vodka to the pan, three turns around the pan in a steady stream will equal about 1 cup. Reduce the vodka by half, about 2 or 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and the tomatoes. Bring the sauce to a bubble and reduce the heat to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta in salted boiling water until it’s cooked to al dente.

Stir the cream into the sauce. When the sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from the heat. Drain the pasta. Toss the hot pasta with the sauce and the basil leaves. Serve the pasta with crusty bread.

Source: Rachael Ray

Chocolate Lava Cake

1 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate

1 egg

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons sugar

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Butter and lightly flour two 6-ounce ramekins. Tap out the excess flour. Set the ramekins on a baking sheet.

In a double boiler, over simmering water, melt the butter with the chocolate.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg with the egg yolk, sugar and salt at high speed until thickened and pale.

Whisk the chocolate until smooth. Quickly fold it into the egg mixture along with the flour. Spoon the batter into the prepared ramekins and bake for 12 minutes, or until the sides of the cakes are firm but the centers are soft. Let the cakes cool in the ramekins for 1 minute, then cover each with an inverted dessert plate. Carefully turn each one over, let stand for 10 seconds and then unmold. Serve immediately.

Source: Adapted from Real Simple

Spinach, Pear and Pomegranate Salad

According to PBS, the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite (from whom the term "aphrodisiac" originates), planted the first pomegranate tree. The fruit is often considered a romantic food, even being associated with fertility and abundance because of its large amount of seeds. Also, "the pomegranate appears as a romantic symbol in sonnets and literature dating back centuries." Here is a salad that showcases the lovely fruit.

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons pomegranate juice

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon salt

? teaspoon freshly ground pepper

8 ounces baby spinach

2 ripe pears, such as Bartlett, cored and sliced

½ cup pomegranate seeds

? cup walnut pieces

¼ cup crumbled blue cheese

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, honey, mustard, salt and pepper to make a dressing.

Add the spinach, pears, pomegranate seeds and walnuts to the bowl and toss gently to mix and coat well. Divide the salad among 4 plates or bowls and top each with about 1 tablespoon blue cheese. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Source: Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Healthy in a Hurry by Karen Ansel Charity Ferreira (Weldon Owen, 2011)