This recipe was originally featured in The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2005.

Roast garlic and lemon chicken

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two amply, with leftovers)

Small chicken, 2 1/2 to 3 pounds (roughly 1 kilo)
About a dozen garlic cloves
Two large fresh lemons
Small sprig fresh thyme
2 tablespoons (45ml) olive oil
1/3 cup (80ml) dry white wine
Black pepper


1. Preheat oven to 300F (150C).

2. Cut the chicken into 10 pieces (two thighs, two legs, two wings, and cut each of the two breast pieces in half). As noted, I skinned the chicken pieces to save a few calories, but feel free to leave the skin on if you prefer. (As a side note, now that free-range and "natural" chickens are widely available, I've completely abandoned "industrial" chickens, and recommend the same to you all, whether you're persuaded by reasons of flavor, ethics or both.)

3. Peel the garlic cloves (Bill's version, which called for a whole head of garlic with the cloves separated, advised leaving them unpeeled, but I elected to delete the papery bits.) Cut the lemons in half, then cut each half into quarters. Pull the thyme leaves off the stalks - if you work from the tip back, they should pop right off. (I briefly considered using oregano instead of thyme for a Greek flavor, but decided to stick with the recipe on the first try.)

4. Put the chicken pieces in a roasting pan that will fit them all snugly in a single layer. Add the garlic cloves, the lemon and the thyme leaves. Pour in the olive oil and the wine, and use your hands to mix everything together so all the chicken pieces and lemon chunks are covered with oil. Sprinkle on salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, and cover the pan very tightly with aluminum foil.

5. Roast for two full hours. Remove the foil (careful, it's hot!) and turn the oven up to 400F (200C). Continue roasting for another 30 to 45 minutes, or until the chicken pieces are golden brown and the lemons are beginning to caramelize around the edges. Garnish with additional fresh thyme and serve.

"This was another killer recipe," Bill wrote. "Very rich without all the fat and calories ... and the roasted lemons were to die for ... tender and not really either sour or bitter - just delectable!" We love lemons too, but we're not lemon ranchers and have access only to grocery-store product, and I have to say that we found them still a little sour for eating like fruit. But there's no disputing the splendor of that mouth-watering lemon, garlic and herb flavor in every bite of this memorable dish.

MATCHING WINE: Bill chose a red wine, Sebastiani 1999 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, and I wouldn't quibble with that. For me, though, the strong lemon presence suggested a "match likes with likes" pairing - a concept that I'll discuss in more detail in a 30 Second Wine Advisor feature some day soon - and I chose a tart, dry but fruity white wine with a citric lemony snap, the La Fontana 2003 Rias Baixas Albariño that's part of the current International Selection from California Wine Club.