HaShem’s promise to bring the beleaguered Israelites to a land flowing with milk and honey would have sounded like bliss to those wearied by the back-breaking labour of Egyptian slavery. The area of Goshen was small, the slaves confined to tight quarters, while Eretz Canaan – by this time a distant memory recalled in the tales of the elderly – is described by G-d to Moshe as both spacious and good, a land flowing with milk and honey.
Traveling today through what is an infinitesimally small country (about the same size as Rhode Island), it is still everything that was promised then. From the top of the Golan to the fields of the Negev, beehives dot the roadsides. Outside of cities, the land is primarily given over to agriculture. Orchards, wheat fields, vineyards and grazing land: Israel is a tiny country whose yields are both spacious and wide, even by today’s standards.
Israel is three to four times more densely populated than most countries of Europe (352.29 people per square mile, according to the World Bank statistics for 2012). Yet we export agricultural produce all over the world, in addition to exporting agricultural know-how to third world countries. This small country feeds the world with its abundant produce.
Although chicken was not eaten in Tanachic times, fowl was cultivated, mostly pigeons, and wild fowl was trapped. Surely in Midian, Jethro’s daughter, Tzipporah set snare traps for birds, in order to honor her family and special guests with roasted fowl. This week’s recipe is based on Julia Child’s Roasted Chicken, gleaned from her 1990s cookery show with Jacques Pepin: Julia and Jacques: Cooking at Home
Julia Child’s Lemon Roasted Chicken
- 1 large toasting hen
- 2 stalks fresh thyme
- 2 small branches of fresh rosemary
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed
- 3 lemons
- 3 large onions
- 1/4 c olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 pound/500 gr fresh spinach, watercress, or sunflower sprouts
- Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit/180 degrees Celsius.
- Juice 2 lemons. Place the lemon juice in a large bowl. Cut the juiced lemons into quarters, and toss in the same bowl. Add the herbs to the bowl. Grind in some black pepper and coarse salt, to taste.
- Quarter the onions and place two of them in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Set aside the third.
- Roll the roasting chicken in the bowl with herbs and lemon juice.
- Stuff the quartered lemons and the remaining quartered onion into the bird’s cavity, along with some of the garlic. Wedge the branches of herbs into the cavity as well.
- Place the chicken with its back up, on top of the quartered onions in the pan. (It’s useful to use a chicken roaster to keep the chicken above the onions, but you can put the chicken directly onto the onions as well.)
- Pour the remaining contents of the bowl over the bird. Drizzle the olive oil over the bird, and grind some coarse salt on top.
- Roast for 45 minutes in the oven, then remove, and carefully turn the bird breast side up.
- Roast for another 45 minutes, or until done. The stuffed cavity will slow the cooking time down, which is what you want. The slower the bird roasts, the better it will be.
- Allow the bird to rest for half an hour. Cut into pieces.
- Place fresh uncooked spinach or sunflower sprouts onto a platter. Arrange the chicken pieces on top.
- Strain the pan juices into a small saucepan, squeezing all the softened onions into a puree. Add the juice of the last lemon, and the cup of chicken soup.
- Reduce the gravy by one third, gently simmering it. Allow to rest, and pour off as much fat as possible.
- Drizzle some of the gravy over the chicken pieces. Serve with rice or potatoes, with the remaining gravy alongside.
This dish can be covered with plastic wrap and put on the Shabbat platter for up to two hours. Don’t forget to put your gravy in a bowl on the platter as well. Shabbat Shalom.