Richard Blais’ Lemon Curd & Black Pepper Roast Chicken
Chef Richard Blais shares his unique take on lemon chicken from his cookbook, Try This at Home. What is the secret? Lemon curd, if you can believe it. Sweet and savory come together to create a delightful meal you won’t soon forget.
Lemon Curd and Black Pepper Roast Chicken
For the brine:
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons Szechuan peppercorns, optional
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
8 cups water
1 cup kosher salt
1 fresh red Thai chile, sliced
1 (4- to 5-pound) free-range chicken
For the lemon curd:
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon water, divided, plus more for the pan if needed
1. Make the brine: In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, toast, swirling the pan, the black peppercorns, Szechuan peppercorns, if using, and coriander seeds, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 2 cups water and salt. Raise the heat to medium high, and stir until the salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and add the remaining 6 cups water and chile. Let cool to room temperature.
2. Rinse the chicken under cold water. Transfer to a tall narrow plastic container just large enough to hold it. Pour brine over the chicken so that it immersed. Refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.
3. Make the lemon curd: In a medium saucepan, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and lemon zest and juice until well combined. Put the pan over low heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture is thick and hot, but just below a simmer, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter one small piece at a time until smooth. Using a rubber spatula, press the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer set over a small bowl to remove the zest. Cover and let stand until cool or refrigerate if not using right away.
4. Position a rack in a roasting pan. Remove the chicken from the brine and rinse really well under cold running water. Pat the chicken completely dry with paper towels and set it on the rack in the pan. Let the chicken come to room temperature, about 20 to 30 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Coarsely crush the black peppercorns and coriander seeds with a mortar and pestle or on a cutting board with the bottom of a small pan. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the rosemary and sage. Add three-quarters of the spice mixture to the lemon curd, along with 1 tablespoon water, and stir to combine.
6. Pat the chicken again with the paper towels to make sure it is completely dry.
Gently loosen the skin by sliding your fingers between the breast and skin and working them down to the thighs and drumsticks. Spoon half the lemon curd under the breast skin and use your hands to spread the curd evenly under the loosened skin all the way to the legs. With kitchen twine, tie the legs together tightly. Brush the remaining curd evenly over the surface of the chicken, coating the whole bird. Sprinkle the remaining spice mix evenly over the chicken. Return to the rack in the pan and pour remaining 1 cup water into the pan.
7. Tent the chicken with aluminum foil and roast for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and educe the heat to 325 degrees. Continue roasting until the chicken is golden brown and the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced, about 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes. Check the chicken after 1 hour to avoid overcooking. Add water 1/2 cup at a time to the pan if it starts to dry out. Let the chicken stand for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.