Roast chicken might be the most romantic dinner ever

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If restaurants’ Valentine’s Day menus are to be believed, the dishes that whisper “romance” are tenderloin steaks and butter-poached lobster, all perched on gold-rimmed china. Truffles and oysters abound. And chocolate reigns over the dessert like a mermaid draped in satin.

But the food that might actually beat those clichés in the love department is actually quite humble: Consider roast chicken. Served at home. At the top of your everyday plates. Unglamorous? Maybe. But hear me out: a golden-skinned bird, prepared with care, even with great effort, might just be the most romantic of dinners.

Chicken has a quiet reputation as an unlikely aphrodisiac. You may have heard of the decades-old tradition of the “engagement chicken” – a lemon-stuffed bird with such bewitching properties that, when prepared for a lover, is believed to induce a marriage proposal in A few days. According to the story, in 1982, Glamor editor Cindi Leive shared a roast chicken recipe with her assistant, who cooked it for her boyfriend. Said boyfriend proposed soon after, and the assistant forwarded the recipe to three colleagues who had similar experiences.

Roasting a chicken is as easy as putting a baking sheet in the oven

Ina Garten helped spread the word about the magic bird by publishing her own recipe. In a 2010 episode of her show Food Network, the cook known as Barefoot Contessa described the first time she heard about the dish at a recent party of two “incredibly beautiful girls from Glamor magazine” who told him it had worked for everyone in their office.

Garten was already an evangelist of poultry as a love language: her husband, Jeffrey, the other half of the #relationshipgoals couple, was always famous for his wife’s roast bird. In her first cookbook, Garten prefaced her recipe for “Perfect Roast Chicken” by describing how it was her favorite Friday night dinner, a dish she made while he made his weekly commute from town to their home in the Hamptons. “Nothing like the smell of roast chicken to make him feel like the trip was worth it,” she wrote.

The power of roast chicken as a love potion was most recently endorsed when it made an appearance in the story of how we got engaged that Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex shared in interviews. The couple spent a typical night “roasting a chicken,” Meghan recalled. “Trying to roast a chicken,” Harry interjected. The prince presumably took a break from watering to get on his knees.

Of course, with the intoxicating smell of garlic and herbs, the concept of “engagement chicken” carries the scent of antiquated notions: desperate single women performing domestic feats to ensnare their men, or the idea that a partner can be won by a single heroic deed. But beneath those layers are the bones of something that many people hold true: the chicken conveys love.

Jacques Pépin, the legendary chef, cookbook author and television personality, has always felt a connection between chickens and love – his 2022 cookbook and paintings, ‘The Art of Chicken’, in chronicles. In an interview, he recalled making countless roast chickens for dinner parties with his wife, Gloria, at their Connecticut home. Sometimes it was the one his mom made for him, served with a cream sauce seasoned with tarragon, and sometimes with the flavors of his Puerto Rican and Cuban heritage.

Make the recipe: Roasted Sumac Chicken with Carrots and Chickpeas

“It doesn’t matter if it’s your child, your grandmother or your lover, you express your love through your cooking,” says Pépin, who at 87 no longer herds his own flock but instead procures eggs and an occasional bird. from a friend.

In his book, he notes that the French use “chicken” as an affectionate term. “A loving husband will call his wife a casserole [little chicken] or my hen, or my hen,” he wrote. “Conversely, a loving wife will call her husband my chicken, or my chicken.”

So many of the foods generally considered romantic are those that boost libido (even though science doesn’t exactly agree with marketers on these purported qualities). Legendary 18th-century lover Giacomo Casanova is said to have eaten dozens of oysters before his dates, and ancient Romans believed strawberries were linked to Venus, the goddess of love, because of their red color and their heart shape.

Others – like expensive filet mignon or anything with gold leaf – seem to be more meant to convey wealth and status, the culinary equivalent of a blingy diamond ring.

But Ashley Rodriguez, author of the cookbook “Date Night In,” says the best way to think about sexy food is the intention behind it. A chicken, she notes, requires some foresight — she likes to season her poultry before cooking to maximize flavor — and care during preparation, which are acts of love. “It says, ‘I’ve been thinking about you, this meal and this time,'” she says. “And as intimate and comforting as roast chicken is, I always feel like it creates an occasion.”

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Food blogger and newsletter author Adam Roberts started making rotisserie chicken for his husband when they were dating. It’s become a “favorite ritual” in their relationship, he says – at first they preferred a Chez Panisse recipe with fennel seeds and cayenne pepper, but these days it’s more likely a version Thomas Keller with roasted vegetables. And while a roast chicken may evoke a warmer than purely carnal vibe, Roberts still thinks there’s something sensual about the dish.

“You can tell a lot about a person’s sexual prowess by the way they attack the bird: if they use a knife and fork, they’re napping in the bag,” he says. “If you see them ripping it up with their hands, gnawing on the bone and making a huge mess of things…that one is a keeper.”

I can personally vouch for roast chicken as date night food. I found this to be the kind of dish that feels like eating on an occasion – presenting it, hot from the oven, all brown and crispy, feels like giving a gift. During the pandemic, it became even more important for my husband and I to enjoy moments at home that we felt were special, and Roast Chicken Night kind of stood out from the endless series of Blurs-days. (We experimented with different preparations, but also opted for a very simple recipe from Thomas Keller.)

Make the recipe: Roast Chicken with Maple Mustard

Charles Hunter III, a personal chef and blogger, says the “set it and forget it” nature of a rotisserie chicken means you don’t have to worry about it – instead, you can turn your attention towards the person you are cooking. For. “It’s warm, cozy and inviting,” he says. “It can be the perfect food for a date or for a romantic moment because it can be executed well with simple ingredients.”

The heady scent is also part of the appeal, he finds.

“It makes your house smell amazing – you want someone to come in and take a deep breath and know something good is going to happen. I love it when my wife walks in and asks, ‘What are you cooking?’ »

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