Carolyn See’s Perfect Chickens


Carolyn See is one of my favorite writers. All her novels (The Handyman et al) and her best selling non-fiction book for writers, Making a Literary Life, plus her essays and book reviews, can make me laugh as well as move me to tears, often in the very same paragraph. When I emailed Carolyn and asked for a recipe for this blog, her recipe not only made me laugh but her chicken got all 5’s and raves when I served it to friends. Here’s the recipe in her own words:

“…simplicity is the most important thing of course. I used to get hung up for hours shredding kumquat or some such, working myself into a dither, but my favorite recipe is:


Take two perfect chickens, pat dry and rub them down with almost a handful of salt each and a lot of paprika. Be rough. Take four lemons, stab them repeatedly and stick two in each chicken. Bake at around four hundred degrees until their skins are very brown and crispy. Place the chicken on a serving plate heaped with either arugula or watercress, (something peppery) pour off some of the fat but pour the rest of it over the chickens and greens as dressing. Serve with a paring knife buried in each so guests can tear off what they want. Serve with crusty bread which is NOT optional. (The lemony dressing is great on crusty bread.)

This looks wonderful and tastes great and is, as you can see, incredibly simple. The main thing is to resist moderation. PLENTY of salt and lemon, and a high heat. Anything less and it isn’t perfect. If you want to make your guests faint, you can sew the cavities up and the skins puff up dramatically, but you don’t need to.”


So far I’ve made this with one chicken and two lemons and it’s always turned out, yes, perfect. (My husband R. likes it better than the Writer’s Chicken, and it’s even easier.) I bake it for just under two hours and use kosher salt on it.

  4 comments for “Carolyn See’s Perfect Chickens

  1. kara fox
    December 29, 2013 at 2:26 am

    can’t wait to try this. sounds perfect. thank you barbara…what fun! xo k

    • Barbara
      December 31, 2013 at 12:25 am

      Kara – And solo easy!

  2. Robyn
    December 30, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    I’m a writer (not famous), a Realtor (not famous), a wife (not famous), and a mom, (famous) 🙂 I’ve never been a foodie or a “great cook”, but I’ve taught myself. Love Carolyn See, and her bird is beautiful. I consider myself queen of the roasted bird (everyone wants me to cook roasted chicken when they come to my house), but I’ve learned to embrace other roasted chicken recipes–this looks wonderful. I think a fabulous dinner party would be to have several people bring their favorite roasted chicken recipe and do a sampling. Nothing is more inviting and simple than the smell of a chicken roasting in the oven. Also, love your mashed potato recipe! My family will consume this dish, but love that you don’t peel the potato!

    • Barbara
      December 31, 2013 at 12:26 am

      Robyn – Thanks for the comment. I love the idea of a pot luck roast chicken dinner. I may try that!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *