Frankly, the very idea behind Engagement Chicken makes me a little twitchy.
It is essentially this: Make this chicken for your boyfriend and he will propose because you have proven you are a true woman now that you know your way around a roasted bird.
The lore, and there is quite a lore around this recipe, is said to have started in 1982, when, according to Glamour magazine, "an editor in Glamour’s fashion department gave her assistant a recipe for the most buttery, lemony chicken she’d ever tasted. The assistant then cooked said chicken for her then-boyfriend, who, a month later, proposed."
The magazine later published the recipe, dubbing it Engagement Chicken, and made it the centerpiece of a Glamour cookbook called 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know: Engagement Chicken and 99 Other Fabulous Dishes to Get You Everything You Want in Life. The rather simple recipe for roast chicken has been adapted by Ina Garten, featured on Martha Stewart’s TV show and cooked by Beth Stern, who gives the chicken credit for encouraging her husband, radio host Howard Stern, to propose. Engagement Chicken crept back into the zeitgeist in November, when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle revealed they were roasting a chicken the night Harry proposed, and rumors about the infamous recipe swirled.
It’s all very The Donna Reed Show, in a way that feels overly gender-coded for this moment in 2018. And the stories are usually heteronormative, female-to-male presentations. Don’t men cook for women? Don’t couples along the entire gender spectrum woo each other with food? That Glamour book, the one that promises that if you just cook the right foods, you can get everything you want in life? The Amazon description reads like a 100-year-old fairy tale: "Once upon a time, there was an easy roast chicken recipe, handed down by a fashion editor at Glamour magazine to her assistant …"
But the most offensive thing about Engagement Chicken may be that it’s just not that interesting. I made the recipe recently, and balked at its simplicity. Just lemon juice coating the bird? No butter or oil or other flavorings? If you’ve never cooked an entire bird, this is a solid recipe to master, even if you are not attempting to sway your committed partner toward a ring purchase. If anything, it will give you confidence in the kitchen. After you’ve stuffed whole lemons into a chicken’s cavity, it is hard to feel squeamish about much else.
And it makes for a dramatic presentation for a Valentine’s Day meal: Serve it on a platter with nothing else, and carve it right there at the table. Have plenty of cut lemons and herbs on hand to serve with the cut pieces, and definitely save all of the juices that collect in the roasting pan. Pour them into a gravy boat or something similar, and use judiciously.
When Ina Garten adapted it, she added olive oil and onions and garlic. But the original recipe doesn’t seem as proposal-worthy. It seems designed for people who may not have top-notch cooking skills, but could still pull out this chicken. Those kind of recipes are essential, especially on a holiday like Valentine’s Day when home cooks of all skill level want to impress. But is this really the best we can do for our eternal mates?
In a similar vein of recipes you can deploy to attract a significant other, we’re including Rachael Ray’s You Won’t Be Single for Long Vodka Cream Pasta, a sexy sauce you can put on any sort of noodle. Red wine, couple of flickering candles — boom. Instant romance.
But in my house, the most romantic dish is always Chocolate Lava Cake, this recipe here just enough for two small cakes, one for both you and your sweetie. It is the most delicious chocolate cake I make from scratch. Top with a dusting of powdered sugar and sliced strawberries. I can’t promise it will lead to lasting love. But at least you’ll get to eat some cake.
Contact Michelle Stark at [email protected] or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.