I do not know one Greek person who does not like this dish: Roasted chicken and potatoes (kotopoulo kai patates sto fourno). It is comforting, delicious and reliable. It was a typical Sunday noon dish and along with a salad and some cheese it makes up a complete meal, fit for company.
Today, chicken may seem a “lesser” dish to offer to guests, but that was not always the case years ago in Greece. Chickens were not so easy to come by, you either had your own hencoop which you occasionally “sacrificed” a chicken for a meal, but that was not very often as they would rather keep the chickens for their eggs. You also could find some live chickens at the open market, but they were not cheap as there were simply not many of them. There were no commercial chicken houses. And after you bought the chicken or took it from your backyard you had to deal with whole other process of preparing it for cooking… So not really an easy dish in the old days.
But the point is here, that farmers in Greece as well as all over the world, did not take their animals for granted, their meat was used mostly on holidays and special occasions, even the humble chicken.
Now, let’s go back to cooking. The best part of making this in my opinion, is when it is roasting, the whole house has an aroma of garlic and spices. The aroma for me just gives me memories of when we were expecting company at home, the anticipation and the preparations.
Now everybody has their own version and secrets for this dish, and I am sharing my mom’s. Every time she makes it, the potatoes turn out crispy on the outside and the chicken moist and tasty. This dish works well as leftovers too, you just warm up or use the chicken for sandwiches or salads.
Yes, this is a meat based dish, but meat is only part of the dish. The meal is accompanied in the summer by a generous tomato and cucumber salad or by a “greek” salad and in the winter with a Greek romaine salad or a cabbage and carrot salad. Add some bread and cheese and you are all set. If you want to keep the balance, you can fill half of your plate with salad, 1/4 with chicken and 1/4 with potatoes. And while the skin is so good and crunchy, I’ll just have a taste.
But let’s talk a bit about the ingredients in here, obviously chicken and potatoes, but it is all those extra additions that make this dish healthier than a typical westernized meat and potatoes dish. First of all there is plenty of oregano on the meat and potatoes. As we know oregano has been shown to have the highest amount of antioxidants of commonly used herbs. This dish also contains garlic, another herb known for its antioxidants. Finally the olive oil also adds to the good fats and polyphenols.
The potatoes are usually peeled and cut in thick half wedges, in this case I cut them in rounds and decided to leave the skin on for some added texture.
Authentic Greek Lemon Roasted Chicken and Potatoes
- Preheat the oven at 375 Fahrenheit (190 Celsius).
- Wash the chicken with some wine and dry with paper towels. Rub in pepper, oregano and a bit of salt. Set aside.
- Cut the potatoes in wedges or half wedges. Put in a large bowl.
- Add about ½ cup olive oil to 2 pounds potatoes, the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon oregano, pepper and ½ teaspoon salt. Mix well so that all the potatoes are coated with the oil.
- Pour the potatoes in a pan, so that potatoes are all in one layer. Makes sure if you have cut them in wedges and that the tips are not pointing up as they may burn. Place the chicken on top. Add 2-3 allspice berries, clove and the 2 garlic cloves cut in fours.
- Add hot water in one corner of the pan and then tilt until there is enough water so that the water comes up about ¼ of the depth of the pan. Do not pour over the potatoes as this will rinse off the olive oil. If water starts to run low, add more hot water, about ¼ cup.
- Roast for 20 minutes at 375 Fahrenheit (190 Celsius) and then lower at 350 Fahrenheit (175 Celsius) for about 1 hour (1hr and 30 minutes for a whole chicken) until potatoes and chicken are done. Make sure potatoes are not undercooked, they must be soft on the inside.