Cookbook Confidential Cookbook Club – Judith Stavisky reviews “Nothing Fancy” by Alison Roman

Rate this post

One Pot Chicken with Caramelized Lemon and Dates


·       1 3 ½ – 4 lb. chicken or 3 lbs. Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

·       Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

·       1 tablespoon canola oil

·       1 lemon, cut into thick slices crosswise (about 1/4” thick), seeds removed

·       2 shallots, peeled if you want, halved lengthwise (or one red onion, peeled and cut into wedges)

·       4–6 Medjool dates, pitted

·       4 sprigs thyme or oregano, plus more for serving 

·       1–2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes


1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large (at least 5.5 qt) Dutch Oven over medium–high heat. Place chicken, legs side down* and using tongs or your hands (be careful!) press lightly to make sure the skin comes into even contact with the pot. This is your chance to brown the legs! Rarely offered in whole chicken recipes, so take advantage.

*If using parts, just sear the chicken skin side down, working in batches if you need to.

3. Cook, without moving, until chicken is nice and browned, 5– 8 minutes. Seriously, no peeking! Nothing exciting will happen before 5 minutes, I promise you.

4. Add lemon slices, maneuvering the chicken however you need so that the slices come into contact with the bottom of the pot.

*If using parts, you may need to remove the chicken so that you can get the lemon slices nicely browned.

5. Let the lemons sizzle in the chicken fat until caramelized on one side, about 2 minutes. Add shallots, dates, thyme and 2 cups of water. Sprinkle the top of the chicken with crushed red pepper flakes and place the lid on.

*If using parts, you can leave the lid off.

6. Place dutch oven in the oven and roast until the dates are plump, the lemon is jammy and the chicken is almost but not totally cooked through, 20–25 minutes (it will look mostly cooked through and a little anemic from getting covered with the lid).

*If using parts, the chicken will be done now, no need to keep roasting.

7. Remove the lid and continue to cook until the liquid has reduced by ½ and the top of the chicken has an illustrious golden-brown color, another 20–25 minutes.

8. Remove from oven and let chicken rest in the Dutch Oven for 10 minutes before transferring it to a cutting board and carving. Serve alongside shallots, lemons, and dates with some more thyme sprinkled over.


DO AHEAD: This chicken can be made a few hours ahead, kept in the Dutch Oven. If you wish to reheat it before serving, pop it back into the oven without a lid for 10–15 minutes or so.

I am immediately attracted to one pot dishes for whole chickens. After decades of preparing chicken in every way imaginable, I have yet to master the art of cutting up a chicken. Whether I use my sharpest kitchen knife or defer to a pair of posh kitchen shears, I am often left with pieces that only look remotely like proper chicken parts. And thus, my attraction to whole chickens.

The week I decided to make this one pot poultry dish, I had also volunteered to prepare a meal welcoming a Syrian refugee family to Philadelphia. Lemons, dates and chicken sounded like the perfect remind-me-of-home dinner for a seven member family, after harrowing weeks of travel with five children under 11 years old. I prepared the one pot chicken to greet this exhausted family on their first evening in the US via a group called HIAS. A non-profit that provides refugees with resettlement assistance, HIAS offers home cooks an opportunity to prepare a welcome meal for new arrivals. Over the years, I have prepared dinners for families from Afghanistan, Burma and  Kyrgyzstan.

This chicken dish was homey, saucy and could not be easier to prepare. My local store did not carry Medjool dates so I used packaged dates pieces, though I am certain whole dates would have added color and texture to the meal. Given the similarity of several of the recipes in Nothing Fancy to others I have acquired over the years,  I would not purchase this book. However, the Syrian family gave the meal rave reviews!

Judith Stavisky, MPH, M.Ed

Senior Advisor

Co-author: Do It Better! How the Kids of St. Francis de Sales Exceeded Everyone’s Expectations

Thank you Judy for this wonderful review. I truly believe that people who love to cook build bridges that span differences in culture and politics. That you made this recipe and brought it to a Syrian refugee family reinforces my belief. If you are in agreement with me, you might want to consider reading Judy’s book. Do It Better! offers hope and optimism amidst today’s divisive conversations about immigrants and refugees. The book is available at Amazon and Thrift Books.

This concludes our reviews of “Nothing Fancy.” Our intrepid reviewers are taking a summer vacation, and we will return in September with recipes from and reviews of Patricia Well’s “Bistro Cooking”.

11 responses to “Cookbook Confidential Cookbook Club – Judith Stavisky reviews “Nothing Fancy” by Alison Roman”

  1. Hi Bernadette, I saw this recipe on the website. It sounds very delicious. A lovely post 💕

  2. Angie@Angie's Recipes – Angie's Recipes is an interactive blog dedicated to sharing yummy & creative recipes, helpful cooking hints and tips. Enjoy your visit and spread the word!
    angiesrecipes says:

    The bird is perfectly roasted!

  3. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen – I'm a writer, cook, gardener, photographer, poet, quilter, and accomplished daydreamer. I'm also a wife, mother, grandmother, sister. cousin, aunt, and friend, no particular order on any given day. I've been a writer all my life, newspaper reporter and columnist, radio news writer, and magazine contributor, and poet and short-story writer as the spirit moves. Now, I turn my attention to my cookbook, the blog, and a cooking column "Memorable Meals," which runs in our county newspaper. Besides my family, I love dogs, cats, good coffee, chocolate, and my never-dwindling pile of books I intend to read. Our family ran a small Vermont Inn for 18 years, with our focus on local, organic ingredients. I cook from scratch, and try not to use anything that has ingredients I cannot pronounce! After many years of daily serving up local delicacies, cooking classes, and catering, we are now only open for special events, and the odd cooking class. We also host musicians and artists, having helped produce a musical festival and other musical events for nearly 20 years. Many incredible artists have found a place at our table. Wonderful experiences, we will treasure always. My family and friends are my practice subjects. With a family that includes nut, peanut, tree fruit, and vegetable allergies, gluten intolerance, dairy intolerance, vegetarians, vegans, heart conscious, and a couple of picky eaters, there has to be a few quick tricks in the book to keep everyone fed and happy! Personally, I do not eat red meat or most full-fat dairy (usually) for health reasons, making the occasional exception at Thanksgiving and Christmas or our anniversary if the duck is locally raised. I do eat fish and seafood, so I try to come up with alternatives and substitutions when available. I serve local organic eggs and cheeses to my family who can tolerate dairy (My husband recently had a heart attack, and I need to watch my own cholesterol so I am careful, but have been known to let a little piece of really good cheese accidentally fall on my plate!). I believe strongly that eating in a way that is good for our planet is also good for our bodies, and I try to educated myself about our food sources! I cook by the seasons and draw on inspiration from the strong and talented women in my family who came before me, as well as the youth in the family who look at the world with fresh eyes. Food links us all, whether sharing a meal, cooking it together, or writing about it for others to enjoy. I love taking an old recipe and giving it a modern spin, especially if I can make it a littler healthier and use foods that are kinder to the Earth and to our bodies. I believe strongly in sustainable, delicious eating of whole foods, and the wonderful flavors we have at our fingertips! And finally, I love conversing with all the talented cooks and chefs out there who dot the globe! It's a wonderful, world full of culinary pen pals, and I cherish them all! XXXOOO Dorothy
    Dorothy’s New Vintage Kitchen says:

    What a beautiful way to use this review and feed a weary family in the process. Great work Judith! And thank you again Bernie for launching this fun project.

  4. Oh my goodness, Judith, that you made this dish for a refugee family is just so beautiful! Bernadette, where do you find such amazing friends?! As I read the ingredients list for this one-pot chicken, it felt almost like a Moroccan dish to me, and my taste buds are telling me that it was delicious, even without tasting it. How sweet it must have seemed to the family you fed. What a blessing!

  5. Delicious sounding and looking recipe and what better way to welcome a new family than with a meal tailored to their home country. 👏🏻

  6. Retirement Reflections – Vancouver Island, BC – Prior to retirement, I lived and worked in Beijing China for fourteen years (Middle School Principal/Deputy Director at The Western Academy of Beijing). Leaving international life behind, my husband and I retired to Vancouver Island in June 2015. To document both this transition and our new adventures, ‘Retirement Reflections’ was born. I hope that you enjoy reading these reflections, and will be willing to share your own.
    Retirement Reflections says:

    Hi, Judith and Bernadette – I echo the comments above. What a wonderful way to welcome a family to their new home.
    See you in September!

  7. Awakening Wonders – Everyday life is filled with wondrous things and embraceable moments, but only if we allow ourselves to be fully awakened. I invite you to join me as I share passionate life adventures and ramblings that awaken my spirit. I look forward to awakening your senses to the simple, joyous wonders that are all around us. I feel that we are destined to become soulful adventurers!
    Awakening Wonders says:

    The ingredients in this recipe are delicious!

Any comments or suggestions are appreciated. If you like this recipe, please give it to your friends.Cancel reply