I met Maria P. at the Shoah Foundation about 15 years ago, when she was hired to catalogue the testimonies of Greek Jews. A petite woman, with dark, medium length hair and olive skin, my mother would have described her as being made of “fire and flame.” Maria was from Saloniki and had a Mediterranean temperament. Warm, passionate, and full of life, she had many of the qualities that I admire. We once invited Maria to join us for dinner during Sukkot and, when she arrived, she walked into my kitchen and took charge. I remember her taking off her shoes, donning an apron, and then… she began to cook. She had the ability to make herself at home in such a way that you never wanted her to leave. I lost touch with Maria but the dish that she made that night was memorable. Maria didn’t bother measuring anything, she placed peeled and quartered potatoes around whole chickens and poured fresh lemon juice and olive oil (half a bottle) over the entire thing. An hour and a half later we had a delicious Greek dish in a Sukkah in Los Angeles, and tonight, I am serving it for Shabbat.
Greek Lemon Chicken
2 whole chickens
juice of 3 large lemons
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbs dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Place whole chickens in roasting pan (breast side down) and rub salt, pepper and oregano into skin. Pour lemon juice over both chickens and then drizzle olive oil over top. Refrigerate overnight or for at least several hours.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and roast chickens for about 1 1/2 hours. Turn chickens breast side up after about 45 minutes.