Food You Can Eat: Celebrity Sunday Matinee: Neil Sedaka’s Chicken

Nobody could pull off a multi-hued denim jacket quite like Neil Sedaka in his prime

" 'cause bakin' this ain't hard to do..." Image via the BBC (!)

Happy birthday Neil Sedaka! It might just be me, but Neil Sedaka is one of those names that is instantly familiar and you know what they did (do; he turns 83 today) but you can no longer quite put your finger on what exactly…

Sedaka is of Lebanese descent, which I never knew. Just like Danny Thomas! He grew up in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, the borough of so much phenomenal musical talent, and right out of high school went to work in the Brill Building with his pal Howard Greenfield. At the time the Brill Building is where the “hitmakers,” working for various recording studios and production companies, churned out untold numbers of songs, mostly for others to perform. Among the people Neil might have squeezed into an elevator with were Carole King, Paul Anka, and Bobby Darin. Sedaka went on to write over 500 songs for himself and others. One of his employer’s biggest clients was Connie Francis.

Pretty early on Neil became a (lesser) teen idol himself, then really shot to stardom in the 1970s. The linked YouTube video will provide you with many an earworm, so be forewarned. 

In the late ’70s Sedaka fell prey to the syndicated newspaper celebrity recipe shakedown. He only paid lip service though, and he and his wife Leba, during an interview, supplied a recipe from their housekeeper, which supposedly is/was one of Neil’s favorites. I admire Sedaka for this, because as a sometimes uncredited songwriter he probably felt keenly the need to assign credit where credit was due. This falls under the purlieu of “intellectual copyright.”

Neil Sedaka’s Chicken

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 roaster chicken, in eighths (skin on or off, your choice)

2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

1 tsp. minced garlic

2 Tbsp. prepared mustard 

4 Tbsp. ketchup

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Spread half of the onion in a layer on the bottom of a roasting pan and arrange chicken skin-side up (even if you have removed the skin) on top. Add remaining onion on top of the chicken. 

Sprinkle with vinegar and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Mix garlic, mustard, and ketchup together and brush over chicken and onions.

Bake for an hour and a half, turning once, until chicken is cooked through. Serve hot, room temperature, or cold straight from the fridge.



  1. i have actually never heard any of these songs before….

    this shocks me

    oh wait…ive heard oh carol

    whew…for a minute there i thought i fell out of step with the cool kids

    • I always get Sedaka and Anka mixed up. And looking up Paul Anka just now, I see that he’s Lebanese too.

      • Did you say Paul Anka?

        This song, in retrospect, is controversial. It’s something of a pro-Life anthem (“you could have swept it from my [note my, not our or your] life but you didn’t do it/You couldn’t do it”). At the same time the woman who is singing the counterpart vocals is Black, which must have raised a few eyebrows among his older-skewing audience. But just ignore all that, it is a sideshow, and focus on how Paul has chosen to belt his shirt, which is actually a really good look if you’re slim.

        • He has huge bell bottoms but the camera almost always cuts them off. Seems like a waste.

    • I’ll sing some Neil Sedaka for you at karaoke night at the next Deadsplinter convention.

  2. The whole chicken cut into 8ths is interesting to me because I almost never see that in stores, and I am sure there is only a very small number of people who want to do that themselves.

    There is probably some mini story about how 40 years ago chicken processing was still happening a lot more in grocery stores with whole chickens instead of getting shipped in parts from a central facility.

    Come to think of it, it’s not all that interesting…. But I’d still be curious how much was also driven by the huge surge in demand for chicken wings starting around the 80s — once you’re paying for the labor to take wings off, you may as well cut up the rest. Hmm. Also not that interesting….

    • It is amazing how many 20th-century chicken recipes call for this. When I come across it, I just substitute (and say here on FYCE to just use) a breast-and-leg mix pack, partly because I don’t like wings, mostly because I’m lazy and don’t want to deconstruct my own chicken.

    • I remember seeing “whole chicken cut up” for sale at the butcher counter when I was a kid in the 90s, but it was usually quartered and had the back and neck thrown in there too in case you were going to make stock.

  3. I’ll bet Neil Sedaka’s chicken is tender and tasty.

  4. I just realized that Neil Sedaka is a near dead ringer of Data aka Bob Wheeler aka Brent Spiner.


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