Monday, June 30, 2008

Citrus Roasted Chicken

Now that we’ve talked about all the amazing things about olive oil, I’m going to give you a recipe that doesn’t use any! Ironic, no? Okay, you will use a bit if you are using a regular oven rather than a slow cooker.

Today, I’m going to give you a recipe for really, really tender, juicy roasted chicken that will be full of flavor without requiring a trip to a gourmet shop and hours and hours of prep time. Here’s what you’ll need:

· 1 whole chicken – I usually go for the biggest available because I like the leftovers.
· 1 onion – Sweet onion, if you can get it. If not, white or yellow will do just fine.
· 1 large navel orange (you can choose another citrus and we'll talk about that in a moment)
· Several stems of fresh sage and rosemary if you can get them. This is optional so don’t make yourself nuts trying to find it. Some grocery stores have fresh herbs and some don’t.
· ¼ - ½ cup apple cider vinegar (if you don’t have any, regular cider vinegar or rice vinegar will do but I think the flavor of the apple cider vinegar is worth having)
· ¼ cup olive oil (if you are cooking in a regular oven)
· 2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced (if you like it more garlicky, go for four or five cloves and stay with two or three for a milder flavor)
· 1 – 1 ½ tsp celery seed
· Salt and pepper to taste

If you’re using a regular oven, pre-heat to 350 degrees. I have a slow cooker with a programmable meat thermometer built in. It’s very handy and allows me to start dinner and go away to do other things. If that is an option for you, I strongly recommend it. However, it is not necessary. We’ll carry on as if we’re all cooking in a standard oven.

Use a baking dish or roasting pan deep enough to really hold your chicken and as much as three cups of liquid without being in danger of spilling over. You’ll have to handle the pan a bit and you don’t want to risk injuries. You can use the roasting bags to eliminate the need for basting and to make clean up easier. Of course, this does increase plastic waste, so you’ll want to bear that in mind. I admit, I do use them for roasting the turkey at Thanksgiving, but the rest of the time, I go ahead and baste.
Remove the neck and any organs from the cavity of the chicken. If you are so inclined, the neck and the rack (the bones) of the chicken can be used later for making soup stock. My husband likes me to save the liver because he does love chicken liver fried in butter. That one liver is enough for him to enjoy the flavor without eating all the fat and calories usually involved in eating organ meat. It works out fine because, goodness knows, he never gets any competition from me or our son when it comes time to eat it.

Er, anyway…

Rinsing the chicken is optional, in my opinion. Mostly, I find it makes more mess in the kitchen than anything else and results in a large-scale disinfecting project once I get the bird in the oven. Unless the bird seems really messy, I’d just go ahead and prepare it for cooking. Once it’s in the pan, fold the wings back so the tips will stay under the bird.

Peel, wash and quarter the onion and the orange. Juice the orange into a measuring cup and set the juice aside. DON’T throw out the orange quarters. Rinse the sage and rosemary stems. You need 3 or 4 of each.

Add the reserved orange juice to the apple cider vinegar, garlic, celery seed and half the olive oil (if you’re using the oven – omit the oil if you are using a slow cooker). Separate the skin from the breast of the chicken. To do this, start at the cavity. Make a small slit in the skin if you need to, then push your hand in between the skin and the flesh. It should separate all the way along the breast on each side of the breastbone. You also need to make a couple TINY slits in the skin of the drumsticks and thighs so you can separate the skin from the flesh as well as you can. This won’t work as well but it will be enough.

Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the onion (you may not get it all in there but you need at least half), at least two orange quarters and the sage and rosemary.

Rub the remaining olive oil (again, only if you are using a regular oven) all over the skin of the chicken.

Pour some of the juice mixture under the skin in all the places where you separated it from the flesh. Use it all.

Lightly shake salt and pepper over all and put your chicken in the oven.

This should cook until the internal temperature at the breast is 185 – 187 degrees. It will carry over cook to 190 after it is removed from the oven. If you are not using a roasting bag, you should baste with the pan juices about every 20 minutes. Depending on the size of the chicken, this could take about an hour and a half.

As always, you can change out ingredients. Lemon is a wonderful substitute for the orange. If onion is not in your game plan, try some celery, carrots and extra rosemary. Lime is a great citrus for this, but skip the sage and rosemary and go for cilantro and some mild peppers. I haven't tried grapefruit, but it might be very nice in this if you add some crushed mint leaves to the juice and vinegar mixture and put a few sprigs of mint in the cavity with the rosemary. I think I'd skip the sage on that one. If anyone tries that combination, let us know how it turned out!

This is terrific as leftovers. Sandwiches and chicken salads are great made from this. You can also use it as a pizza topping or in the alternative egg rolls we talked about before.

The biggest time investment here is the cooking. Preparation is simple. If you can get a good slow cooker, preferably with some sort of meat thermometer, this can be put together before you head out for the day and you’ll be greeted with a GREAT smelling meal when you get home.

I think that about covers it. So, until next time, let’s go eat that!

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