Spiced Garlic and Lemon Roasted Chicken(s)
Yesterday I mentioned that I’d show you a photo of The Best Care Package Ever. Why? Because it is a joy to ogle such fabulous culinary delights, and you all deserve that kind of wholesome but fun activity in your lives. I’m not kidding, you will be a better person for having seen this. And so, BEHOLD!
Yes, this was all in ONE enormous care package, from one of my favorite food bloggers. But who is the mysterious purveyor of such a spectacle of culinary glee, you ask? Here’s a hint…it came from Texas. Specifically, from a fabulously funny and very talented chef in Texas named Kristie. If you haven’t checked out The Spiteful Chef, well, it’s about time you did. At the risk of sounding like I’m totally gay for her (note: she’s pretty hot. If I was going to leave Mike and move to another country to live with a woman, it would totally be her. Or Paula Deen, but that’s only because Paula’s a few bats short of a belfry and I have no doubt that with all the mayo she carries around there’s no way she could chase me when I inevitably stole all her jewelery and ran off into the night)…where was I?
Oh yes, Kristie. I’ve been whining for most of my life months about how inaccessible traditional Mexican and Tex Mex ingredients are in Ontario. I mean, I have free access to jalapenos and….Old El Paso, but that’s not saying much. Every time I see Rick Bayless on TV, or read through my recipe books by Rick Sandoval or Diana Kennedy, I start muttering things about frickin’ pasilla and Jesus, Mary and Guajillo. When Kristie asked if I wanted a care package of chilis, I think my reaction was somewhat like this: “YES PLEASE, HERE’S MY ADDRESS AND I THINK YOU’RE MY NEW BEST FRIEND FOREVER, OKAY THANKS.”
Yeah. So she sent me some chilis…..
….hatch, guajillo, pasilla, chili de arbol, nopales, piquin, Jamaica, chipotle chilis, and chipotle powder to be exact. No, that’s not a joke. I am in CHILI LOVER’S HEAVEN. I don’t have the foggiest idea how to use some of those, but oh, OH, I’m going to find out.
But lo! There’s more!
Green tomatillo, piquin chili sauce, a traditional Oaxacan mole (that I would have already eaten if I didn’t spend last weekend harfing out parts of my small intestine), a chili and fajita seasoning. I KNOW.
But wait! There’s more…..
A solid cone of brown sugar, authentic Mexican chocolate and beverage mix, and what looks like…Mexican snack cakes? I don’t know, but it’s breakfast tomorrow.
I was absolutely flabbergasted when I opened up the box and started pulling things out, shrieking at Mike, “LOOK, it’s CHILI DE – OH MY GOD, it’s epazote! EPAZOTE!! And that’s – hey, I’ve never even heard of these! AND LOOK! LOOOOOK!!!!” It’s been a couple of days, but I still start to blush and get all ‘the goodness of people’ oriented when I think about what a generous care package this was, and how absolutely undeserving we are to have received it. I mean, seriously, who does that? Who would send such an amazing gift across North America to a couple she’s never met? And what can you possibly say to thank someone for giving so greatly of themselves and their resources? Really, I wish I knew.
Well, I guess it’s like I told Kristie (who is henceforth and heretowith only to be referred to as Kristie The Awesome): I can’t remember the last time I received a present so surprising, special and generous….and I can’t imagine anything that could top this Box-O-Joy. At least, not until my dirty living finally gives way and I need someone to donate a new kidney, liver or heart. And even so, I mean organs are great and everything, but….GUAJILLO!!!!
And now I’m all embarrassed so I’m going to talk about chicken.
Roast chicken was comfort food for so many of us when we were growing up. It was the perfect Sunday night supper when we needed a break from overcooked roast beef in Lipton’s onion soup mix, or yet another helping of pork stroganoff. There’s just something wholesome and comforting about the scent of a roast chicken wafting out of the oven. I swear, it makes you feel like you might just be the best little homemaker this side of the state line, and you didn’t even need to glitter miniature pumpkins or craft place cards out of painted sea shells to get the title.
This version of roast chicken may be flavored with a few traditional Middle Eastern seasonings, but for the most part these are tflavors that your family is familiar with like lemon, garlic, and thyme. The skin will be just slightly spicy, but it tastes similar to that delightful Portuguese roast chicken that you might pick up from the Churrasquera on a Tuesday night. The best part, in my opinion, is that the flavor soaks through into the meat so even if you’re a skinless kind of peep (ha! A chicken joke! I couldn’t resist) you’ll still be treated to juicy, savory meat. This is good, because although I often cook chicken, you know what I’m not down with? The taste of chicken. It’s just so….so……poultry. That’s about as much of a slur as I can muster today, so just pretend that I was scoffing when you read it.
The point is, this spiced garlic and lemon roasted chicken was the entree for our 24,24, 24 meal of Lebanese fusion comfort cooking, because it has all the familiar elements that people won’t shy away from, just done with a tat of Lebanese spin. Also, I figured it was a nice safe bet to placate anyone who might have started to struggle after the falafel or lamb and walnut ragu. That’s how I play my games…lull them into a false sense of security with a roasted chicken, and then POW! Cumin, right in the kisser.
Spiced Garlic and Lemon Roasted Chicken(s)
Serves 8 (or 4 if you halve the recipe)
- 2 chubby chickens, about 1.6 kg (3.5 lb) each *
- 1.5 lemons
- 2 small yellow onions
- 1 bulb garlic
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp cayenne powder
- 1 tbsp paprika **
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1.5 tsp salt (or to taste) + more to season
- 1 tsp pepper (or to taste) + more to season
* Only want to make 1 chicken? That’s fine, just halve the recipe. The cooking time will only be about 5 minutes quicker.
** If you have smoked paprika, it’s a welcome addition instead of the sweet style.
If there are any innards left in the chicken you’ll want to scoop them out. Wash your chickens inside and out and pat them dry with something clean and absorbent.
Grate or press 6 cloves of garlic into a small bowl and separate the rest of the bulb into cloves which you can set aside for now. Add the zest of your whole lemon, which will be about 2-2.5 tablespoons depending on how fluffily you pack it. Squeeze in the juice of half the lemon and discard the empty shell. Don’t worry, you still have one whole lemon left.
Add the smoked paprika, cumin, dried thyme, coriander, salt and pepper. Drizzle in the olive oil. Stir the contents together until it’s formed a thick sauce. If the mixture looks really dry and more like a spice paste than a sauce, drizzle in another tablespoon of olive oil.
Cut the remaining (possibly naked) lemon into quarters and slice the onions in half. You can leave the skin on the onion, if you like. I do, because even slicing an onion in half makes me weep like my boyfriend left me and ran over my dog while I was on the way to my grandmother’s funeral in borrowed shoes. Or, you know, some other country song. You don’t need to peel the garlic either, but smash the cloves using the blunt side of your knife.
Salt and pepper the inside of your birds and drop a clove of garlic in the bottom of the cavity. Stuff in a half onion, quarter lemon, some more garlic….okay, you get it. Half of the onion, garlic and lemon will go into each bird. Really stuff them in and don’t be shy. If some of the lemon juice squeezes out, or the onion starts to break, that’s not a bad thing.
Spread the garlicky lemon spice mixture as evenly as possible over the chickens, being sure to really rub it in as well as you can without damaging the skin. Be sure to tickle the chickens under their arms, and..um…..pay attention to the inner upper thigh. Isn’t it amazing how roasting a chicken can go from zero to creepy in one sentence or less? Slather the spice mixture all over the birds and then truss them up nice and tight, being sure to secure the fat cap/skin on both sides of the cavity so that the lemons et al stay where they’re supposed to.
Place the birds on a rack set inside a roasting pan, and let them soak up the flavor at room temperature for about 40 minutes, or in the fridge for an 1-2 hours.
About 15 minutes before you’re ready to start roasting, preheat your oven to 425ºF with your rack set roughly in the center.
Roast the chicken at 425ºF for 1o minutes and then reduce the heat to 350ºF. Continue roasting the chickens for about 1 hour, or until the skin is a delightful crispy golden brown and the poultry passes your “done” test. Tent the chicken loosely with tin foil and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before you start to carve and serve the meat. If there are any browned bits of crispy spice rafts left on the meat, just whisk them away before you serve it – they’ve done their time.
There are a few ways that you can determine when your chicken is done.
1. Wiggle a leg around. Although it’s trussed and secure, you should be able to feel a lot of give – enough to make you think that the only reason the leg is still attached might very well BE because of the trussing!
2. Prick the flesh – your chicken’s juices should run clear, not cloudy and definitely not pink.
3. Plunge a meat thermometer into the deepest part of the thigh, or the fattest part of your (chicken’s) breast. Your meat thermometer should register 165-170ºF. Remember that the temperature will go up another 5-10º as it rests, and overcooked chicken is just a dryin’ shame. This chicken should be so juicy that it’s wet, in the nicest way possible.
For our 24,24,24 event we served the golden and crispy skinned chicken alongside some lemon and garlic braised potatoes and a bright chopped salad. This is Sunday dinner on a plate, just…with slight variation.
I should also mention that fat and skin kind of yeeek me out, with the firm exception of freshly roasted chicken and turkey. There’s just something about that crispy, crunchy and flavorful skin which makes me go all Hannibal Lector and wish I could wear it as a coat. A coat that I could lick.
And one more shot of The Best Care Package ever, even if it means that you’re all going to go carpet bomb Kristie’s blog with high praise for her awesomeness. Why? Because look at the package. Mere words can’t even TOUCH on that kind of swell, so I think you should all go and spread a little love…..and even if it means that you’ll join her swirling vortex of fans and it might be a tough night for the longhorn before we see you ’round these parts again. That’s okay, we understand. GUAJILLOS!