It may be almost sacrilegious to say at this time of the year, but a turkey is not right for everyone. While the big bird (sorry Sesame Street fans) parked on your dinner table, roasted to perfection looks great, if you're having an intimate gathering it can just be too much.
A beautifully roasted chicken is a completely reasonable option, and I've shared one today that uses a sumptuous combination of Medjool dates, date syrup, date molasses and green olives. If you follow the instructions carefully, your chicken will turn out moist and succulent, and more important, won't have you pining for what Benjamin Franklin suggested as our national bird. You can thank my citizenship test prep for that reference!
Servings: 4 servings
1 (3-pound) whole chicken with skin
1 tablespoon salt
2 whole shallots, peeled
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon red chili powder
3 cups orange juice, freshly squeezed
1 tablespoon green, pink, black peppercorn medley, freshly cracked
2 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon date syrup
2 tablespoons date molasses
10 Medjool dates, pitted
½ cup whole green olives (see tips), pitted
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon green papaya, blended into a paste
4 celery stalks, optional
1 bunch fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons olive oil
In a mortar and pestle, grind the colored peppercorns. Add the dry spices and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix until well combined.
Separately coarsely chop the dates and olives.
Clean the chicken thoroughly. Remove the fat chunks near the bottom of the chicken. Leave the skin on so the meat remains moist.. Pat dry with a paper towel.
Season the chicken with 2 teaspoons of salt (don't forget inside the cavity). In a food processor, mix the garlic, chopped olives, green papaya, date syrup and baking soda; be sure they're well incorporated. Add the spice mixture and stir well. Place the whole chicken in a baking dish. Wearing gloves, carefully separate the skin from the flesh without tearing it. Spread all the mixture under the skin, in the cavity and on the outside of the bird. Rub evenly. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. You can marinate the bird for up to 2 nights.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes ah head of time to bring it back to room temperature before placing in the oven.
Fill the inside of the cavity with the chopped dates and fresh cilantro.
Brush a roasting pan with olive oil. Using a rack or celery stalks (cut them in half if necessary so they fit the pan), place the chicken into the roaster. Drizzle both sides of the chicken with a tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with more salt. Place the chicken, breast side up, on top of the celery. Add orange juice to the bottom of the pan.
Roast for 40 min. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon olive oil with date molasses. Whisk well. Open the oven and baste the bird with the date mixture. Increase the temperature to 400°F and roast for 10 more minutes to brown the chicken. Flip the bird, baste that side and continue cooking for an additional five minutes until the other side is browned as well.
Remove the chicken from the oven. Loosely cover with foil (don't entirely wrap it or the skin won't be crispy). Let it rest for at least 10 minutes.
A thermometer should register 165°F in the thickest part of the bird or the juice should run clear when you crack around the thighs.
Reserve drippings at the bottom of the roaster, discarding as much oil (fat) as possible and serve on the side. Garnish with more fresh cilantro.
You can find dates, date syrup and date molasses in any Middle-Eastern market.
I used whole Castelvetrano green olives. They are firm in texture. Unlike other olives, these are brined in salted water (not vinegar). They taste similar to extra-virgin olive oil.
For more poultry recipes, check out the link.