Monday, April 12, 2010

Oven Roasted Grapefruit-Cilantro Chicken

Have you ever roasted a chicken before?  If your answer is yes, then you have experienced what I think is a singular pleasure: after more than an hour of sitting around doing absolutely nothing, you get to open the oven and pull out a gorgeous, golden roasted bird.  Your family, friends, or guests will oooh and ahhh as they appreciate the beauty of your creation.  Their mouths will water in anticipation as they breathe in the aroma of freshly cooked chicken, herbs, and spices.  Meanwhile, you (the triumphant chef) can give a careless toss of your head and say, "Oh, it was really not hard at all!" And you can say that because it is the straight truth.   

Until about a year and a half ago, I had not experienced this pleasure for myself.  When I was growing up, my mother or grandmother roasted a turkey every year for thanksgiving, but we never had a whole roasted chicken for a special occasion or a Friday night dinner.  Because our thanksgiving turkey took such a long time to make (and more likely because my one-time personal attempt at turkey roasting was a debacle), I mistakenly assumed that producing a successful roasted chicken must be a tricky thing that required some kitchen magic.  Oh how wrong I was!  The recipe that convinced me to conquer my chicken anxiety was Ina Garten's "Perfect Roast Chicken" from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.  This was one of the first cookbooks I ever received, and it remains at the top of my list of favorites; I have yet to try a recipe from this book that is not satisfyingly delicious and deceptively simple all at once.  

I initially did a "test-run" of Ina's chicken recipe, and it was so successful that I have repeated it many times over the past year and a half for weekend meals, dinner parties with friends, and gatherings with family.  I can tell you from experience, that if you are hosting a dinner party, roast chicken should be your go-to meal choice.  It is the type of food that is so impressive, yet lets you as the host rest easy because it is almost fool-proof, and it cooks in the oven while you scramble around getting any last minute things ready (at least this is what I do).       

For the Oven Roasted Grapefruit-Cilantro Chicken recipe here, I wanted to try something a little different.  I followed Ina's basic techniques for preparing the chicken, but took a risk in deviating from the tried-and-true lemon, garlic, and thyme flavor profile.  Instead, I wanted to use some of the grapefruits I had gotten in the desert, so I stuffed those in the inside of the chicken.  Then I used some additional grapefruit juice and zest, combined with fresh cilantro, shallots, garlic, sweet honey, and brown sugar, to make a "paste" that I stuffed under the skin of the chicken on the breast side.  I hoped that the paste under the skin and the grapefruits inside the chicken would infuse the meat with a sunny citrus flavor, and also make the meat especially moist.  As I slid the chicken in the oven, I sent up a little prayer that my experiment would be a success. 

Before: An experiment with poultry. 

During the roasting time, I enjoyed a relaxing Sunday afternoon while pleasant aromas filled the apartment.  My boyfriend went to work out, and when he returned he said that could just follow his nose through the neighborhood.  I guess that is a good sign!  I opened the oven to check on the chicken and here is what I saw: 

After: Golden perfection. 

Ahh...relief!  It looked perfectly done, and smelled amazing.  A quick check with the meat thermometer told me it was ready to go.  But how would it taste??  This was the most juicy, moist chicken I think I have ever eaten (no offense Ina!).  I only wish that I had spared some extra time to make sauce or gravy from the chicken drippings and juices, because they were copious and sweet.   The skin was crispy and golden brown, and the meat had a delicate flavor that was distinctly citrus.  During the last 15 minutes of roasting time, I had popped some tender green asparagus in the oven as well, so we enjoyed a complete meal that was fancy enough for company...or perfect for just two.    

Get to the store this week and buy yourself a little chicken.  You don't need to wait for a special occasion, just make it for dinner any weeknight or weekend you choose.  Roasting the chicken itself will make any day special.   

Oven Roasted Grapefruit-Cilantro Chicken

3/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup olive oil 
1 1/2 teaspoon grated grapefruit zest
3 teaspoons freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
2 shallots, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 grapefruit
1 1/2 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 4-5 pound roasting chicken
Onions, small potatoes, and carrots if desired
*1 pound asparagus

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F, and lightly oil the inside of a large roasting pan.

Begin by preparing the chicken.  Remove any excess giblets from the inside cavity (you can reserve these for making stock if you like), and wash the chicken inside and out.  Pat dry with paper towels, cut off any excess fat, and sprinkle the inside cavity with 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Place the chicken in the roasting pan and set aside. 

Next, make the cilantro paste.  In a food processor, combine first eight ingredients, plus 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pulse until the mixture is evenly blended.  You should have a moderately thick paste that you will stuff under the skin of the chicken.  

On the top of the chicken (breast side), start from the cavity end and gently use your fingers to separate the skin from the meat, being careful not to tear the skin.  This will create a "pocket" where you will stuff the cilantro paste.  Use a spoon to transfer a couple of tablespoons of paste under the skin of each breast; then use your fingers on top of the skin to push the paste off of the spoon and distribute evenly across the breast meat.  Depending on the size of your chicken, you might not use all the cilantro paste.  

To finish preparing the chicken, take the remaining 1/2 grapefruit and quarter it; then stuff each of the four pieces inside the chicken cavity, with the flesh of the fruit in contact with the chicken.  Use kitchen string to tie the legs of the chicken together, and tuck the wings under.  Brush the outside of the chicken with the melted butter, and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  If you want, scatter chopped onions, carrots, and potatoes around the chicken in the roasting pan.         

Roast chicken for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.*  If you have a meat thermometer, you can test for doneness by inserting it into the breast or thigh meat.  Light meat is done when it reaches 150-160 degrees F, and dark meat is done when it reaches 180 degrees F.  Alternatively, you know your chicken is done if you cut between the leg and the thigh and the juices run clear.  When fully cooked, remove the chicken from the oven and cover with aluminum foil to rest for 5 minutes before serving.  

*If you want to serve some roasted asparagus with your chicken, toss 1 pound of trimmed asparagus spears with a few tablespoons of olive oil and place on a rimmed baking sheet.  Sprinkle with some salt and pepper, and bake in the top 1/3 of your oven during the last 15-12 minutes that your chicken is roasting. 

Oven Roasted Grapefruit-Cilantro Chicken on Foodista


  1. Your boyfriend is a lucky guy...

  2. Wow this looks delicious - And I don't even eat meat!

  3. Definitely going to try this out!

  4. Beautiful bird; just look at the golden-brown hue!! Your excellent photos are making me hungry!
    I love Ina and her roast chicken recipe is one of my favorite go-to, the other being Thomas Keller's simple roast chicken.
    Nice work!!

  5. I can't wait to make this roasted chicken. addicted to cilantro! Just need to finish the soy beer roast chicken in the fridge first.

  6. Hi! My English is terrible, so please excuse me.*^^*
    I growing the cilantro at my balcony, it grow well.
    I'm waiting to gather the cilantro in for this recipe.
    Thanks for share!!!

  7. Phoebe-I am excited for you to try it and making it with fresh cilantro that you grew yourself is even more special. :)

  8. That looks amazing, my mouth was watering just looking at the picture.

  9. this looks amazing!i hope to try it out sometime! :) i definitely will as roast chicken is my go to recipe!

  10. OMG it looks WOW, so yummy, I can't wait to try this recipe :)

  11. Yum! We just did beer-butt chicken on the grill for the first time and it was fantastic. Bet it would have been good with cilantro!

  12. beautiful! you can't go wrong with roasted chicken...

  13. Enjoyed reading the article above , really explains everything in detail,the article is very interesting and effective.Thank you and good luck for the upcoming articles. Thanksgiving Turkey


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