Cheap Recipe: Never-Dry Roasted Clementine Chicken

29 Jul

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For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

chicken with citrus & cinnamon
Cinnamon & mild citrus flavor round out the perfect roasted chicken recipe.

I’ve always wondered why most Americans stuff roaster chickens full of dry ingredients like bread crumbs that are designed to absorb the moisture from within the bird?

Now, if you were cooking something oily, like, say…a duck, I could understand that. Those things can use all the grease-sopping help they can get. But chickens? Notoriously dry, temperamental chickee-doodles? I don’t get it. You may as well shove a carton of Q-tips in there while you’re at it.

That’s why, rather than fill my bird with spongey, moisture-sucking stuffing that locks away a chicken’s natural juices faster than you can say “Foghorn Leghorn,” I’ve developed a fool-proof, alternative method to roasting chicken that acutally infuses the chicken (particularly the drier white meat areas) with additional liquid and moisture from the inside out.

Peeled Clementines.

Now that I have your attention, let’s jump right in. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Peel several small room temperature clementines (or regular tangerines) and leave each intact as a sphere. Clementines work best of all citrus fruits not only because of their size but also due to their mildness of flavor. Clementines will not overpower your dish with a bold citrus flavor. You will need enough fruit to fill the bird plus one extra. I used six for my 3.5-lb chicken, so plan accordingly.


Make gourges in the fruit's flesh to allow juice to release.

Take a sharp knife and gouge slits about 1/4″ deep and 1″ long, perpendicular to vertical segment divisions, all over each fruit. (Think “equator” and not “prime meridian” when you’re cutting if that helps.) The reason for this is to help additional juice be released over time while chicken is in the oven.

Crossing segment lines with scoring will allow for maximum juice release.

You don’t want it all to drip out quickly at the beginning or it will just stream out the chicken and into the bottom of the pan, which is why you’re not squeezing/juicing them all, but the combination of room temperature fruit and slices across the segments will help it release a constant amount of liquid into the meat over time.

Remove a 3.5 – 4lb. raw chicken from packaging, being sure to clean out any gizzards/bag inside and empty excess liquid into sink or receptacle. Place in casserole dish or roaster pan.

Raw, cleaned chicken.

One by one, begin pushing the whole clementines inside the chicken, apply just enough “smush” pressure to fit several in tightly without any large open areas inside. Again, I fit five comfortably inside my small roaster.

Abbsolutely NO ping-pong-ball jokes now, y'hear?

Take the last remaining clementine and squeeze juice over the entire outside of the chicken, rubbing juice into raw chicken where possible.

Citrus helps skin to separate from the meat upon roasting. (You want the skin to stay on during the oven time to hold in moisture, but some folks may prefer to pull the skin off of the cooked chicken before eating it.)

Sprinkle/rub spices onto outside of the chicken.

Sprinkle meat with 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon paprika and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Rub spices into meat only if desired.

Half-baked; remove from oven to baste and cover.

Place uncovered chicken in 375-degree oven for half of the cooking time (poultry cooks at 20 minutes per pound).

Remove from oven at this point and rub/glaze chicken with 2-3 tablespoons butter or margarine and baste with any broth that has already formed in bottom of pan.

Uncover and baste with juices again just before serving. (Check out this super-wide basting brush--most excellent for getting a whole chicken done quickly before it cools off. Thanks, KitchenAid!)

Cover at this point with lid or aluminum foil and replace in oven for duration of cook time. (My 3.5-lb. chicken cooked for 35 minutes uncovered and then 35 minutes covered. It was fabulous.) Remove when meat thermometer reads 170 degrees and juices run clear.

Garnish with parsley or additional citrus wedges if desired. Carve and serve immediately; refrigerate or freeze any leftover meat.

Chef’s Note: Well-packed whole Clementines will stay put as you carve easily around them, keeping the pulp out of your plates and off your meat! (Hence why they should never be separated into individual segments before stuffing–what a mess it would be!)
Now stand back and marvel at the most amazingly moist chicken you’ve ever roasted, and prepare to receive compliments.

Well-packed whole citruses will stay put, letting you carve right around them. Voila!


4 Responses to “Cheap Recipe: Never-Dry Roasted Clementine Chicken”

  1. Linda July 29, 2010 at 11:42 AM #

    Sounds fantastic! I’ve always used freshly squeezed lemon juice inside whole birds (chicken, turkey, whatever) but this sounds even better.

  2. Gracie July 30, 2010 at 8:27 AM #

    I would’ve called and had you over to enjoy it with us but I saw that you weren’t home. 😦

  3. redforkhippie July 30, 2010 at 9:11 AM #

    This violates the no-sugar-on-meat rule, but I could see the same principle working well with Key limes, cumin, and good New Mexico chile powder.

  4. Gracie July 30, 2010 at 10:45 AM #

    Yeah, but you’d want to be sure the limes were pretty juicy as they tend to not be “bursting” with as much juice as something like a Clementine…

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