Monday, February 3, 2014

Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak

Ottolenghi and Tamini have done it again.

It was back to the Jerusalem Cookbook last Wednesday night…it was Singer’s turn to cook and she made Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak.

Brilliance on a plate.  That’s all.

We've talked about Arak before.  Arak is a distilled, high alcoholic content drink popular in the Middle East.   Aniseed is added during the distilling process so Arak takes on its distinctive flavor although the hints of grapes, dates, plums, figs or other fruits added during the process certainly peep through.  In the U.S., Arak can be found in Middle Eastern markets and maybe some liquor stores. If you can’t find it, any other anise flavored liqueur, such as Pernod, Sambuca, or Tsipouro will do.  One blogger I read substituted orange juice; another, white wine.

Back to this amazing chicken dish.  Not only is it very pretty plated, it is also delicious and I suspect this recipe, and adapted versions, will flood the food blogosphere, if not already.  Foodie dubbed it the “Chicken Marabella of the 21st Century” because, once tasted, you will love it and make it repeatedly.  You may remember Chicken Marabella – prunes, olives, capers and wine – from the wildly popular cookbook of the 70’s and 80’s, The Silver Palate Cookbook.  Authors  Russo and Lukins explain that marinating the chicken overnight is essential to the moistness of the finished product.   

Hold that thought.

I always loved the SP cookbook – with its fanciful illustrations and food-inspired quotes; my version is appropriately soiled, just as a much-loved cookbook should be. 
Anyway, this dish from the Jerusalem Cookbook is perfect to make now when Clementines are abundant and in season.   Because you roast the mixture at a high temperature for close to an hour, the chicken and vegetables, persuaded by the sweetness of the juice, mustard and sugar marinade, caramelize beautifully.

Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak
From: Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

6-7 tablespoons Arak or Pernod
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice (clementine juice would also work)
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons grain mustard
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 medium fennel bulbs (a combination of fennel and onions would be nice too)
2 ½ pounds of bone-in chicken thighs
4 clementines, unpeeled, cut horizontally into 1/4-inch slices
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 ½  teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped flat-leaf parsley to garnish

Put the first six ingredients in a large mixing bowl and add 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper.  Whisk well and set aside.

Trim the fennel and cut each bulb in half lengthwise.  Cut each half into 4 wedges.  Add the fennel to the liquids, along with the chicken pieces, clementine slices, thyme, and fennel seeds.  Stir well with your hands, then leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. 

The chefs concede that skipping the marinating stage is also fine if you are pressed for time, but I refer you back to Russo and Lukins' explanation as to why marinating is so important.

Preheat the oven to 475º. Transfer the chicken and its marinade to a short-sided baking sheet large enough to accommodate everything comfortably in a single layer.  The chicken skin should be facing up.  The short sides will allow hot air to flow around the mixture and encourage the chicken and vegetables to brown.  When pre-heated, put the pan in the oven and roast for 45 minutes, until the chicken is colored (a nice caramel) and cooked through.  Remove from the oven.

Lift the chicken, fennel, and clementines from the pan and arrange on a serving plate; cover and keep warm.  Pour the cooking liquid into a small, place over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, and then simmer until the sauce is reduced by one-third, so you are left with about 1/3 cup.  Pour the hot sauce over the chicken, garnish with some parsley, and serve.  Singer plated this with hearty bulgur. 
For dessert, Foodie made cardamom rice pudding…we are deprived girls.

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