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Made in Temecula – Dueling Roasted Chickens

Roasted Chicken - Photo by Corie Maue

Springtime weather in the middle of January makes us thankful to be alive and living in the Temecula Valley.  We are even further blessed to have ready access to the amazing Old Town Temecula Farmer’s Market and the Sage Mountain Farm booth where we collect the Inland Empire CSA box each week.  We had the great pleasure of enjoying the 100 Mile Dinner to benefit Temecula Valley Slow Food this weekend and we are thrilled to be a part of the growing commitment to consume fresh, organic, locally grown produce.  The Inland Empire CSA makes the commitment easy by offering high quality produce and a myriad of convenient pick up locations.  For more information, please visit www.inlandempirecsa.com.

Inland Empire CSA Citrus and Herbs - Photo by Corie Maue

Nestled in between the plethora of greens, beets, and squash we found citrus, garlic, cilantro and chervil.  We love to cook with vegetables, but fresh herbs are wonderful for bringing nuance and life to a dish, so we decided to play around with the cilantro and chervil.  Cilantro is heavily featured in Mexican and Asian cooking.  It has a very distinct “soapy” flavor that the world seems to be completely divided on.  This is a love or a hate item that Chef Andrea and I happen to love.  Chervil is less controversial and has more of a lemon-anise flavor which makes it excellent for egg dishes (we used it in the recent Breakfast Strata recipe) or chicken.

I have never been a huge fan of chicken, but all that changed two years ago when I tried the Gourmet Magazine Roasted Chicken with Pan Gravy.  As it turns out, chicken is excellent when you prepare it correctly!  This is an adaptation of that recipe and the added step of brining the chicken is well worth the extra day of planning.

Dueling Roasted Chickens

The original recipe calls for two chickens roasted with the same ingredients, however (rebels that we are) we used different, but complimentary flavors in each.

Rinse chickens and brine 4 – 24 hours.  For each chicken, you will need:

1/2 gallon of water

1/2 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup Temecula Valley Honey – warmed to liquid (or sugar)

For one chicken we added:

2 TBSP Pete’s Firehouse BBQ Rub – Original

1 TBSP cracked red pepper

For the other chicken we added:

2 TBSP Pete’s Firehouse BBQ Rub – Santa Maria Style

We put each chicken in its own bag and then placed the bags in a dish in the refrigerator.  You can add whatever spices you wish to the brine: bay leaves, crushed black peppercorns or dried thyme would all work well.  Once brining is complete, rinse chickens and pat very dry with paper towels.  Remove excess fat from around the cavities and discard.

For the first chicken we used:

4 TBSP unsalted butter

3 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 lime, cut in half

2 TBSP chopped fresh cilantro, plus the remainder of the bunch for inside the chicken

Salt & pepper

For the second chicken we used:

4 TBSP unsalted butter

3 garlic cloves

1 lemon, cut in half

2 TBSP chopped fresh chervil, plus the remainder of the bunch for inside the chicken

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and place the rack in the middle.

Soften 2 TBSP butter and incorporate chopped fresh herbs.  Rub compound butter under the skin of the chicken by gently separating the skin from the flesh with your fingers.  You will not be able to reach all areas of the chicken, but the butter will spread under the skin as the chicken roasts.

Insert citrus, garlic and remaining bunch of herbs into the cavity of the chicken.  Tie the legs closed with kitchen string.

Melt 2 TBSP butter and brush over the outside of the chicken and season with salt and pepper.

Roast each chicken in a flame proof pan for about 50 – 60 minutes, basting with juices every 20 minutes.  We find that removing the pan from the oven and tilting it a little bit is the easiest way to baste.  This step will seem to be time consuming, but the payoff of caramel brown, crispy skin is well worth it.  Transfer chickens to a cutting board and let rest for 15 minutes before carving.

As you can imagine, this recipe can be easily halved, but we find a myriad of uses for chicken each week, so we typically roast both.  We reserve the carcasses to make stock and use white meat for soup, tacos, sandwiches . . . the list is endless.

We love these flavors, but encourage you to play around with the herbs in your garden to create your own variation on this dish.  The beauty of using fresh, organic, locally grown ingredients is that the flavors will be bright and delicious every time.

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