THE ROASTED CHICKEN THING –
Don’t know about you, but every year when the weather changes and heads down the Autumn Road to Winter, I get this craving – hankering – whatever – for Roasted Chicken. Just “got to have it”! This is one of those times when I indulge my desire to salute the new season with a naked bird stuffed with something ambrosial from nature’s garden. I feel that first cold wind and see the leaves turning those beautiful earthy colors, and I long for a fire in the fireplace, a glass of good wine, and those appetite teasing aromatics from the oven when a well seasoned chicken is roasting there. So it is that we begin our adventure to satisfy my annual fall yearning with Roasted Chicken with Orange, Fennel, and Orange Pesto!
Today my musings take us to the Grosseto area of Tuscany, an area rich in great recipes for roasted meats and poultry. Cooks from this area are known for their use of fennel seed with their Roasted Chickens particularly rubbed under the skin. I am such a fan of fresh fennel that I thought I might use it instead of the fennel seed. There is something about the power of that sweet anise aroma that seduces my senses when it permeates the house as it cooks. Yes, THAT and an orange just might do it!
To serve this lovely bird, I recommend making my easy and very fresh Orange Pesto that makes eating Roasted Chicken a new and more flavorful experience that will ZAP the tastebuds! Pestos, which are mainly Genovese (from Genoa) in origin, are vibrant in color and inherently full of fresh flavors. This pesto, with its sweet essence of orange, gets an added dash of excitement with a touch of Orangecello. The Orangecello is optional in both the chicken and the pesto and can be omitted if you like and substituted with orange juice. I like to use these sweet syrupy Italian liqueurs, like Orangecello as much as possible, as they add a subtle kick to the flavor of whatever you are cooking. In addition to the element of surprise with the addition of orange, this pesto can be used with so many other dishes. I plan to introduce other recipes later on, which will refer back to this particular pesto and offer new ideas to use it. Some of these dishes are meatless which will be of interest to my Vegetarian readers!
Now for the bird!!
ROASTED CHICKEN WITH ORANGE AND FENNEL
4-5 lb chicken (rinsed well inside and out and patted dry)
3 cloves garlic
1 Fennel Bulb
6 sprigs Fresh Tarragon
1/4 c. Olive Oil
1/4 c. Orangecello (or substitute orange juice)
Black Pepper – freshly ground
Place the chicken in baking pan. I always line with foil for easy clean up. Rub the chicken all over with 1 clove garlic – split in half. When finished, throw this garlic in the chicken cavity along with the other 2 cloves . Sprinkle a little Kosher Salt inside the cavity also.
Fennel: See photos for the ”step by step” on this. Slice off the stems and the hard bottom.
Cut the bulb vertically (lengthwise) into wedges, (You would slice the fennel crosswise for salads etc.) and remove center core.
Take a couple of the stems and lay them next to the chicken on either side in the pan. I am always tempted to take a bite out of the fennel while I am preparing it because it smells sooo good.
Stuff 3 sprigs of Tarragon inside the chicken and lay the remaining 3 on top of the bird.
Tuck the fennel wedges inside the cavity.
Cut the orange into wedges with skins on and stuff inside the chicken.
Drizzle olive oil on top of chicken and follow with a drizzle of the Orangecello or Orange Juice. Sprinkle a little Kosher Salt and fresh black pepper on the chicken.
Get ready for your home to fill with the intense aroma of fennel, orange, and tarragon! MMMMM!
Roast chicken at 400 degrees for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours til done. If chicken starts to brown too fast towards the end, you can tent it with foil. When done take the chicken out of the oven and immediately Tent it for 20 minutes. This is important as the chicken will continue to cook during this time and should bring it up to proper eating temperature. I take mine out when the temp. reads about 145.
Now for the pesto! This is EASY!
1 fresh garlic clove, quartered
Zest of 1 Orange
1/2 c. Toasted Walnuts
2 c. Fresh Basil
3/4 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Tbsp Orangecello (can substitute orange juice for this)
2 Tbsp Orange Juice (use the orange you used for zesting – the juice is better fresh)
1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Put all of the above ingredients in a blender and process until smooth and bright green.
It will smell fresh and wonderful! If dry, you can add another Tbsp Olive Oil. Check for seasoning at the end. You will love this part as the fresh flavors burst on your tongue!
Slice the chicken and spoon the Orange Pesto over it and serve warm or cold! It is so delicious and the brilliant color is so attractive on the plate. Troppo Bella!
This Orange Pesto is also delicious on Grilled Sea Bass or Branzino, over a vegetable, or pasta!
I like a crisp Pinot Grigio with this or even Prosecco: Rustico would be my choice!
PARLA COME MANGI!
**Also: See the November RECIPE OF THE MONTH on LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE !
Food Photos by Tommy Hanks Photography