Many people who cook will fondly recollect time spent cooking with their mothers since childhood. But me, not so much really. Of course, like most children, I may have been excited at the prospect of playing with flour and dough and in general, being more of a nuisance than help. I have to thank my parents for never ever pressuring or expecting me to learn cooking or other “duties” when I should be rightly spending my time playing and studying. A lot of girls in my country are not as fortunate.
However, there were a couple of things I learned to make in my teens. One was tea and the other, an Indian style omelette. Dad preferred mine over mom’s or anyway that’s what he said in those days. I think it had to do with the fact that I may have never skimped on sugar for the tea and oil for the eggs like mom sometimes did. Or like I currently do while cooking for the hubs. Health and cholesterol levels never crossed my mind in those days.
Another thing I learned to cook while in college was a simple chicken dish. Even to this day, mom doesn’t eat chicken if she has to cook it herself. You see, it has something to do with having pet chicks when she was younger. So I took it upon myself to learn to clean and cook chicken. So basically, when I got married I knew how to make chicken curry, eggs and tea, and that’s about it. Considering that was just six years ago, I’ve come a long way. Since I always loved to eat, I found that picking up culinary skills is actually pretty easy. And once you get going, there’s no turning back. And this whole roasted chicken is the perfect testament to that. I can now put together flavor profiles without breaking a sweat. I’ve roasted a whole bird exactly twice before. But as the say, third time’s a charm and this one was just perfect. It was perfectly seasoned, golden and juicy – all the markings of a proper roast chicken.
The flavor and texture of the roast chicken were achieved with two main ingredients and a few supporting ones. Firstly, I made a fiery piri piri (or peri peri) sauce the previous night. It’s traditionally made with African bird’s-eye chilies, but I improvised with what I had on hand and used spicy Thai green chilies instead. A large red bell pepper, some garlic, onions, cilantro, lime and chilies come together for a delightful sauce that is great as a marinade and even better as a dip, spread or sauce. You can very well use store bought sauce or whip up a batch very quickly. See a recipe here. However one may season the bird, I feel the cooked meat still needs a great sauce to add a bit of oomph and the piri piri sauce does a good job at that. The marinade also consisted of some of my favorite spices and herbs like oregano, dill and my latest obsession – sumac. Sumac adds such a delightful fresh flavor and helps brown the skin perfectly. The chicken rests on a bed of thick cut onions, potatoes, limes and fresh dill leaves which act as a natural roasting rack. The potatoes drenched in the baked chicken juices are simply heavenly.
While the chicken was in the oven, I decided to make some flatbreads. These are Greek style flatbreads made with a yeast dough and are a great accompaniment to the roast chicken. The hubs pitched in to help while I was watching the chicken like a hawk, turning it over midway and broiling it at the end. I was so scared of tearing the perfect skin, but I endured. And after a really quick photo session, we carved the bird and dug in. It was just perfect. It was the hub’s birthday that day and after weeks of agonizing over what to cook, I had zeroed in on a roast chicken meal. And to see it turn out so perfectly and get two thumbs up from both my boys made it all the more worthwhile.
While a whole roasted chicken may seem daunting, it really isn’t. The key is to season the bird properly and without fear. You really cannot overdo it. Read on to find how I did it.
WHOLE ROASTED CHICKEN WITH SUMAC AND PIRI PIRI SAUCE
You will need:
For the chicken,
- Whole chicken – around 5 lbs (must be thawed if previously frozen)
- Piri piri sauce – 2-3 tbsp
- Sumac – 1 tbsp
- Dried oregano – 1/2 tsp
- Fresh dill leaves – 1-2 stalks, chopped (or use 1/2 tsp dried dill)
- Freshly cracked black pepper – 1 tsp
- Cumin powder – 1 tsp
- Salt – 2 tsp
- Garlic – 3-4 cloves, crushed
- Lime or lemon – 2
- Red onion – 1 large, cut into thick rounds
- Potatoes – 1 large, cut into thick rounds
- Fresh dill leaves – 5-6 stalks
- Oil – 2 tbsp
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 deg.F and line a large baking pan with foil.
- Wash the chicken thoroughly and pat dry. Remove the neck and innards from the cavity and discard or add to the roasting pan.
- Rub the piri piri sauce all over the bird, especially under the skin on the breast side. Mix the sumac, oregano, dill, black pepper, cumin and salt together and rub all over the chicken and inside the cavity as well. Drizzle the juice of one lime all over the chicken. Place the garlic and lime rinds inside the cavity and truss the chicken, tucking the wing tips under the body.
- Line the baking pan with thickly cut onions, potatoes, lime and scatter the dill leaves on top. Drizzle with oil and lightly season with some salt and pepper. Place the chicken on this, breast side down.
- Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours (roughly 20 minutes per pound), flipping the chicken over once midway. Finish by broiling for just a couple of minutes at the end. This will ensure you have a perfectly browned and crisped skin on the breast side. The chicken is done when the internal temperature reads 180 deg.F or the juices run clear when poked near the thighs.
- Remove from oven and rest the chicken lightly covered with foil on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before carving.
- Pile a large serving platter with the roasted onions, potatoes and chicken. Serve with some piri piri sauce and sumac on the side along with some kind of bread and a fresh salad.
- Like I mentioned above, do not be timid while seasoning the chicken. Be liberal with the spices, herbs and salt.
- You can baste the bird in between if you wish to, but it doesn’t really need it. The piri piri sauce marinade does a good job of keeping it moist.
- Use the leftover meat in sandwiches, salads and soups.
- If you are interested in the flatbread recipe, please know that I am working on the perfect recipe and will post it in the near future. If you are really interested, drop me a line and I will email you my current recipe. (Update: See Greek style flatbread recipe here).
I must tell you, if you’ve never had piri piri sauce or sumac, you must rectify that immediately. When combined together, they make one delicious roast chicken.
Tell me, have you always loved to cook? Or did you pick it up somewhat later in life? Do you think a juicy roast chicken is the ultimate comfort food? What is your favorite recipe? Do share.
I am linking this up at these awesome blogs.
- A Blossoming Life
- Skip To My Lou
- Between Naps on the Porch
- Home Stories A To Z
- A Stroll Thru Life
- Cedar Hill Ranch
- Coastal Charm
- Elizabeth & Co
- Savvy Southern Style
- The NY Melrose Family
- The Turquoise Home
- Living Well Spending Less
- The Shabby Nest
- French Country Cottage
- My Romantic Home
- The Charm of Home
- Crafts a la Mode
- The Novice Gardener
- DIY Show Off
- Nifty Thrifty Things
- By Stephanie Lynn