If you live stateside and celebrate Thanksgiving, I m sure you passed the last couple of days in a sort of food-induced stupor, right? I know we did. We had a lovely time, even though it was just the three of us at home this time.
We’ve been lucky to be invited to a real American Thanksgiving with turkey and the trimmings a couple of times over the past few years we’ve been living here. The other years when we are at home by ourselves, I turn to chicken to feed our tiny family of three. It just makes a lot of sense to me. I could use turkey breast or drumsticks but frankly, we love the flavor of a good whole roasted young chicken or a platter of perfectly roasted chicken thighs.
Here are two totally different recipes for a whole roasted chicken. One is made with a traditional Indian style marinade and the other has some Mediterranean influences with a red pepper sauce, dill and sumac marinade. Both are equally delicious.
This time, I used bone-in chicken thighs. I whipped up a super quick piri piri sauce inspired spicy red pepper and garlic sauce. Used some of it to rub on the chicken and the rest will be served along with the main meal. I also made a dry rub with spices like cumin, cayenne powder, dried oregano and garam masala, highly aromatic and flavorful with just the right amount of kick to it. The chicken is placed on a bed of thick cut red onions, potatoes, carrots, lemon and garlic. This acts like a natural roasting rack and you can then serve the tender roasted vegetables along with the chicken.
Now we all know that the most important part of the Thanksgiving feast are the sides. An aromatic vegetable pulao seemed the flavorful candidate. We also had mashed potatoes and some buttered corn at the insistence of the little history fiend here (who insisted much vociferously that there was corn at the very first Thanksgiving and we had to have some as well).
I had made caramel apple cupcakes the previous day. They were the perfect sweet ending to this simple but delightful Thanksgiving feast. These cupcakes deserve a post of their own and I will update this post with the link to that recipe.
So, for now, here’s the recipe for the roast chicken with perfectly browned crisp skin. Follow the instructions given in the recipe and you will never have soggy chicken skin ever again.
- Chicken thighs - 6 (with bones and skins still on)
- Spicy red pepper sauce - 2 tbsp (recipe follows at the bottom)
- Lemon - 2, divided
- Cumin powder - 2 tsp
- Cayenne powder - 2 tsp
- Dried oregano - 2 tsp
- Sumac - 2 tsp
- Garam masala powder - 2 tsp
- Salt - 1 tsp
- Red onion - 1 large, cut into thick rounds
- Potato - 1, cut into thick rounds
- Carrot - 1, cut into thick strips
- Olive oil - 1 tbsp
- Fresh thyme - a few sprigs
- Garlic - 5-6 cloves, crushed
- Olive oil - 2 tbsp
- Cumin seeds - ½ tsp
- Red bell pepper - 1 large, seeded and roughly diced
- Garlic - 2 cloves, crushed
- Red chili powder - 2 tsp
- Cilantro leaves - ½ cup
- Lemon juice - 2 tbsp
- Salt - ½ tsp (or to taste)
- Roasted chicken thighs: Pre-heat the oven to 400 deg.F. If you are using a metal baking pan, line with foil or parchment paper and set aside.
- Pat the chicken thighs dry with a paper towel. Rub the red pepper sauce generously all over them. Squeeze the juice of a lemon over the chicken.
- Mix the dry spice rub ingredients together in a small bowl (cumin, cayenne, oregano, sumac, garam masala and salt). Rub this spice mix all over the chicken and even under the skin.
- Toss the vegetables with olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Arrange them in a single layer on the baking pan. Arrange the chicken thighs on top, skin side down. Tuck in the sprigs of fresh thyme and garlic in between the pieces of chicken. Slice the other lemon and place them in between the chicken pieces as well.
- Roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Take it out and flip the chicken thighs over so the skin side is up now. This will ensure the skin gets nicely browned and crispy. Bake for another 30 minutes or till the chicken juices run clear when poked with a knife.
- Rest the chicken for 5-10 minutes. Transfer chicken and vegetable to a serving platter. Serve with the spicy red pepper sauce and any other sides of choice.
- Spicy red pepper sauce: Heat oil in a large skillet. Add cumin seeds and allow them to crackle. Now add the garlic and red pepper and saute for a minute. Add red chili powder and cilantro and saute for another minute. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
- Blend this in a blender along with salt and lemon juice. This makes an excellent marinade for meats and can also be served as a spicy sauce or dip.
The chicken is perfectly juicy with a nice crisp skin. Nothing puts you off than soggy skin on roast chicken. Baking the chicken at a high temperature ensures the skin gets nicely crispy. The initial spicy sauce marinade flavors the chicken and the dry spice rub coats the chicken beautifully, creating a deliciously seared crust.
If you have a cast iron skillet, you can seal and sear the skin on it initially and then finish baking it in the oven. But if you follow the technique given in the recipe, you can do it all in the oven and still end up with deliciously blackened spiced chicken, juicy inside with the perfectly crisp skin outside.
The best thing about this roast chicken recipe is that it can be easily scaled up or down, even if you are using a couple of thighs or a couple of baking pans full of chicken. This recipe has very little hands-on time leaving you free to tackle the sides or just do other stuff around the house. It is perfect for gatherings like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners or quiet weeknight dinners.
So, tell me, do you celebrate Thanksgiving? What do you make? Do share.
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