Roasted Clementine and Fennel Chicken

An Israeli chef and a Palestinian chef got together to write a cookbook.  Sounds almost like the setup for a joke, but it really happened.  The book is called Jerusalem: A Cookbook, and a review in the Wall Street Journal excerpted this dish.  The recipe was invented by the authors to reflect Jerusalem cooking’s use of arak (anise-flavored liquor) and citrus.  This isn’t the fastest recipe ever–there’s a lot of mixing and prep and the roasting itself takes 35-45 minutes.  But everyone needs a special occasion recipe, and sometimes it’s fun to make something complicated and feel that sense of accomplishment when it’s done.  Plus, this chicken is delicious. It comes out sweet, a little tangy, and juicy. The dominant flavor is the clementine oranges, but the fennel, mustard, and lemon add a little complexity.

Yield: Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons arak (or ouzo or Pernod).  I didn’t have any of these (or any cooking wine at all), but I’ve eaten this dish both with and without–they end up very similar and if anything, it may be better without.
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons grainy mustard (I used a horseradish mustard)
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, cut lengthwise and then into quarters
  • 1 2-pound organic or free-range chicken, divided into 8 pieces
  • 4 clementines, unpeeled, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly crushed Parsley, to garnish (I used mustard seeds instead, and put them in to bake with the chicken instead of using them as a garnish).

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together arak, oil, orange and lemon juices, mustard, brown sugar and salt. Season with pepper, to taste.  I squeezed fresh lemons and clementines to get the juice, and so had leftover peel..  Add it in step #5 when you put everything in the oven; it adds extra citrus flavor.
  2. Add fennel, chicken, clementine slices, thyme and crushed fennel seeds. Turn several times to coat.
  3. If time allows, marinate chicken for a few hours or preferably overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  5. Transfer all ingredients, including marinade, to a large roasting pan. Chicken should be skin-side up.
  6. Roast until chicken is browned and cooked through, 35-45 minutes. Remove from the oven.
  7. Lift chicken, fennel and clementines from pan and arrange on a serving plate. Cover and keep warm.
  8. The recipe calls for pouring the cooking liquid into a small saucepan. Place over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then simmer until sauce is reduced and you are left with about 1/3 cup. You can degrease by using a spoon to remove some of the fat from the top of the sauce.  Then pour this heated sauce over the chicken.  However, this wasn’t necessary for me as the liquid had cooked down so much already.  Plus, with this dish, the sauce is so good that the more of it you have, the better.
  9. Garnish with parsley and serve.  Don’t diiscard the clementine slices and peels;you can eat them along with the chicken, and in my opinion, they’re the tastiest part of this whole dish!

And there you have it, chicken tasty enough to bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians.

If you have leftovers, you can use them as the base for Asian-style orange chicken.

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