Beg, Borrow and Steal Roast Chicken with Cilantro Tamarind Sauce

By • March 22, 2010 • 1 Comments

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Author Notes: This recipe combines elements of two of my favorite whole-chicken recipes, to create something new. First there's the Indonesian Beggar's Chicken from Dana Jacobi's "The Best of Clay Pot Cooking." That recipe yields a terrific tasting chicken and sauce. Mine borrows most of the basic ingredients in that recipe, but uses the tamarind and cilantro based paste to flavor a roast chicken cooked using the method described by MonkeyMom in her recipe for "Wishbone Roast Chicken," also posted on Food52. I have always reduced the pan juices and tamarind paste when using the clay pot, but here, I go a step further, inspired by the Misoyaki Roast Chicken recipe here on Food52, sauteing onion to add to the sauce, along with some soy sauce and rice wine. Rendering some chicken fat for sweating the onion makes the sauce even tastier, as do the pan juices and the cilantro tamarind paste that's been roasted under the chicken skin. There seems to be some dispute as to who originally said that "Talent imitates, but genius steals." I'll be the first to admit that there's quite a bit of imitation -- as well as outright stealing -- in this recipe. Enjoy! ;o) P.S. I have posted quite a few photos showing the ingredients, the method and the final result. I'm partial to the one of my son swiping his teenage hand over the drippings in the pan. ;o)AntoniaJames

Serves 4-6 depending on the size of the bird and the size of the appetites

  • One 4-pound roasting chicken (preferably air chilled)
  • 2 limes
  • Handful of cilantro, including stems
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, or more to taste, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste (or equivalent quantity of filets, mashed)
  • A one-inch cube of solid tamarind pulp (see photo, and note below)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered (divided)
  • 2 tablespoons (divided) organic soy sauce (one with a rich taste, and not too salty)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon flavorless vegetable oil (if not rendering chicken fat)
  • ¼ cup rice wine
  1. Note: This recipe uses the roasting method explained by MonkeyMom in her recipe for Wishbone Roast Chicken. I’ve added a few notes below explaining some variations on the technique that are necessitated by this recipe. Also, please see the photos, which illustrate better than words can describe, various aspects to making this dish.
  2. MAKE THE CILANTRO TAMARIND PASTE: Put the cilantro, garlic, tamarind, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 2 quarters of the onion, the anchovy paste and the juice of one lime into your food processor. See the note below about handling the solid tamarind. (If you want heat, add a fresh chili.)
  3. Process for about ten seconds, scrape down, process again, scrape down and, if necessary, process a third time. You wanted the pieces to be small and the mixture well combined, but you do not want a puree. (See the photo of the finished paste.)
  4. PREPARE THE BIRD: Remove as much visible fat from the chicken as you can without tearing the skin. Set some of it aside, if you wish to render it for sweating the onions used in the sauce, as I do (and recommend).
  5. Very gently pull the skin away at the top of the neck on the back, and across the breast and down into the cavities between the wings and the body, and the legs and the body. If necessary, use the tip of a very sharp knife to cut the inner membrane. Do this carefully, though, to prevent tearing the skin.
  6. With your fingers, slowly and carefully put the tamarind and cilantro paste into the pockets you’ve just created between the skin and the meat of the bird. I use a stainless dessert spoon, bowl side toward the meat, gently to coax the paste into places my fingers can’t easily reach. Pull the skin up over the neck.
  7. Set the tube piece of the tube cake pan into a shallow ovenproof dish. (Do NOT use a glass pie plate for this recipe.) It should sit easily on the bottom of the plate. You want the juices to collect there, and not to caramelize too much.
  8. Place the chicken over the tube section of the tube pan, with legs on the bottom, pulling them away from the body. Tuck the wing tips behind the neck. If it appears that the paste is in danger of coming out at the bottom, use a skewer or a couple of toothpicks (or a small pointed chopstick, as I use) to pull the skin at the bottom under the bird. Air chilled chickens tend to have nice, taut skin, so very little paste escapes until the cooking process begins.
  9. Pat sea salt all over the chicken and put it into the refrigerator for 3-4 hours, if you have time (highly recommended).
  10. TO MAKE THE SAUCE: Render about a tablespoon of chicken fat in a heavy saucepan. This is optional, but recommended. If not rendering, put the oil in the sauce pan. See note below about rendering.
  11. Finely chop the remaining 2 onion quarters. Put the chopped onion in a pan with the oil or rendered fat. (If you haven’t rendered as much fat as you think you need by the time you’re done chopping the onion, just put the onion in with the piece of fat and let it continue to render as you sweat the onion.) Turn the heat up to medium high and stir the onions around. Watch carefully lest they burn.
  12. When the onions are clear and glistening in that fragrant, luscious chicken fat, turn the heat down. Add the rice wine and stir it about; then add the soy sauce and the juice of one half of the other lime.
  13. Stir well and cook over medium low heat for about five minutes. Put the mixture aside until ready to complete the sauce, after the chicken has fully roasted.
  14. ROAST THE BIRD: Take the chicken out of the refrigerator to let it warm up just a bit before you put it in the oven. Heat your oven to 425 degrees F . When it's hot, put the chicken in, on the bottom shelf.
  15. After about ten minutes, check the bottom of the metal tube pan. Add a bit of warm water if juices from the cilantro tamarind paste are getting caramelized too quickly. The sauce will be bitter if those juices are allowed to burn. Within a short period, you should have plenty of liquid to protect that from happening. But do keep an eye on it and add water if necessary.
  16. If the skin begins to get too dark, put a bit of foil very loosely over the top of the bird.
  17. After an hour (or more if your chicken weighs more than four pounds), the bird should be done. If not, let it cook a bit more. When it’s done, take it out to let it rest.
  18. FINISH THE SAUCE: Pour the pan juices into the pan with the onion sauce. Scrape out any hardened bits, adding a few tablespoons of broth or water if necessary to get loosen them. Add juice from the remaining half of lime, if desired, to the sauce. Add salt to taste and freshly ground pepper. Stir well.
  19. Cook over medium heat and reduce to desired thickness.
  20. Carve the bird and pass the sauce.
  21. Enjoy!! ;o)
  22. Note about Tamarind. I use a product called “Tamarind Paste,” though it is not in a jar, as one might expect. It's a stiff block of pulp, including the seeds. Unless the seeds in the kind you buy are tough, creating an unpleasant texture, don’t worry about it. Since it’s going into the food processor, I don’t worry about softening and straining it. I just cut off a sticky chunk that’s about 1” x 1” x 1”. I pull it apart with my fingers into five or six smaller pieces and drop them in the food processor on top of the cilantro. I do this because the points of the food processor blade can easily get stuck on larger pieces of the hard pulp. See the photos included with this recipe, for more information. Also, if you prefer, you can use two tablespoons of the pure tamarind sold in jar.
  23. Note about Rendering: If rendering some of the chicken fat for the sauce, put a piece about the size of a medium strawberry into a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir it around, pressing down with the end of your spoon, to facilitate the release of the fat. Once the pan is covered with a fair bit of fat, turn the heat down and get to work chopping the onion. Keep an eye on the pan however, stirring occasionally and pressing down, to release more of the fat.

Tags: delicious, fusion, serves a crowd, Southeast Asian

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over 4 years ago Stockout

I was thinking that this might also work on braised calamari, maybe stuffed with some basmati rice, sitting in a pool of all that herbal goodness. Baked for 1 hour on a slow 300F oven with maybe a splash of white wine? Times like this I wish I had a brick oven, don't you?