Serves a Crowd

Beg, Borrow, and Steal Roast Chicken with Cilantro-Tamarind Sauce

March 22, 2010
3 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 4 hours
  • Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
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," which yields a complex, luscious crowd-pleasing sauce. My version 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."

While I've always reduced the pan juices and tamarind paste when using a clay pot, I go a step further here, inspired by the Misoyaki Roast Chicken recipe here on Food52: I add sautéed onion, along with some soy sauce and rice wine, to the sauce. Rendered 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. I'll be the first to admit that there's quite a bit of imitation—as well as outright stealing—in this recipe. I do hope you enjoy this. ;o)

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. —AntoniaJames

What You'll Need
  • 1 handful cilantro, including stems
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered, divided
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste (or equivalent quantity of mashed filets)
  • 2 limes, divided
  • 1 1-inch cube of solid tamarind pulp
  • 1 4-pound chicken (preferably slightly chilled)
  • 1 pinch Salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup rice wine
  • 1 pinch Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. To make the cilantro-tamarind paste, in your food processor, combine the cilantro, garlic, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1/2 of the onion, the anchovy paste, and the juice of 1 lime. Using your fingers, divide the cube of tamarind pulp (it often comes in a tube as a stiff block of pulp) into 5 to 6 smaller pieces and drop them into the food processor on top of the other ingredients.
  2. Process for about 10 seconds, scrape down, process again, scrape down, and, if necessary, process a third time for a total of 30 seconds. You want the pieces to be small and the mixture well combined, but you do not want a purée.
  3. To prepare the chicken, remove as much visible fat from the chicken as you can without tearing the skin. If you like, set some of it aside to render it for sweating the onions used in the sauce later.
  4. Very gently, pull the skin away from the flesh at the top of the neck on the back, across the breast, and down into the cavities between the wings and the body and the legs and the body. You can either use your fingers do to this, or, if necessary, use the tip of a very sharp knife to cut the inner membrane. Do this carefully to prevent tearing the skin.
  5. With your fingers, slowly and carefully put the tamarind-cilantro paste into the pockets you’ve created between the skin and the meat of the bird. I use a stainless dessert spoon, bowl side toward the meat, to coax the paste into places my fingers can’t easily reach. Pull the skin up over the neck.
  6. Set a 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.
  7. Place the chicken over the tube section of the cake pan, as you would with a vertical roaster, 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 of the chicken, use a skewer or a couple of toothpicks to pull the skin at the bottom under the bird.
  8. Pat salt all over the chicken and put it into the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours, if you have time (highly recommended).
  9. To make the sauce, render about 1 tablespoon of chicken fat (about the size of a medium strawberry) into a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir it around, pressing it 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 finely chop the remaining half of the onion. Keep an eye on the pan, however, stirring occasionally and pressing down, to release more of the fat. (If you don't want to render the chicken fat, just use 1 - 2 tablespoons of neutral oil here.)
  10. Put the chopped onion into the pan with the rendered fat, or oil if you prefer. If the fat hasn't rendered completely by the time you're done chopping the onion, just put the onion in with the piece of fat and let it render as you sweat the onion. Turn the heat up to medium-high and stir the onions around. Watch carefully lest they burn.
  11. When the onions are clear and glistening, turn the heat down. Add the rice wine and stir it about, then add the remaining 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and the juice of half of the remaining lime.
  12. Stir well and cook over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Put the mixture aside until ready to complete the sauce, after the chicken has fully roasted.
  13. Place an oven rack on the lowest shelf of your oven, then preheat your oven to 425º F. To roast the bird, take the chicken out of the refrigerator to let it warm up to room temperature as the oven preheats. When the oven's hot, put the chicken in on the bottom shelf.
  14. After about 10 minutes, check the bottom of the metal tube pan. Add a bit of warm water if juices from the cilantro-tamarind paste are caramelizing too quickly. The sauce will be bitter if those juices are allowed to burn. Keep an eye on it and add water if necessary. If the skin begins to get too dark, put a bit of foil very loosely over the top of the bird.
  15. After 1 hour (or more if your chicken weighs more than 4 pounds), the bird should be cooked through. Take it out to let it rest.
  16. As the chicken rests, finish the sauce. Pour the pan juices from the cake pan into the pan with the onion sauce. Scrape out any hardened bits, adding a few tablespoons of water if necessary to loosen them. Add juice from the remaining 1/2 of lime to the sauce. Add salt to taste and freshly ground pepper. Stir well. Cook over medium heat and reduce to your desired thickness.
  17. Carve the bird and serve it alongside the sauce. I hope you like this as much as we do. Yours sincerely, AntoniaJames ;o)
  18. * * * * I've adapted the components to make a versatile, flavorful sauce we use with braised pork shoulder, fish prepared just about any way you want, seafood, and shredded leftover chicken.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • maye
  • AntoniaJames
  • Stockout

Recipe by: AntoniaJames

See problem, solve problem. Ask questions; question answers. Disrupt, with kindness, courtesy and respect. ;o)

3 Reviews

maye May 28, 2015
Is there a reason you have to roast it upright like that? It wouldn't work in a regular roasting pan, breast side up?
AntoniaJames May 29, 2015
Stitty, you can certainly use these ingredients with a conventionally roasted chicken. Standing it up ensures even cooking all over the bird. I would caution you, however, that if you use a cast iron skillet, you should not add the lime juice to the paste, as its acidity will react with the skillet, producing a bitter sauce. Also, you could put the second half of the onion under the bird to cook it while the chicken roasts. Remove it and any drippings to a non-reactive saucepan and add the rice vinegar and soy and cook it down a bit. Add the lime juice at the end. I'd slice the onion, to make it be easier to remove from the skillet; I'd deglaze the skillet with a half cup or so of water, too. Hope this helps! ;o) P.S. This sauce is terrific when used to braise pork shoulder.
Stockout January 17, 2011
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?