We all know that an extra hot oven does wonderful things to chicken, but did you also know that it has the same transformative effect on citrus? And isn’t it also wonderful that sunny citrus fruit comes into season right smack in the middle of winter, just when we need a little brightening. This dish not only cheers me, but actually helped to warm a very nippy kitchen today. I’d say it’s the perfect dinner to lead the charge into January.
Like the vast majority of dishes I share here, this one is super quick and easy, in fact the hardest part by far is cleaning the baking sheet afterwards. Be sure to line it with parchment or foil because the natural sweetness of the citrus glaze will caramelize right onto the pan. In other words, what makes it especially delicious also makes it a holy terror to clean up. I love this beautiful chicken, I could eat it every night for the entire month. It’s not quite a 30-minute meal, but it’s darn close. It’s also a one pan wonder, the chicken gets nice and crispy golden without any pre-browning.
I don’t bother to rinse the chicken beforehand, I like it to be as dry as possible because that helps the sauce cling to the meat, and it helps everything get nice and crispy in the oven. The practice of rinsing raw chicken is outmoded and isn’t necessary. In fact rinsing can actually spread any potential germs, which the heat of the oven will take care of anyway. So skip the messy rinsing, your chicken will be the better for it.
Whisk together the simple sauce, or glaze, made from olive oil, pomegranate molasses, allspice, salt and pepper, and brush it on the chicken. If you absolutely can’t find pomegranate molasses, which is pomegranate juice that has been reduced down to a thick syrup, I suppose you could substitute some lemon juice and honey, but I really recommend the molasses. The flavor is unique and really special. It will be in the International section of your grocery store, and Amazon always has it, in a pinch. The allspice adds a warm spicy clove type flavor that makes this dish so special. The sauce is inspired by the dressing on this Tomato, Onion and Roasted Lemon Salad.
You’ll thinly slice your citrus and arrange them around and underneath the chicken. Finish with a good sprinkle of sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper and some fresh thyme. The hot oven does the rest in about 35 minutes. I baste the chicken with the remaining sauce once or twice, and garnish with more thyme.
The citrus is sliced so thinly that it will caramelize in the oven, and it becomes soft and delicious enough to eat whole. Because you will be eating the whole fruit, be sure to wash it well before slicing, and remove any seeds first. I sliced the fruit between 1/4 and 1/8 inch…any thicker and they will not cook through as well, any thinner and the slices will basically just disintegrate. I use an inexpensive mandoline slicer to do the job quickly and easily. I sliced up Meyer lemon, blood orange, Cara Cara orange (a pinkish sweet orange) and a Satsuma tangerine. Skip the grapefruit and lime, they’d be too bitter for this.
- about 6 legs and 2 bone-in skin on breasts (or you can use a whole chicken cut in pieces, or use your favorite parts, thighs would work) Allow 2 pieces per person.
- 1 blood orange
- 1 Meyer lemon
- 1 satsuma tangerine
- 1 small Cara Cara orange
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- a dash of salt and a few grinds of pepper
- Set oven to 475F
- Cut the chicken breasts in half crosswise.
- Wash and dry the citrus fruit. Using a mandoline slicer, slice them between 1/4 and 1/8 inch thick. Remove any seeds. Note: I used all the lemon, but only about half of the other fruits.
- Line a baking sheet (the kind with sides) with parchment paper or foil. Set down a few slices of the fruit, and then lay out your chicken pieces, making sure not to crowd the pan. if you are making extra, use another pan rather than crowd the chicken.
- Whisk together the sauce ingredients and brush it onto each piece of chicken. Arrange slices of citrus around the chicken. You may not need all the slices.
- Shower everything with a little bit of sea salt and some fresh cracked black pepper.
- Roast for about 35 minutes. I baste the chicken a couple of times with more sauce.
- Serve with more fresh thyme.
You could, if you have the time, marinate the chicken in the sauce. This isn't necessary, but it's an option if you are thinking ahead.
Tips for success:
- Use bone-in, skin-on chicken…the meat will stay moister and you will get a great crispy brown result.
- Wash your fruit well with soap and water since you will be eating the rind. Organic is always a good choice.
- Slice the citrus fruit with a mandoline slicer to get very thin, even slices. I slice them between 1/4 and 1/8 thick. Be sure to remove the seeds after you’ve sliced the fruit (they don’t taste good!)
- This dish requires high heat…make sure your oven temperature is accurate. I use an inexpensive oven thermometer (my grocery store sells them in the kitchen section) to check. 475F sounds high, but it’s the right temp for this dish.
- Line your pan with parchment or foil, otherwise the food will stick. And make sure you use a baking sheet with sides!
- I like to cut the breasts in half so the pieces of chicken are relatively the same size and will cook evenly.
- You can finish the dish under the broiler if for any reason you didn’t get quite enough charring on your fruit.
Almost too pretty to eat!