What’s for Sunday Dinner – Roast Chicken with Orange-Saffron Sauce

After a long weekend of dining out it was nice to sleep in, go to the gym, watch the AFC and NFC championship games, and have a home-cooked meal.  I had taken a chicken out of the freezer the other day and it was all thawed out just waiting to be cooked.  Now roast chicken is roast chicken and I’m sure everyone has their own way of roasting and there’s nothing wrong with that.  But the way you dress up your chicken can make a big difference.

I like roasting small fryers, 4-5 lb birds.  I think they’ve got a lot more flavor and I can roast two at a time so I’ll have two carcasses for stock making.  One of these small birds is also the perfect size for two people.  When Cheryl and I first started dating I made her a roast chicken and she was amazed at how juicy it was.  She also couldn’t believe I made apple pies from scratch but that’s another story.  Yup, I wooed her with my cooking.  I figured if I kept feeding her she’d keep coming back.  She stuck around anyway despite the food and the rest is history.  Anyway, I keep my chickens moist by rubbing some butter underneath the breast skin.  I’ll also mix in some herbs or truffle salt to the butter in order to add more flavor.  Also, instead of basting the bird I let it roast for an hour to really crisp the skin then pour a couple of cups of water over it into the pan for the remaining half hour to mix in with the juices.  Like I said, everyone has their own way of roasting chicken, this is my method.

That said, it’s the sauce you make which will turn a plain roast chicken into a delicious dinner.  I actually came up with this idea when I reached into the spice cabinet to get some thyme for the chicken.  I saw the saffron and thought it would go well with some of the navel oranges I got on sale this week at the store.  I usually just make a pan gravy for the chicken with the juices, some butter, and parsley but wanted to experiment a little.  This turned out well.  Might have to tweak it a bit in the future but it worked and added a nice fresh touch to the snowy, cold days we’ve been having here in Chicago.  Give the sauce a try the next time you have roast chicken!

Roast Chicken

  • 4-5 lb fryer
  • Salt
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • 2 C water
  • 1 onion quartered
  • 1 small orange quartered
  • Kitchen twine

Pre-heat the oven to 385°.  Rinse the chicken inside and out.  Cut the wings tips off.  Mix the thyme into the butter and rub equal amounts into the chicken under the breast skin.  Stuff the chicken with the cut up orange and ½ of the onion.  Truss your bird with some kitchen twine.  Take 3 good sized pinches of salt and rub into the skin.  Place chicken in roasting pan, spread remaining onion around the chicken, put into oven and roast for an hour.

After an hour pour 2 C water over chicken and continue to roast for 30-40 more minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes.  Carve and place on platter.

For the sauce

  • 1 C pan drippings
  • ½ C fresh orange juice
  • ¼ tsp saffron
  • ¼ tsp tarragon
  • Salt
  • ½ Tbs cold butter

Pour off all pan juices, strain the onions and bits out, and separate fat from juices.  Deglaze pan with some wine and allow wine to cook off.  Add pan juices, orange juice, saffron, and tarragon.  Bring to simmer over medium heat and reduce by ⅓.  Whisk in cold butter ¼ Tbs at a time until it reaches the consistency you like.  Season to taste.  Pour over carved chicken.

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