I really wanted to love this recipe from Sirocco for citrus and za’atar chicken. Perhaps I fell prey to high expectations, since I love citrus in all things, especially with roast chicken, and I think za’atar is enjoying a well-deserved moment in the spotlight. Mixing up this rub, my kitchen was full of tantalizing smells that promised a succulent, flavorful chicken.
Sabrina’s take on a whole roast chicken is simplicity itself. No need to marinate, nothing placed in the interior of the chicken, her roasted chicken takes less than 15 minutes to prep, especially if you already have a za’atar mix. You zest your citrus fruits, mix them with olive oil and the other spices, rub the mixture over your cleaned, dried, and trussed bird, then bake it at 425 F for 90 minutes.Wait. 90 minutes at 425 F? I’ve been roasting my chickens recently at 350-375 for 90 minutes…. Is the higher heat for the same duration going to burn my bird? Well, yes… it is. It certainly torched my lovely citrus rub, forcing me out of the kitchen and away from the acrid burning smell emanating from my oven.
In forcing myself to have faith and follow a recipe, sometimes I’m overjoyed to discover a new technique or dismiss a preconceived judgement. Sometimes I eat a bland/overcooked dinner. Sometimes my dinner is so bad I wait for it to cool and then throw it all in the trash. The citrus and za’atar chicken from Sirocco fell squarely in that second category.
How could something that started out with so much flavor become so dry and tasteless? It was a mystery and I felt badly for the chicken I’d tortured for naught. I searched the internet and found I’m not alone in my impressions of this recipe turning out dry (bonus, another new lovely blog to follow). So I tried again, but with my spin on a simple roast chicken dinner.
First, make the marinade and rub it over bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (or legs). Get some of the marinade under the skin. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to overnight (this is key to having flavorful chicken later). Your produce compartment should be your guide when it comes to the veggies you use. Two combinations I’ve tried include fingerling potatoes and broccoli or cauliflower and fennel (the fennel with the citrus in the marinade is pretty amazing).
For example, you can toss fingerling potatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper, place in a layer on a rimmed sheet pan and bake for 375 for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, chop a head of broccoli into florets and diced stems. Take the marinated chicken out of the refrigerator and nestle first the broccoli, then the chicken into the pan in a single layer. If you love garlic, feel free to add a few minced cloves and toss them around too. Place the pan back in the oven and continue baking for 45 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender, the broccoli is slightly charred but still a little crunchy, and the chicken juices run clear and its internal temperature is 165 F. Remove from the oven, rest for 5-10 minutes, serve.This new rendition of citrus and za’atar chicken is amazing (if I may say so). The chicken (I used chicken legs, because those are what I had) is incredibly juicy and brightly flavorful. The citrus and za’atar flavors are perky and a nice change from more traditional sheet-pan chicken dinners like teriyaki or Dijon or simple garlic and olive oil. A friend once made a great potato and lemon chicken sheet pan dinner… this new variation is like that one only ten times better. And the leftovers are delicious too, cold or reheated.
Original Source: Sirocco
Citrus and Za'atar Chicken
- 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or legs (about 1.5–1.75kg)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil separated
- 2 heaping tablespoons za’atar
- 2 lemons zested and split into halves
- finely grated zest of 3 unwaxed oranges
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt or sea salt flakes
- 5-6 turns freshly ground black pepper
- 1 head cauliflower or broccoli cut into florets
- 1/2 pound fennel or potatoes about 1 bulb fennel or use baby, fingerling, or standard potatoes cut into 1-inch pieces
In a large bowl, add the za’atar, lemon and orange zests, turmeric, coriander, salt, and 5-6 turns of a pepper grinder. Pour in 3 tablespoons of olive oil and mix to make a paste.
- Rinse and pat dry the chicken pieces. Add them to the spice mix and rub the paste all over the chicken, working some of it under the skin. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to marinate at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). Line a sheet pan or roasting tray with parchment paper.
- Meanwhile, prep your vegetables. You can use any combination you like, I've simply given two suggestions. Core then chop the broccoli or cauliflower into bite-sized florets, and slice the stem into thin rings. Core then thinly slice or shave the fennel bulb, keeping the delicate fronds to cook as well. Use baby or fingerling potatoes or cut regular potatoes into bite-sized dice (about 1-inch).
- If using potatoes, place them on the prepared pan, toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a couple grinds of black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt. Bake for 20 minutes. Nestle the broccoli on top of the potatoes, then the chicken parts.
- If using cauliflower and fennel, toss with the 1 tablespoon olive oil, a couple grinds of black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt. Nestle the chicken parts on top.
Add the lemon halves to the sheet pan as well. If you like a little heat in your food, add 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Try to ensure everything is essentially in one single layer, so that the food roasts and does not steam.
Bake for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are fork-tender and chicken juices run clear. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the chicken should read at least 165 F.
- Leave to rest for 5-10 minutes, then serve.
To make za'atar at home, combine 1 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (minced), 1 tablespoons sesame seeds (toasted), 1 teaspoons sumac (ground), and 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt (makes about 2 heaping tablespoons). Ratios from epicurious.
Reserve the orange juice for another purpose.