Reader Request: Spicy Roasted Chicken

Friday, April 27, 2012

Thanks goes out to Candace for being the first reader to request a recipe! Feel free to send me an email if you see a dish in my album that you'd like to see as a blog post.

Quick, versatile chicken dishes are a must for any Kitchenista. You'll want to be able to whip up a tasty main course at any time, without having to think too hard or spending a lot of money. Chicken drumsticks are almost always on sale, so this is definitely a $5 dish excluding pantry items. The recipe would also work well with wings if you're entertaining for larger groups, and you could grill the chicken instead of roasting. What I like about this preparation is how easy it is to change the seasoning to go with whatever's on your menu that day. I used what could be described as a Moroccan spice combination, but Mexican or Caribbean flavors would be great alternatives. The best part? No measuring. Seriously, don't bother. For beginning cooks, making spice rubs or marinades are a great way to season your food without having to be exact. I wrote the recipe to include some guidelines in case you aren't sure what proportions to use, but the idea here is to just wing it (no pun intended!)

Skinless Chicken Legs
Large red onion, 1 per pan
Lemon, 1 per lb of chicken
Minced garlic, approx 2 cloves per 1b of chicken
Grated ginger, approx 1/2 Tbsp per lb of chicken
Smoked paprika, approx 1 Tbsp per lb of chicken
Cumin, approx 2-3 tsp per lb of chicken
Coriander, approx 2-3 tsp per lb of chicken
Cayenne, a few pinches per lb of chicken
Cinnamon, a pinch per lb of chicken
Hot sauce, to taste
Sea Salt, a couple pinches per lb of chicken
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Servings: 2 per lb of chicken
Prep Time: 10 minutes (minimum), marinating time optional
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Equipment Needed: Large frying pan, baking sheet or roasting pan

Preheat oven to 425°. Rinse the chicken legs and pat dry. Chop red onion into large pieces (quarter the onion, and then cut the separated pieces in half) and set aside. In a small bowl, combine garlic, ginger, smoked paprika, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, lemon juice and zest from 1 lemon, cayenne, hot sauce, and salt (if needed.) Add enough olive oil to make a thick paste (a few tablespoons per pound of chicken.)

Side note: Here's how you learn to season your food. Taste it! Excluding raw eggs or meat, it's safe to taste your dishes as you go along, in fact I don't know any good cook who doesn't. Taking a few seconds to stop and check your seasonings along the way could save you from a disastrously over- or under-seasoned dish. Since the marinade hasn't been added to the chicken at this point, it's perfectly fine to taste it - just a dab or so will be enough to give you an idea of how the flavor is. Along that note, when I'm making a spicy marinade I always add the heat (cayenne, hot pepper flakes, hot sauce etc.) last, and just a little bit at a time until I get it where I want. This is really important to me because I'm cooking for a small child, so I don't take chances with the end result being something that's too spicy for him to eat. 

Using only half of the spice paste, coat chicken well. It's easiest to just use your hands, making sure to wash thoroughly afterwards. The chicken can be cooked immediately, or refrigerated and allowed to marinate for 1-2 hours. Heat pan to med-high, drizzle w/ olive oil and brown chicken evenly for a few minutes. You're just searing the outside of the chicken, not cooking it all the way through. Remove chicken from pan & re-coat with remaining spice paste. Place in an ungreased roasting pan with chopped red onion. Roast approximately 20 minutes until cooked, broiling on low for the last 2 minutes if desired.

For the Cilantro-Mint Sauce, as pictured:  In a food processor combine about a cup of fresh cilantro, a half cup fresh mint leaves, several spoonfuls of honey, the juice of one lime, a clove of minced garlic and spoonful of grated ginger. Pulse until well blended. While the food processor is running, pour in olive oil until the sauce reaches a consistency like salad dressing. Add salt to taste & sweeten if necessary. Garnish with additional cilantro.

Looking for an easy side dish to serve? Whenever you're roasting meat, utilize the oven and roast your veggies at the same time. I peeled and diced a couple sweet potatoes and a small butternut squash, tossed in lemon juice and olive oil and added a pinch of sea salt.

About 15 minutes before I started my chicken, I put the veggies in the oven so they'd be done at the same time. Once the sweet potatoes were fork tender and starting to brown (approximately 30 minutes), I removed the roasting pan from the oven and tossed the veggies with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lemon juice.

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