With . . . Roast Chicken Moroccan-Style
by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas
When our friends Sally and Michael lost their power for a couple of days
during Hurricane Irene, we were the recipients of some of the contents of their
freezer, including a plump, organic chicken. Taking advantage of this unexpected windfall, we decided to
roast the chicken and pair it with a variety of different wines.
The first time we experimented with roast chicken (Wine With “Roast Chicken,” August 2005), we found that contrary to
what we’d expected, white rather than red wines were generally the better
match. The reason, we decided, was
that the chicken was prepared in the simplest, most straightforward manner,
with nothing more than a little olive oil, salt, and pepper for seasoning. This time around we wanted to ramp the
flavors up to see if we could make it a better partner for reds. After considering many options—stuffing
the bird with sausage, smearing it with mustard, wrapping it in bacon—we
finally opted to cover it with a spicy Moroccan-inspired rub.
To roast the chicken, we borrowed an idea from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, and set it to
cook on an edible rack of bread.
While not an essential element in the recipe, the bread at the bottom of
the pan absorbs the cooking juices, thereby becoming deliciously saturated with
chicken and spice flavors (and—we can’t lie--plenty of succulent chicken fat as
well). Since it’s too over-toasted
to be handily maneuvered with knife and fork, picking the bread up and enjoying
it hand-to-mouth is the only practical way to eat it. Lots of napkins are required.
One 4-5 pound chicken, preferably organic
Optional: 2-4 slices (about an inch thick) of country-style bread, or ½
½ cup chopped cilantro
½ cup chopped fresh mint
2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon saffron
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
½ teaspoon (or more) Aleppo pepper (or 1/8 teaspoon cayenne)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons warm water
After removing the liver and other miscellaneous parts that may be in
the chicken’s cavity, pat the bird dry with paper towels.
Rub the inside of a sturdy, high-sided casserole with olive oil. If using a baguette, cut it in half,
and then slice each half down the middle so that you have four pieces of
approximately the same size.
Arrange the bread slices in a single layer in the bottom of the pot and
place the chicken, breast-side up, on top of the bread.
Place all the other ingredients in a blender or food processor and
process until a rough paste is formed.
Rub the mixture all over the chicken, outside and in (you can use a
flexible spatula, but clean hands are more efficient). Reserve a couple of teaspoons of the
rub to use for the sauce.
Loosely cover the chicken and let it sit in the refrigerator at least 30
minutes, and preferably several hours or overnight. To cook it, preheat the oven to 450°. Roast the chicken for about 90 minutes,
or until the breast registers 170° and the thighs 180°. (If the chicken starts getting too
brown during cooking, cover the top loosely with a piece of foil.)
Transfer the bird to a carving board and let it rest about 10 minutes
before carving. Place a slice of
bread on each of four serving plates. Heat the remaining rub ingredients (a microwave works fine),
and stir a couple of spoonfuls of the roasting juices into it. Once the bird has been carved, baste
the pieces lightly with this sauce.
We tried eight reds and three whites with this spicy roast chicken. True to expectations, the reds
performed better overall. Not all
of them, though. A number were
simply too big, their weight and power overwhelming the taste of the bird. And wines with overt tannin seemed
cumbersome. The ones we are
suggesting worked well because, in addition to being light or at most
medium-bodied, they either echoed the dish with spicy flavors or provided a
satisfying contrast with sweet, juicy fruit. At the same time, we are recommending one white. Unlike another that seemed too delicate
or still another that was excessively oak-driven, it was just too good not to
Santa Barbara County (California) Pinot Noir 2009
as much because of what it’s not—not heavy, not overly extracted or
jammy—this wine’s bright fruit (cherry) flavors and subtle spicy undertones
made for an especially compelling match.
Ste Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington) “Indian Wells” Merlot 2009
too big for our chicken, this wine’s overt, juicy fruitiness redeemed it and
made it a fine partner, particularly with the bird’s dark meat.
Drouhin, Côte de Beaine-Villages (Burgundy, France) 2009
by Dreyfus Ashby & Co.)
light-bodied, with echoes of mushrooms and savory spice in the finish, this
classy wine meshed seamlessly with the spicy rub on the bird.
Russian River Valley (California) Pinot Gris 2010
best white match we tried, the overt fruitiness (reminiscent of pears and
sweet apples) in the wine provided a juicy counterpoint to the chicken’s
spiciness. The absence of oak
keeps the wine lively.
Route, Swartland (South Africa) Pinotage 2008
by Vineyard Brands)
One of the better Pinotages we’ve
tried, this wine tastes like deep, dark, but at the same time supple and
lithe. Medium-weight, its
underlying spiciness and savory character made it work very well with our