Friday, March 11, 2011

Garlic-Saffron Roast Chicken

Several weeks ago I put a gift certificate towards a new cookbook: Moro: The Cookbook. Moro is a restaurant the focuses on flavours from Spain, North Africa, and the Middle East. I'm not that keen on Spanish cooking as experienced in restaurants, at least the ones I've been to in my one trip to Spain. It's very meat-heavy and they don't understand that ham should not be part of a salad for vegetarians. (In contrast, the home cooking at Villa Matilde , where we stayed, was fabulous.) But I love North African food and would like to discover Spanish food that I like, hence the new cookbook.

All this is leading up to a recipe that was not in the cookbook! I started out seasoning a chicken a day in advance to make Zuni roast chicken, but on the day decided I wanted to do something new. Moro had a recipe for Chicken Stuffed with Garlic and Coriander. I didn't have coriander, but the rest of the recipe sounded intriguing so I made it without and served it to my guests that evening, followed by Casablanca Oranges (Jane Brody's Good Food Gourmet) for dessert, made with blood oranges and clementines.

Garlic-Saffron Roast Chicken

Besides omitting the coriander, I also left out the olive oil from the garlic paste. I reserved the milk to make a gravy, and followed the Zuni method of cooking the chicken in a preheated cast iron skillet. The dish was tasty and looks lovely, but I actually found the saffron flavour too strong and the garlic not intense enough. Worth trying again with coriander though.

1 medium chicken
1 tablespoon salt
3 garlic bulbs
1 cup milk
1 generous pinch saffron
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

  1. A day or two before you serve, thoroughly dry the chicken. Gently slide your fingers under the skin and loosen it. Rub the salt in all over the chicken, then put in a plastic bag and let it baste itself in the fridge until several hours before you plan to cook. This is a dry brine that lets the chicken marinate in its own moisture and gets the meat well seasoned throughout.
  2. Several hours before cooking, take the chicken out of its bag and let it air dry. 
  3. Preheat the oven to 220 C/425 F.
  4. Meanwhile, break the garlic bulbs into their cloves and put them in a small saucepan with enough milk to cover by about an inch. Cook gently for about 25 minutes until the cloves are soft. 
  5. Soak the saffron in 2-3 tablespoons of the warm garlic milk.
  6. Meanwhile, remove the garlic, and squeeze out the cloves from the skins. Mash the cloves into a purée, along with the ground cumin and saffron milk. (I used the small blender of my immersion blender.)
  7. Using a teaspoon and your fingers, put the garlic-saffron paste under the skin. Try to get it around the thighs as well as the chicken breast.
  8. Heat a cast-iron skillet that is large enough to fit the chicken. Put the chicken in, breast-side up, then put it into the oven.
  9. Cook for 20 minutes, then turn the chicken over, breast-side down.
  10. Cook for another 30 minutes and flip the chicken breast-side up again.
  11. Cook for another 15 minutes or until the juices run clear or the thigh join is very loose. (I like chicken well done.)
  12. Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with foil to rest for 10 minutes.
  13. Drain all but a tablespoon of the fat from the skillet. Over medium heat, add a tablespoon of flour, stirring and scraping up the brown bits. When the flour is browned, slowly add the garlic-milk until the sauce reaches the desired consistency. You can add water if it is still too thick.
  14. Cut the chicken into pieces and serve with the gravy on the side. I served it with a rice pilaf and roasted broccoli and tomatoes.


  1. Not roasted garlic, but milk-simmered garlic! Never seen that before. And dry-brining sounds a lot easier than wet. All sounds (and looks) good!

  2. But I think roasted garlic would be better, or even raw garlic (although not 3 bulbs worth!). Normally I roast chicken with sliced garlic plus some bay leaves or rosemary under the skin. It imparts great flavour to the breast.

    Dry brining is absolutely the way to go! If you want to do a turkey,here's the way to go,0,4954438.story.