Fennel and Citrus Roasted Chicken

Citrus and Fennel Roasted Chicken
Roast chicken may be the simplest of meals, but mastering the recipe can be anything but easy. Too many people are disappointed by dried out, flabby, flavorless roast chicken. I'm sure it was this very disappointment that big grocery stores sought to capitalize on when they started offering rotissiere chicken already cooked up and ready for any shopper's basket.

 Years ago, Mr. B introduced me to brine. It's a simple step that goes a long way in ensuring that the chicken you pull out of the oven is tender, moist, and flavorful. Admittedly, there were times when against my better judgement and in the interest of time, I forged ahead and roasted my chicken without first letting it sit in a brine, and I will say that every time, no matter what flavoring agents I used, I was always sorely disappointed. Suffice it to say, there is not a flavor profile in the world that will compensate for a dry bird.

I've played around with the brine and often add other ingredients to the mix. Rosemary or juniper berries are wonderful flavoring agents, and I can't say enough about the wonders that pure maple syrup and good bourbon will do for a turkey, but mostly, I like to use a simple salt and sugar brine then add flavor by roasting the bird with a variety of fresh herbs and fruits.

If you're in charge of cooking this year's Thanksgiving turkey, this recipe could be just the practice you need to master next week's big bird. While this recipe will need some tinkering--and a larger vessel--to accommodate your turkey, soaking it overnight in a simple brine will make your guests clamor for seconds.

Mel's Fennel and Citrus Roasted Chicken

For the brine:
4 tablespoons of granulated sugar
2 tablespoons of kosher salt
boiling water
ice cubes

1. Pour sugar and salt into a sturdy plastic container that's twice as large as your chicken.
2. Pour 6 cups of boiling water into the container and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
3. Add 8 cups of ice and stir until ice melts.
4. Let mixture cool until room temperature and then submerge chicken in brine to completely cover.
5. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

For the chicken:
1. Remove the chicken from the brine.
2. Using very sharp kitchen shears, cut the chicken in half at the backbone, and remove the backbone.
3. Flatten the chicken with your hands and set on a rack over a sheet pan; cover the chicken with paper towels. Let sit for 20 minutes.
4. Remove paper towels and pat chicken dry.
5. Oil a rimmed sheet pan and cover with 2-3 sliced lemons and 2-3 sliced oranges, broken fresh fennel stems, and sliced onions.
6. Gently set the flattened chicken on top of the onions, fennel and oranges.
7. Lightly coat with olive oil and then season with salt and pepper.
8. Thoroughly rub the chicken with fresh ground fennel seed.
9. Roast in a 350 degree over until almost done, basting occasionally.
10. During the last 15 minutes of roasting, crank the oven up to 385 degrees and roast the chicken until deep golden and the skin is crisp; the citrus should be caramelized at this point.
11. Remove chicken from the oven and set on a plate; let it rest for 10 minutes.
12. Meanwhile, press juices from oranges and lemons; pour citrus juices and any juices from the roasting pan through a strainer and set aside.
13. Serve slices of chicken drizzled with the strained juices.


  1. Yep, we brine our turkey every year, but why haven't I thought of doing a brine for whole chicken?? Next time I will for sure - and I always butterfly our chickens now, cooks so much faster and I don't have to worry about raw chicken on the bone! Happy Thanksgiving Week Mel!


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