My Grandmother’s Christmas Chicken
My grandmother Helga Jönsson always salted her chicken and left it in the cool basement for a couple of hours. Then she’d pull out her spices—cardamom, ginger, coriander seeds—to rub over the chicken, and she’d stuff it with apples and onions and rosemary from her yard. Then she’d roast it on a raft of carrots. I honor Helga’s traditions with this recipe, but I brine the bird in orange juice and turn to classic Indian spices—turmeric and garam masala—for a golden rub. You know I can’t help tinkering, but the spirit is pure Helga.
Helga Jönsson’s Roast Chicken
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Tabasco sauce
For the Chicken
- 1 (3 1/2 pound) chicken
- 5 cups water
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- Juice of 1/2 orange
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 3 carrots, peeled and halved
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dredging
- Soy sauce
- Olive oil for the liver
MAKE THE GARLIC HERB VINAIGRETTE
Heat the oil in a small skillet over low heat. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook, being careful not to burn the rosemary, until the garlic is softened and golden, about 10 minutes. Scrape the garlic and oil into a blender. When the rosemary is cool enough to handle, strip the needles and add them to the blender with the parsley, cilantro, vinegar, and soy sauce. Blend to a smooth puree. Scrape into a small bowl and season with salt, pepper, and 4 dashes of tabasco. Cover and set aside.
MAKE THE CHICKEN
Trim off any excess skin from the neck and remove any fat from the chicken cavity (save these as well as the neck and giblets for stock); refrigerate the liver. Combine 3 cups of the water and the orange juice in a bowl large enough to hold the chicken. Add the salt and stir to dissolve. Submerge the chicken in the brine and refrigerate for 3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Pull the needles from 3 of the rosemary sprigs. Chop them and put them in a bowl with the butter, orange zest and juice, turmeric, and garam masala. Mix well.
Lay the carrots in the middle of a cast iron skillet to make a rack for the chicken. Pat the chicken dry, stuff the cavity with the remaining 2 rosemary sprigs, and rub the chicken with the spiced butter. Set the chicken on the carrots and roast, basting a few times, until the juices run clear when a knife is inserted near the thigh, about 1 ½ hours.
Transfer the chicken and carrots to a carving board and let rest for 30 minutes.
Put the skillet over medium heat. Add the 2 tablespoons flour to the drippings and cook, stirring, for 1 minutes. Add the remaining 2 cups water and cook, stirring, until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste, and seaon the gravy with soy sauce.
Meanwhile heat a slick of oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, dredge the liver in flour, add it to the skillet, and sear until cooked through but still pink, about 3 minutes.
Carve the chicken and put it on a platter. Add the carrots and liver and serve with the gravy and the vinaigrette.