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Spanish Honey-Cumin Roast Chicken with Apricots & Olives


Serves 4

The delicious, Spanish-inspired sauce for this roast chicken could not be easier to make: Simply pour the marinade for the chicken into the roasting pan along with the bird; by time dinner is ready, it will have cooked down to a rich, dark, deeply flavored sauce. 

For the marinade:
  • 5 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/3 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp. paprika
For the chicken:
  • 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 4 oz. dried apricots (about 16)
  • 24 green and black assorted olives, whole or pitted
  • 4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro, for garnish (optional)
Make the marinade

Crush the garlic cloves and sprinkle with a little salt. Mince the garlic finely into a paste; you should have 1-1/2 to 2 Tbs. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, orange juice, honey, olive oil, cumin and paprika, and whisk until thoroughly combined.

Marinate the chicken:

Wash and dry the chicken pieces thoroughly. Press down on the chicken breasts with the palm of your hand to flatten slightly (allowing rib cartilage to pop away or break in half). With a sharp knife, poke three or four slits in both sides of each piece of chicken to help the marinade penetrate. Put the chicken in a large nonreactive bowl and toss with the kosher salt. Add the garlic paste to the bowl and toss to coat the chicken. Add the marinade to the bowl and toss to coat, using your hands to distribute evenly. Add the apricots and olives and toss to combine. Wrap the bowl well with plastic and refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours.

Roast the chicken:

Take the chicken out of the refrigerator and pour the chicken and marinade (scraping the bowl) into one 10x15-inch or two 7x11-inch Pyrex baking dishes. Adjust the chicken so it’s skin side up and the pieces are evenly spaced. Tuck the apricots and olives under and around the chicken pieces. Sprinkle each piece of chicken with a pinch of salt. Let the chicken sit for at least 20 minutes or up to an hour to warm up a bit so it will cook more evenly. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400°F.

Put the chicken in the oven to roast. As it cooks, the marinade will bubble and begin to reduce. After 30 minutes, baste occasionally with the pan juices to help brown the skin and keep the chicken moist. The chicken is done when it turns deep brown and the pan juices have reduced (the sides of the pan will be very dark brown and look almost burned, and a paring knife will slide easily into a thigh), about 1 hour. The pan juices may separate, meaning the fat will be floating on top of the juices, which will be very thick.

Make the pan sauce:
Make the pan sauce while the pan is still hot; if you get delayed, use hot water to make the sauce, or put the pan back in the oven briefly to warm it.

Transfer the chicken pieces to a cutting board and tent with foil. Transfer the apricots and olives to a small bowl and reserve. Hold one end of the pan with a potholder and gently tilt the pan to let the juices run into one corner. With a large, shallow spoon, spoon off as much fat as possible but leave any savory juices and pan drippings behind (they may look clumpy). Add 2 Tbs. water to the pan (or 1 Tbs. to each of the two pans) and use a wooden spoon to scrape off enough of the baked-on pan drippings from the sides and bottom of the pan to form a slightly thickened, deeply colored, rich-looking sauce (you won’t need to scrape the whole pan). Taste the sauce—if it’s too intense, add a little more water; if it isn’t flavorful enough, keep scraping and stirring. 

Cut each chicken breast in half by centering a large chef’s knife over it and then pushing down and slicing at the same time (the knife will cut right through the cartilage). Serve a thigh and half of a breast per portion, with a few spoonfuls of sauce and the reserved apricots and olives.  Garnish with a sprig of flat-leaf parsley or cilantro if you like.

Serving Suggestions

Serve with Green Beans with Smoked Paprika and Almonds and some rice or roasted potatoes. 

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 750, Fat (kcal): 43, Fat Calories (g): 390, Saturated Fat (g): 10, Protein (g): 49, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 23, Carbohydrates (mg): 42, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 7, Sodium (g): 1520, Cholesterol (g): 170, Fiber (g): 3,

Photo: Scott Phillips

Unbelievable flavour and texture. Surprisingly easy to prepare. The meat dissolves in your mouth. I used free range organic bird which added to the taste of this superb dish. I also lowered the temperature and covered the bird with parchment paper to prevent from browning too quickly. It is a keeper.

Delicious. I've made this and the others in this same article numerous times. It's a great dish for company, so good, and most can be done ahead, then into the oven. Succulent, juicy, flavourful...what more can I say. Make this.

Easy and very flavorful!

Lovely dish - I looked at the ingredients without really looking at the instructions. Only as I was making it did I realize that it called for 6 hours of marinating time. I made it sans the marinating time (just the marinade) and it was so good. I look forward to making it again according to the directions!

This recipe is delicious! I will make it with more marinade next time for more sauce. YUM!

We make this all of the time. I increase the amounts of the ingredients (to approximately double) in the marinade because I like it to be more saucy. I serve it over a small, ball-shaped toasted pasta called "fregola" which comes from Sardinia. It's a great combination.

This is, by far, the most requested recipe I have. Every time I have made this dish-- since the recipe was originally published several years ago-- my guests want a copy! The flavors meld together very well, the pale ale and saffron rice compliment the sweetness of the sauce, and its really, really easy to make (especially if you have 24 hours notice of a dinner party!)

This dish has become a frequent flyer in our house. It has the virtue of being both special and easy, with the extra bonus of being made ahead almost entirely. I always serve it with a very simple almond pilaf to soak up the generous sauce. We have enjoyed the other recipes from this article, but this one is by far our favorite.

This was so easy to make and very flavourful. A nice mix of salty sweet and good consistency and color to the sauce and chicken. Definitely a repeated dish in my house.

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