Roasted Five-Spice Chicken

Dsc01628 We set our clocks ahead this weekend, which means that the evenings here in the southwest will grow warmer very soon.  In Las Vegas, spring comes and goes in the blink of an eye, and before we know it, the temperature has zoomed into triple digits, and it pretty much stays there for 4 months.  As unbelievable as it may sound, on these hot days, even I try to keep the oven off as much as possible, and our meals typically consist of fresh salads, outdoor grilling, or light antipasto-style spreads.  So, last night I decided to take advantage of what I’m sure was one of our last cool evenings and prepare a roast chicken dinner.

A roasting chicken serves as a blank canvas for whatever flavors you wish to incorporate into your meal.  Although I roast chicken fairly often, it never gets old because I change the seasonings and sauces each time, such as a French-inspired Herbes-de-Provence rub or a Carolina barbecue glaze.  Season, stick in the oven, and an hour-and-a-half later, dinner is served.

Last night, I decided to make a Chinese-style roast chicken, seasoned with two quintessential Asian flavors, hoisin sauce and five-spice powder.   The standard recipe for five-spice powder calls for fennel, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and sichuan peppercorns, and you can find it in any supermarket spice aisle.  Although the origins are unknown, there is some thought that the Chinese were trying to invent a "wonder powder" that encompassed all of the five flavors: sour, bitter, sweet, salty, and pungent.  On the other hand, it’s possible that some guy combined these five ingredients by accident and discovered that they liven up even the blandest dish.  Either way, the flavor is distinct.  Hoisin is a thick sauce that combines sweet and spicy flavors, and it is often referred to as a Chinese barbecue sauce.  In this recipe, it caramelizes beautifully on the chicken, making a nice crispy exterior.  Here are my tips for this five-spiced feast:

  • The rice stuffing can be prepared one day in advance and then refrigerated, covered, until ready to stuff the chicken.  Do not stuff the chicken in advance and do not stuff the chicken with warm stuffing–a big food safety no-no!
  • This recipe would be a great way to use leftover Chinese take-out fried rice or regular rice.  Use it in place of the brown rice for the stuffing.
  • If the chicken becomes too dark during the baking process, then loosely tent it with foil for the remainder.   It may take a bit longer for the chicken to reach the 155F temperature, depending on your oven, the size of the chicken, and the amount of stuffing that you added.
  • I prefer to use the hot turkey-sausage for this recipe, because it is lower in fat, but you can substitute regular hot Italian sausage.

Roasted Five-Spice Chicken

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 hot Italian turkey sausages, casings removed

1 red or orange bell pepper, choppedDsc01620

2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger

1/3 cup chopped scallions

2 cups cooked brown rice

Salt and pepper to taste

One 4 1/2-5 pound roasting chicken

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.  In a heavy skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat, until no longer pink, 3-4 minutes.  Add the bell pepper, ginger, and scallions and cook, stirring, until the pepper has started to soften, about 4 minutes.  Add the rice, season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.  Let cook to room temperature.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place in a roasting pan.  Stuff the cavity with the rice mixture.  Brush the chicken with 1 tablespoon of oil and roast for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a small bow, combine the hoisin sauce, five-spice powder, and the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Brush the sauce all over the chicken and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted deep into the stuffing and the thickest part of the thigh registers 155F degrees, about 30 minutes.  Let rest for 10 minutes.

Scoop out the stuffing and slice the chicken.  Serve with a sprinkle of cilantro, if desired.

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