I have never been one to reject a plateful of brown food. In fact, many nights, it’s all I crave. What, may you ask, is brown food? When your meal has the color palette of a pile of burlap sacks, at its most vibrant point, you have brown food on your hands. Usually, this means it’s a plate that you aren’t particularly proud of and don’t necessarily leap over hurdles to share on social media.
Why don’t I rush to share my barnyard-sized trough of noodles tossed with parmesan and cut up chicken breast on instagram? Typically, the toneless variety of consumption that includes platters of fried catfish, heaps of penne with cheese, and mounds of mashed taters with gravy has little to no nutritional value. Furthermore, without a beautiful plate or finishing of green, such foods may not be worthy of a dinner party centerpiece or a viral social media post. I am apt to believe that this very dilemma is where the sprinkling of parsley and the shoving of curly kale around the dish’s perimeter originated. Nothing distracts from fried and butter-soaked than a beautiful dusting of freshly chopped chives, right?
When food is vibrant and colorful–unless the color is provided by red dye number five, mind you–it is a sign of nature and health being present. I believe amongst the wellness bloggers of the world, the phrase “eat the rainbow” is used to express this simple guide towards eating more whole. The beauty of a dish infused with an abundance of color is an added bonus bringing the visual score well above that platter of fried cutlets.
The chicken on today’s menu embodies and embraces color found in nature. Turmeric is one of, if not the most common “yellowing” spice out there. It’s characteristic yellow staining comes along with a beautiful aroma and a light bitter taste. It is this bitterness, however, that I was concerned with when I set out to make a roasted chicken as golden as the sun. If you use too much turmeric, either fresh or ground, the bitterness can overwhelm and sour the dish, as a whole.
Golden beets are roasted and incorporated into the marinade bringing not only more sunlight but natural sugars that caramelize onto the skin as the bird roasts. Fresh garlic, that turmeric we’ve been discussing, cayenne pepper, dried oregano, and olive oil round out the marinade and guarantee the most beautiful flavor (and color).
The marinade can sit for up to eight hours and as little as two hours. This allows this dish to appear on a weeknight, with the chicken alright to sit while you work or it can moonlight on a sunday evening, with the bird intent to rest all day while you watch on nearby.
After the marination completes its duty, the chicken is surrounded in the roasting pan (or cast iron, viva la cast iron, for me) with quartered lemons caramelize as the roast goes. The lemons, unlike that tasteless foliage of deli case garnish, add flavor to the pan drippings for a bright and deeply complex sauce. Also, lemons are yellow. After all, let’s stay on theme, shall we? The recipe is below this lovely, sunshiney chicken photo.
- 3/4 cup roasted, golden beets (see notes for roasting directions)
- 4 cloves fresh garlic
- 1 teaspoon fresh, grated turmeric (can substitute 1 teaspoon dried, ground turmeric)
- 1/2 teaspoon hot cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 whole chicken, giblets removed, 3-4 pounds
- 2 fresh lemons, quartered
- Make the marinade. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender. Pulse/blend until fully puréed.
- Marinate the chicken. After removing giblets, rinse chicken with cool water and pat with paper towels until completely dried both inside and outside. Place in a large zip-top bag or baking dish lined with saran wrap. Coat chicken with marinade and ensure, with your hands, that the marinade is completely coating the bird. Let the chicken marinade from two to eight hours.
- Roast the chicken. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the marinated chicken in a cast iron skillet or roasting pan. Surround the chicken with the quartered lemons. Roast the chicken for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and continue to cook 18 minutes per pound, until the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees.
- Finish the sauce. Remove lemons and juice them to yield 1/2 cup of lemon juice. Set the remaining lemons aside for garnish. Place the cast iron skillet or roasting pan over a burner set to low heat. Let the browned bits cook for 1-2 minutes or until you can see them beginning to sizzle. Add the lemon juice to the pan and whisk until a smooth sauce is formed. Let reduce for 1 minute.
- Serve the chicken. Serve the sauce and quartered, roasted lemons on top and alongside pieces of carved chicken.
- To roast golden beets, place skin on, in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until tender throughout. Let cool. Skin should slide off easily with a towel and some pressure.
- Chicken needs to marinate at least two hours but can marinate up to eight hours.