Strictly speaking, this isn't a traditional Persian recipe. But the combination of saffron and citrus, so important to that wonderfully complex cuisine, infuses the simple roasted chicken with fabulous flavor. Clementines are especially nice in this recipe because their characteristic sweet and sour notes echo the flavor principles of Persian cuisine. If they aren't in season, you can substitute a small orange.
Tip: If you are making this recipe for Passover and can't find kosher for Pesach saffron, feel free to omit it, but do add the 2 tablespoons of water to the pan to help keep the onions from scorching.
- 1 yellow or Spanish onion, peeled, trimmed, halved and sliced
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling on the chicken
- 2 lemons
- 2 clementines
- 3-1/2 to 5-pound roasting chicken
- Kosher or sea salt
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cumin
Preheat the oven to 450 F. Spread the onion slices in the bottom of a roasting pan.
Place the warm water in a small bowl. Rub the saffron threads between your fingers to crush them and add to the water. Set aside.
Place the olive oil in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. Juice the lemons and clementines, and add the juices to the oil. Set aside the lemon rinds, and discard the clementine rinds.
Remove any giblets and the neck from the chicken, and pluck any pin feathers. Rinse inside and out with cold water, and pat dry. Place the chicken breast up on top of the onions. Stuff the cavity with the lemon rinds. If desired, truss the chicken. Drizzle the chicken with a little olive oil and massage it over the skin with clean hands. Sprinkle the chicken evenly with a pinch of kosher or sea salt, the cinnamon, and the cumin, and rub the spices all over the skin.
Add the saffron water to the oil and citrus juice mixture. Whisk to emulsify, and pour evenly over the chicken.
Roast the chicken in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 425 F. Continue roasting, basting occasionally, until cooked through, about 50 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken. When done, the juices will run clear, the leg will wiggle freely, and a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh will register 160 F/71 C. Remove the chicken from the oven, and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before carving.