Latin Spice Roast Chicken with Chimichurri Sauce

In the spring of my sophomore year at college, my group of friends decided to host an informal Passover Seder in our dorm. I'm not Jewish, but many of my friends are and so we decided it would be fun to celebrate together before heading off to our respective hometowns for Passover/Easter break. I'd already established myself as the chef in the group and so one-by-one, my friends brought by their mother's recipes for me to prepare. Instead of a recipe, my friend Jeff showed up at my door with an 8-pound chicken.

"I bought this...can you do something with it?" he asked as he handed over the cold, heavy bird inside of a plastic bag from the university grocer.

"Sure!" I said, not mentioning that I'd never actually cooked a whole chicken before.

I put the bird in the fridge and called my mom who detailed her method for cooking chicken; a method that included a wet rub of aromatics and spices, copious butter under the skin, an apricot glaze, and roasting the bird breast-side down.

I swapped olive oil for the butter to keep things semi-kosher, but followed the rest of her instructions with incredible results; my friends were literally gnawing on the bones to get the last bits of flavor. That became my standard chicken recipe, one that I've shared with friends who have now made it part of their own traditions. Every so often, I meet people who tell me "Oh, I make your chicken all the time!" It's even made it around the world thanks to my friend Alaina, who makes it for her friends in Melbourne, where she now lives.

For that recipe, you can check out this post, but TODAY I want to share with you my new favorite. Crispy Latin Spice Roast Chicken with Chimichurri Sauce.

This recipe is a little bit less involved than my other and produces a crispier-skinned chicken. The chicken is rubbed with a mix of smoked paprika, cumin, cayenne, butter, salt and pepper, then the inside is stuffed with oranges and cilantro.

The whole thing is trussed and then left uncovered in the fridge overnight to "dry." This is how you get that super crispy skin. The oranges keep the inside moist and the paprika adds incredible smokey flavor and color.

This low-key bird is truly a perfect weeknight chicken. Prep it the night before and pop it in the oven when you get home from work. Then you can relax with a glass of wine or watch the evening news while the oven does all the work.

I serve it topped with a spicy, zesty Argentine chimichurri sauce and some roasted vegetables (rutabaga in this case) that I cook right in the chicken fat (dice them up and add them to the roasting pan about halfway through cooking). I then save the carcass to make a spicy Latin-inspired chicken soup for my husband to take to work.

If you like dishes with a little bit of spicy kick, definitely give this one a try.

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Latin Spice Roast Chicken with Chimichurri

For the Chicken:
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons smoked spanish paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large roasting chicken, about 5-7lbs
1 navel orange, cut into quarters
1 bunch fresh cilantro, trimmed, washed and dried.

For the sauce:
1 cup fresh parsley with only the bottom two inches of stems removed (about 1/2 average sized bunch)
1 cup fresh cilantro (leaves and stems)
5 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 rounded tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons apple cider (or other mild) vinegar
Juice of 1 whole lime
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for topping off

Whisk together the butter, paprika, cumin, oregano, cayenne, salt, and pepper.  Rinse the chicken under cold water and then pat very dry. Massage the entire chicken with the spice rub, making sure to coat inside the chicken. Use your fingers to separate the skin from the breast and pour some of the butter mixture inside, using your fingers to push into all the crevices. Stuff in the inside with the orange, cilantro, and onion. Truss the legs closed and place breast side up on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Place in fridge and leave uncovered to chill overnight.

When ready to roast. Remove chicken from fridge and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place chicken in oven and roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until skin is crisp and a knife inserted in the thickest part of the thigh produces only clear juices.

While chicken roasts, prepare the sauce by combining all the ingredients in a food processor and processing until smooth.

Serve chicken with chimichurri sauce.

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