A Simple Yet Delicious Recipe to Add Some Flare to Chicken Night
By Steve “Mo” Fye
The pomegranate has a bold sweet-and-sour taste that has been used in the cuisines of lands from the Middle East to Asia and the New World alike.
Pomegranate is delicious, but can be difficult to process. This is why many cooks (myself included until recently) do not use it more. But with a few clever tips, the “seeded apple” (literally what the name means in Latin) can be quickly rendered down to its juicy, bursting seeds.
Cut off the top tenth of the pomegranate with a very sharp knife. Score the skin deeply at each white membrane down the side to the bottom. In a bowl of cold water, break up the fruit in sections. The pulpy membrane will float while the seeds sink to the bottom. Skim off the membrane and the water will dissolve the sugars holding the seeds in clumps. Drain and enjoy as a snack, or use the seeds to elevate a simple entrée to new levels.
The pomegranate’s wealth of flavor lends itself well to proteins such as pork or chicken and other fowl. When mixed with aromatic alliums such as onions, shallots or garlic, it can be stuffed under the bird’s skin and will flavor and color the meat while allowing the skin to get crispy.
The problem with roasting whole land fowl is that the lean, rarely exercised breast meat cooks far more quickly than the fatty legs and thighs. Instead of stuffing the cavity try putting flavorings between the skin and the flesh. Although stuffing can produce amazing flavors, it’s risky – it leaves the stuffing at unsafe temperatures, soaking up possibly contaminated juices for far too long.
The seeds from one large pomegranate are plenty for a 6-pound fryer chicken. Mix the seeds with an equal weight of minced shallot, half the weight of pureed onion or a quarter the weight in minced garlic, and include some salt and freshly-ground pepper.
Pierce the chicken’s skin (but not the flesh) with a sharp knife or nip it with kitchen shears every inch or so. This will allow steam to vent so the skin gets crispy.
Using your (clean!) fingers, separate the skin from the breasts, thighs and back of the chicken. Stuff a thick layer of pomegranate mix under the skin and truss the chicken. There are a multitude of videos online showing how to truss.
Rub the skin with salt, pepper and red chile powder before roasting (in an elevated rack in a roasting pan) in a 375°F oven for about 18 minutes per pound, or until the chicken registers 160°F in the thickest part of the thigh. Carryover cooking will bring the chicken to a safe temp of 165°F once it is laid on a cutting board and allowed to rest.
Chicken cooked this way does not necessarily need a sauce, but the drippings from roasting can be skimmed of fat and thickened with a flour or corn starch slurry then reduced to make a great sauce. Since the juices from the pomegranate seeds are acidic, it will take extra starch to make a thick sauce.
Once the chicken has rested, carve it with a sharp knife, taking each breast off the carcass whole. The wings and drumsticks can be served whole. The white meat will be moist and flavorful and may take a touch of color from the pomegranate seeds.
Any neutral starch is a great side, and bitter green veggies (wilted arugula is amazing!) are perfect to balance the sweet and sour.
Steve “Mo” Fye is an Instructional Tech in the Culinary Arts program at Central New Mexico Community College and knows that teaching means learning – one of his students (shout-out to Rex!) recently taught him the quick and easy way to handle pomegranate.