Slow-Roasted Chicken Tacos with Mediterranean Salsa
When I first moved to Paris, I frequented an adorable rotisserie chicken stand a couple blocks from my apartment. While the smell was intoxicating, and the golden poulets rôtis were truly a sight to behold, I must admit that I was first drawn to the place based on the very sexy dude handling the birds. This man, who I affectionately referred to as “chicken man,” was one of the highlights of my early Parisian tenure and is at least partially responsible for my deep-seated love of slow-roasted poultry.
Chicken man was like a young Brad Pitt crossed with Diego Luna (who you’d know from either Y Tu Mamá También or Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, depending on your level of film snobbery), and I felt strangely drawn to him. This attraction may or may not have been due to my lackluster social life at the time, but whatever. A future (or a few evenings) as chicken woman seemed exciting, and I was determined to make that happen.
So, for a solid two months, I visited chicken man’s rotisserie on the reg. I’d order a bird in my sassiest French, smile seductively and then wander slowly down the street, believing that he might eventually chase after me and offer to share my dinner. He’d remove his apron, and we’d use it as a makeshift picnic blanket as we ate warm chicken and cheese on fresh baguettes by the Seine. Afterwards, we’d stroll through the Marais and maybe salsa dance to a Shakira song (featuring Wyclef) on the cobblestones. It would be glorious.
Much to my surprise, this scenario never played out, but I do have fond memories of our exchanges and the boatload of rotisserie chicken that I ate during the spring and summer of 2010. No hard feelings, chicken man.
Whether or not it’s served by a beautiful, ethnically ambiguous Parisian, everyone knows that rotisserie chicken is bomb, and I’ve long dreamed of recreating the magic at home. (Yes, I regularly consider buying an infomercial rotisserie, but I’ve never pulled the trigger because I’m saving for a Bowflex I have limited storage space.) So you can imagine how pumped I was when I recently stumbled across a recipe for “fauxtisserie” chicken in an old issue of Bon Appétit.
The editors claimed that roasting a chicken at 300 degrees for 3 hours would yield fabulously tender, fall-off-the-bone meat sans spit, and although I was slightly skeptical, I decided to give the technique a shot. Instead of rubbing the chicken with herbs and roasting it over potatoes à la BA, I chose to cook my bird solo with a Mediterranean-inspired spice rub loaded with paprika, oregano, crushed red pepper and a touch of cumin. I had fancy taco plans for its future, but we’re getting to that.
As the bird slowly turned a deep dark shade of brown and my apartment began to smell ridiculously awesome, my expectations for its epic deliciousness increased exponentially. After finally removing it from the oven, I paced anxiously while it rested. Then I started taking photos, afraid that if I had even one bite of chicken, I’d lose control and eat the whole thing before getting any glamour shots. That was a very good call because…
THIS IS THE BEST ROAST CHICKEN OF ALL TIME.
For real though, my world may never be the same.
This chicken. This chicken is the most perfect, mind-blowingly tender, unapologetically MOIST chicken that I have ever made. The meat can be easily pulled from the bone with your fingers, and the skin is a dreamy combination of crisp and sticky. It’s so insanely good that I now regret making such a fuss about Jamie’s chicken. Don’t get me wrong, Jamie’s chicken is DANK, but now that I’ve claimed two chickens to be “the best,” you may not take me seriously. I’m the girl that cried perfect chicken. Blergh.
Even if you choose not to believe me on this being the best chicken ever, you still need the fauxtisserie bird in your life. And while I wouldn’t judge you for eating the entire thing with your hands and dipping it only in its pan juices, I strongly recommend following my lead and going the Mediterranean taco route. I spread warm tortillas with a generous amount of garlicky yogurt sauce, piled them high with juicy chicken and spiced skin, a refreshing cucumber, bell pepper and tomato “salsa,” and a sprinkling of feta cheese. The resulting flavor bomb was simultaneously savory, fresh, creamy, and tangy. I wanted to cry a little bit.
(As always, feel free to swap tortillas for lettuce wraps if you want to keep things super light. Hint hint.)
I know some of you are going to freak when you see the length of this recipe’s ingredient list, and God knows there’ll be pushback on the 3-hour time commitment. Cool out. In terms of ze ingredients, many are spices that you should already have in stock, and there’s significant ingredient overlap between the chicken, salsa and yogurt sauce. As far as cooking time goes, you’re right, 3 hours is a long time. That said, there’s only about 30 minutes of hands-on time total, and the rest is just waiting.
Clearly, these tacos would make an excellent weekend project, but you could definitely pull them off on a quieter weeknight as well. If you get the bird in the oven by 6pm, you can watch a movie, go to the gym(?), call your mom, take a nap, etc., and sit down to dinner by 9. I know that’s a rather Parisian dinner hour, but it’s doable.
Who feels like chicken tonight?
Slow-Roasted Chicken Tacos with Mediterranean Salsa: (Serves 4)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 3½ -4 pound whole chicken
½ lemon, quartered
5 cloves garlic, unpeeled and smashed
For the Mediterranean Salsa:
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon coarse black pepper
2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1 red bell pepper, cut into a small dice
½ English cucumber, cut into a small dice
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced into rounds
¼ medium red onion, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped
For the Yogurt Sauce:
½ cup non-fat Greek Yogurt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, grated or finely minced
Warm flour or corn tortillas
3 ounces crumbled feta cheese
Preparing your Slow-Roasted Chicken Tacos with Mediterranean Salsa:
-Pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees.
-In a small bowl, combine the salt, paprika, oregano, black pepper, red pepper and cumin. Briefly set aside.
-Rinse your chicken (obviously remove any giblets/nasty stuff) from the cavity) and dry it well with paper towels. Stuff the cavity with the lemon quarters and smashed garlic cloves.
-Carefully run your fingers underneath the skin on the breasts of your bird. Rub the breasts underneath the skin with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of the spice mixture. (I know that sounds creepy. Sorry.) Rub the remaining olive oil on the chicken’s skin. Then season all over with the remaining spice mixture. When you’re finished with the spicing, tie the legs together with chicken twine and place the bird in a cast iron skillet or roasting pan. (Your choice!)
-Roast your chicken for 2½-3 hours, basting once every hour (no need for a baster—just spoon any juices in the pan over the bird), until the meat is very tender and the skin is fabulously brown. FYI, my bird was barely 3.5 pounds, so I took it out after 2½ hours, and it was perfect.
-While your chicken is slow-roasting, get to work on your salsa. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, pepper and garlic.
-To assemble your tacos: Spread a generous spoonful of yogurt sauce on each tortilla. Top with slow-roasted chicken (get some skin in there!) and Mediterranean salsa, and sprinkle with feta.
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