Hye Thyme Cafe: Upside Down Citrus Chicken

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Upside Down Citrus Chicken

Upside Down Citrus Chicken : Hye Thyme Cafe

We were talking about roasted chicken the other day and I thought you know what ... I don't think I've cooked a "whole" chicken in about 20 years! I know I've made at least one or two, because I remember being grossed out cleaning them, but I have no idea what, if anything, I did to them at the time. I got it in my head to make a citrus chicken. We all tend to eat white meat in our family, so we usually use chicken breasts. When we roast whole chickens, the wings and legs usually get passed on to a friend so they don't go to waste.

I thought it was funny when I first checked on my chickens and realized you could start to see the citrus slices peeking through the skin. I was very pleased with the way they turned out color-wise, except I apparently ignored the legs when slathering the outside with citrus herb butter. It wasn't until carving time that I realized what an idiot I am. I cooked them upside down!!!! I am very glad that I decided to use fennel stalks for a roasting rack. I hate when meats get dark lines on from a rack. That would have been especially bad when I flipped these babies over and saw how badly the other side needed a tan. Definitely wouldn't have been a good thing to see those gray lines across them!

I am very pleased to say these chickens turned out extremely juicy and delicious, so my story is that I cooked them upside down on purpose so all that nice juice would run down into the breast meat instead of away from it.  ;)

I served the chicken with Quinoa and an Olive/Asparagus veggie mix. Because I've posted a similar veggie mix before, I'll keep everything together today rather than doing separate posts.

2 chickens (these were around 4 lb)
2-3 lemons
2-3 oranges
4-5 cloves of garlic
1/4 c butter
sea salt
lemon pepper
rosemary (I didn't have fresh today)
fresh thyme

1 c quinoa
2 c chicken broth
lemon pepper
lemon / orange zest

1 T butter
1 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb asparagus
container of mixed olives/peppers from olive bar
1 bulb fennel
lemon / orange juice
lemon / orange zest
powdered ginger

For the chicken, I sprayed my baking pan with a little PAM, then scattered the fennel stalks in the bottom to act as a rack.

Wash and pat your chickens dry, then liberally season the inside with sea salt and pepper. I always dump some onto a paper plate or a piece of waxed paper when I'm doing something like this so I don't touch the containers again and cross-contaminate. 

Cut one or two lemons and oranges into wedges and stuff the cavities with the citrus, squeezing in some of the juice as you do, and adding some of your rosemary, thyme, and garlic along the way. If you're like me and don't want to deal with sewing or pinning your chicken closed, cram half an onion in the end to seal in the steam from the citrus.

Now that they're stuffed, mix some more of your thyme and rosemary into the softened butter, then add some of the lemon and orange zest. Slice one of your lemons and one of your oranges, slather a slice with the butter mixture and slide it under the skin of the chicken, continuing until you can't fit any more. Slather the outside of your chickens with whatever butter you have left, then sprinkle with more of the citrus zest and a sprinkling of paprika. I love the color paprika gives a roasted chicken!

Set the chickens over the fennel stalks and toss them in a 350 oven for about an hour and a half - it's up to you if you want to put them in right-side-up or up-side-down. ;)  Ovens vary, as do chicken weights. They should come out at an internal temp between 155-160. That will go up a few degrees as they rest.

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I cooked 1c of quinoa in 2c of chicken broth and threw in a little minced garlic. When that was ready and being kept warm waiting for the chickens to come out, I fluffed it with some of the remaining citrus zest.

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As for the veggies, I started off by blanching the asparagus for 4" in boiling, lightly salted, water, then plunging them into cold water to stop them from cooking any more. When they cooled, I cut them into 1" pieces. I then sauteed the garlic and sliced fennel until soft, then added my chopped olive/pepper mixture and squeezed in some lemon and orange juice from the slices I had left.

I let that cook for a few minutes, then added my remaining thyme and citrus zest. When I went to put the garlic pepper away, the ginger popped out at me, so I decided to add some ginger to the veggies for a change. I tossed the asparagus in at the end, continued cooking for a minute or so to bring the asparagus back up to temp then turned off the heat and covered the pan so the residual heat would finish it off while my chickens were resting.

I was so thrown by realizing I had cooked my chickens upside-down that I forgot to take a picture of the whole plate. I did think to take a close-up of the chicken so you could see how nice and juicy it was! You can just see the veggies and quiona sneaking into the picture on the right. I plated a big serving of quinoa, spooned the veggies over the top then sliced the chicken on a platter so everyone could take as much as they wanted. The pan juices made for a really nice gravy as well! Whisked it with a little butter, Wondra, and a few drops of Gravy Master for color. If you've got any left, you can throw in some more rosemary and thyme to tie everything together.

Upside Down Citrus Chicken : Hye Thyme Cafe

Upside Down Citrus Chicken : Hye Thyme Cafe

UPDATE:  I won't lie and say it was intentional, but I have since found out that a lot of people bake their chickens upside down on purpose. Who knew?!? 


  1. Your chicken dish looks really delish and perfect for spring!

  2. Thanks Nancy! But seriously, you're laughing at me ... just a little bit, right? I can take it! ;)

  3. Yum! We love baked our chicken at our house. I have made a lemon chicken with lemon zest and minced garlic under the skin. Thanks for adding a new method to my repetoire.

  4. Hey, I guess if you can make a beer can chicken, you can make an upside down chicken. LOL Just needed a spray tan on the bottom ... errrrr the top?? ;)

  5. We make roast chickens like this all the time. Did you by any chance make gravy with the drippings? Everyone always loves that here and always asks what our secret ingredients are. We also love the flavor the thyme imparts.

  6. OK Patti, thanks for making me feel better! ;)

    When you make them this way (on purpose) do you start them on one side and flip them so the other side gets color?

    Yes, we did have a gravy. OOPS...forgot to mention that we included a smidge of brown sugar in the gravy to balance the acidity from the citrus.

  7. OOps Chris, I meant that we make chickens and turkeys with the citrus inside and out. My husband is such a brown crispy skin I would be afraid to try them breast side down.

  8. Oh sure, make me feel better for a minute there, then pull the rug right out from under me. I see how it is! ;)


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