This chicken l’orange recipe is a rendition of an age old classic French dish.
To say that chicken l’orange is an old classic is somewhat of an understatement. This recipe is actually inspired by the duck a l’orange recipe which originated around the 16th century. While the French claim fame to the dish, the Italians tend to dispute that fact.
Thanks to Julia Child’s 1960 publication of her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the dish became extremely popular. So popular in fact, that it was the stylish dish to serve at most fancy dinner parties and upscale restaurants. So stylish, that it soon fell out style. In culinary terms, people got sick of it. Chef Gordon Ramsay on a 2005 episode of his reality TV show, Kitchen Nightmares was served duck a l’orange. “The culinary equivalent of flared trousers.”, he screamed. Wow! Does great flavor or classic dishes ever go out of style? Unfortunately Julia Child died the year before, otherwise I think she’d have kicked his ass. He’s such a dick!
Unfortunately, people rarely eat duck anymore. It doesn’t help that decent duck is almost impossible to find in America, unless you count the puny Pekin duck (Long Island duck), which I don’t. Therefore, what’s wrong with chicken? Chicken l’orange works just as well.
This chicken l’orange recipe tries to utilize the best features of the French classic. We want that same crispy skin, succulent and juicy meat and a creamy and sweet citrus sauce.
For this recipe to work, a spatchcocked chicken was used. I’d imagine that a whole chicken would have sufficed if it were cooked rotisserie-style, it’s just that the increased surface area that a spatchcocked chicken provides us is more conducive to the characteristics we are trying to achieve in replicated the French classic. If you’re new to the concept of a spatchcock chicken or are unsure how it’s done, read this article: How to Spatchcock (Butterfly) a Chicken
In addition, we employed the low-and-slow theory when cooking this bird. That’s just the only way we could make it happen in order to achieve our desired results. So plan on at least three hours of cook time. Trust me, it’ll be worth the wait.
Keep in mind, I never said this is the exact rendition of the classic, only “inspired by”. We’re grillmasters around here. We don’t do the exact rendition of anything! I’m not sure what Julia might think about this interpretation of the recipe, but I believe she would agree that new life needed to be pumped into this dish. I think she’d like it, but for sure…you will!
- 1 spatchcocked chicken
- 1 cup orange juice concentrate
- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- juice of two fresh oranges
- a handful of smoking chips, soaked in water for 30 minutes (two-thirds hickory and a third mesquite, preferred.)
- In a saucepan, add all wet rub ingredients except the juice from the oranges.
- Simmer over medium heat while stirring. Continue to cook until butter has melted and all ingredients are well blended.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
- Place saucepan in the refrigerator. If in a hurry, place in freezer for faster cooling. While keeping a close eye on it, allow wet rub to solidify somewhat to the consistency of a thin paste. (it's the butter that will start to solidify). This is a great time to spatchcock your bird.
- Once the wet rub reaches paste form, reserve a half cup that we'll use for our glaze and set aside.
- Liberally apply the wet rub to all surfaces of the chicken. Also, get under as much skin as possible. It's a slightly messy job. If you have some disposable latex gloves, this is a great time to use them.
- Once rubbed down, place the chicken in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for 20 minutes or up to an hour.
- Return the saucepan with any remaining wet rub to the stovetop. Add the reserved wet rub and the juice of two oranges and whisk well. Set aside.
- Prepare a grill for 2-zone cooking (the fire off to one side only). Target temperature should be about 325°F (165°C).
- Place chicken on clean and well oiled cooking grates on the cooler side of the grill. Position the bird breast side up.
- If using, sprinkle the smoking chips onto the coals. If using a gas grill, make a foil packet with chips and pierce several holes in it with a fork. Place under grates on top of burners or heat diverter plates. Cover grill.
- Allow chicken to cook for an hour while maintaining the correct temperature.
- Just prior to the end of the first hour of the cook, return the saucepan to the stove and slightly warm the glaze.
- Without moving the chicken, brush with the glaze and cover grill.
- Each half hour, repeat. Confirm that your fuel source is sufficient and add more smoking chips if desired. Using an instant-read meat thermometer, begin monitoring the meat's temperature during the last hour.
- Continue to cook until the breast registers 160°F (70°C) and the thighs register 175°F (80°C) (about 3 hours)
- Remove from the grill and cover with foil. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Brush again with any remaining glaze and carve. Serve immediately.
Speaking of Julia Child…who can forget this chicken classic.