For my mom’s 50th birthday a few weeks ago, I decided to serve Lechon Manok, or Filipino roasted chicken as the main dish (along with some Salt and Pepper shrimp but that’s a different post).
So in preparation I made two different versions of it to see which one I would actually serve. Plus as a bonus it totally fit within my budget meal plan since buying a whole chicken is cheaper than buying parts. This version, marinated in a pineapple juice base and then brushed with annatto oil is the one that got served at the party.
If you’re one of those people who have an outdoor area with a grill and a rotisserie attachment (lucky you!) I highly recommend cooking it rotisserie style. Alas, since I’m sadly lacking in that department I stuck with my standard roasting in the oven method.
For all of my roasted poultry, lately I’ve been doing a dual temperature cooking method. After preheating the oven to 375 F, the breast gets covered with foil and roasted it until it hits 135 F. Then the foil gets removed, the heat cranked up to 425 F and the chicken roasts until a probe thermometer reads 163 F (Note – the USDA recommends cooking it until 165, but with carryover cooking I find it easily surpasses that temp after resting). After removing from the oven I like to let my chicken rest for at least 20 (and often 30) minutes before carving.
I’ll admit it though, this is not exactly the healthiest main dish I’ve featured (hello eating it with skin and brushed with oil) but for a special occasion it’s a great option. If I’m doing my standard roasted option I keep the same two temperature roasting method but I’ll usually combine ½ Tbsp olive oil with 1 Tbsp of herbs and rub that underneath the skin, directly on to the breast, drum and thigh meat and then discard the skin after roasting.
As a disclaimer, this recipe is a bit time-consuming. It doesn’t have a lot of actual hands on time, but does require that you plan ahead since it marinates for a day and then rests without the marinade for another.
- 1 whole chicken (about 3 ½ lbs)
- 1 cup pineapple juice
- ½ cup + 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce
- ¼ cup Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
- 2 Tbsp packed dark brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp calamansi juice (can sub lemon juice)
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 (1 inch) piece of fresh ginger, skin removed and roughly chopped
- 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
- ½ tsp Chinese 5 Spice powder
- 2 shallots, peeled and cut into fourths
- 3 stalks of lemongrass
- 2 Tbsp annatto oil (see notes below)
- Using poultry lacers or needles, prick the chicken all over, front and back, from breasts to drums to thighs. The poultry lacers don’t need to go particularly deep, but this will help the marinade get deeper into the meat.
- Combine pineapple juice through 5 spice powder and stir well to combine. In a large pot or bowl or bag, place the chicken and then pour marinade over. Marinate for 24 hours, flipping a few times throughout the marinating process.
- After 24 hours, set up a roasting rack (this will need to fit into your fridge) and line with foil. Remove chicken from marinade and discard the marinade. Pat chicken as dry as possible and place on roasting rack. Put it back in the fridge to allow the skin to dry out and leave for another 24 hrs.
- One hour before roasting remove the chicken from the fridge and allow to come closer to room temp (if for some reason it’s 90 F or above in the kitchen only let it sit out for 30 minutes). Place the lemongrass on a cutting board and using the flat side of the knife and your hand, pound the lemongrass to bruise the bulb. Fold and place inside of the chicken. Place quartered, peeled shallots inside chicken as well.
- Preheat oven to 375 F. Right before roasting, tuck wings under chicken. Shield breast with foil and insert probe thermometer into the deepest part of the thigh. Roast until the chicken temperature hits 135 (this will take about 40 – 45 minutes).
- Remove chicken from oven and discard the foil. Increase the oven temperature to 425 F. Using a basting brush, brush about half of the annatto oil mixture all over the chicken (don’t forget the drums and thighs!). Place the chicken back into the oven and continue to roast.
- Once the chicken hits 150 F, quickly brush the remaining oil over the chicken. Continue to roast until the temperature reads 163 F (another 20 – 30 minutes) then pull from the oven and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.
To Make Annatto Oil: Using a small saucepan on medium to medium low heat, heat 2 Tbsp neutral flavored oil (I use grapeseed). Add in 1 Tbsp of annatto seeds and cook until fragrant and the oil turns bright red, about 2 to 4 minutes. Strain the oil into a bowl and discard the annatto seeds.