Mandarin Barbecued Chicken

'Oh,' you might be thinking, 'mandarin chicken-- this must be a recipe with mandarin juice or mandarin glaze in it.'

But you would be wrong.

'Ok, then it must be an Asian-inspired dish made with miso and scallions and other Chinese flavours.'

But you would be wrong again.

Because this is basically a curry-roasted chicken... with MSG. So, first things first: I've seen MSG at Chinese groceries since moving to Edinburgh. It's sold in bags like powdered sugar, and I get a headache just looking at it. I'm supposed to make each recipe in this box exactly as it's written, but I'm breaking this rule. It's just too gross to include MSG in the year 2015.

Also, I don't know what kind of knives people had in their kitchens in the 1960s, but all of the chicken recipes in this dumb box seem to call for 'broiler-fryer chickens, cut up.' WHO AMONG YOU, dear readers, OWNS A KNIFE THAT CAN CUT A RAW CHICKEN INTO FIFTHS? And before you assume that your knife set will do so, know that I have a pretty sharp set of knives that are relatively high quality, and they can barely cut through any part of a raw chicken. So if you haven't tried it with your knife, go ahead and assume you cannot do so. Maybe chickens back then were made of lesser stuff, or maybe people like my grandmother just kept a sharpened axe in the kitchen for just such an occasion as... making dinner.*

Anyway, this recipe is going to be best if you can figure out a way to cut up your chicken before you cook it, because it'll cook much faster and be much easier to marinate, but I think you could theoretically roast a whole chicken like this-- though you'd probably want to baste it periodically in the oven to make sure it doesn't dry out.

We made this one night when a friend was coming over for dinner, and, although I didn't marinate it all day (it was a Friday, I don't have time for that on a work day, and I seriously doubt Eleanor did either), it was still pretty tasty. The onions on it were definitely the best part, so next time I'd probably chop them a bit more coarsely so they stick to the chicken as it cooks.

Overall, this chicken had a perfect texture-- moist and tender, with a nice flavour combination because of the variety of spices in the marinade. But the flavour was a bit mild, and the skin didn't crisp up in the way that I wanted it to. The recipe is best made on a grill, though, and since we don't have one, we had to settle for the broiler, which is probably at least part of the problem. If you have a grill, this would be a perfect summertime late evening dinner. Paired with a cold beer and a tomato salad (my favourite kind of salad this time of year), you really can't go wrong.

Finally, I haven't figured out how to take very good pictures of meat. It's really tough to take pictures of brown things, you guys. So I'm adding a photo here of Eleanor at some unknown event, with a zillion other people, all in wedding outfits. I can't imagine what this was for, but I like to imagine that it was a giant sextuple wedding, where they were all getting married at the same time (probably this is not accurate). I have other photos of her alone in this dress, so it was clearly an important occasion, but I have no idea what it was. My grandpa isn't in it, and I think it was probably before they met. Eleanor's family didn't have enough money to have sent her to cotillion, so maybe it was someone else's wedding (BUT WHOSE??). I don't know, but it's very glamourous and I imagine that if I was faced with this dress right now, I wouldn't be able to figure out how to put it on... much less fit in it.

 Eleanor is at the very far left, with the greatest smirk I've ever seen. (Also I think the two girls in the middle are probably ghosts.)

Eleanor is at the very far left, with the greatest smirk I've ever seen. (Also I think the two girls in the middle are probably ghosts.)

*I know my mom's cousins have plucked chickens killed on their grandparents' farm before, so maybe this is not so far from the truth. After all, Eleanor did keep chickens for awhile as a result of a science project conducted by my uncle.

The verdict:

3 spoons out of five. The flavour was great and the meat was incredibly tender, but the skin was not crispy or as flavourful as I would have loved for it to be.

The recipe:

Mandarin Barbecued Chicken

THE DIRECTIONS:

Mix together all ingredients except chicken.
Place chicken in a bowl and pour on marinade.
Cover and marinate in the refrigerator at least 2 hours or up to all day, turning occasionally.
Grill (preferably) or broil chicken about 6 inches from heat source, about 15 minutes on each side or until tender and brown.

The ingredients:

½ c soy sauce (I know. That's a lot of soy sauce in an era when we know how bad sodium is for you. In Britain, all the soy sauce is what would be considered 'low sodium' in the US, and it worked fine, so use reduced sodium soy sauce and you'll be doing your body a favour.)
¼ c orange juice
¼ c lemon juice
Scant ¼ c vegetable oil
1 c onion, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp chili powder
1 chicken, cut into 6 pieces