For most of the year, I go full-on savory when roasting a chicken. The more garlic, mustard, chiles and lemon I can stuff into the cavity and rub under the skin, the happier I’ll be.
Around the Jewish holidays, though, my preferences take a sugary turn. Once Rosh Hashana leaps into view, honeyed visions edge out the anchovy-filled ones, and I embrace the tradition of eating sweet foods to usher in a joyous Jewish New Year.
Like a lot of Jewish cooks, I tend to interpret “sweet” pretty literally, pouring honey into nearly everything at the table — apples, the challah, the side dishes, the entree and naturally the dessert.
This year, I’m going to take a more moderate path and roast up a bird that splits the difference between savory and sweet.
[For more cooking tips, see our How to Roast Chicken guide.]
The biggest change I’m making is losing the honey and using a combination of fruit instead. Some of the fruit — a mix of ripe pears and figs — is tossed in the pan with the chicken after it’s been roasting for half an hour. While the bird finishes cooking, its skin renders and crisps, and the fruit caramelizes amid the melted chicken fat. That schmaltz — imbued with garlic, rosemary and orange zest — keeps the sweetness in check.
Then the rest of the fruit comes in: To serve, I top everything with a bracing fresh orange relish shot through with sherry vinegar, garlic and flaky sea salt. It adds exactly the kind of tangy juiciness you’d want to counter the sticky, caramelized schmaltz and roasted fruit.
You can certainly make this even if you’re not cooking for the Jewish holidays. This bronze-skinned chicken recipe is an excellent way to use the first of the fall pears and the last of the summer figs as they overlap for just a few short weeks. If you can’t find fresh figs, little purple plums (those same ones that you may be hoarding for a certain very popular torte) would make a terrific substitute.