Saffron and Turmeric Roast Chicken

Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  8 servings
Prep Time:  15 minutes Marinating Time:  4 hours Cook Time:  50 minutes

Saffron and Turmeric Roast Chicken

Whether you are a newcomer to North African food or it's part of your everyday repertoire, this dish is a keeper. It is vividly colored, deeply flavorful, and very easy—plus it has an unusual technique built right into the recipe. While the chicken roasts, the onions beneath it are enriched by the chicken's drippings—all without any extra effort on your part. Altogether yummy and pretty, to boot. One hint, right up front for you: be sure to allow at least 4 hours for marinating, but don’t worry about timing at all because you can marinate for up to 24 hours and cook it right before dinner.



4-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1-inch wide chunks and gently smashed with the side of a large knife

6 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed

12 white peppercorns

4 bay leaves

1 medium red onion, grated (about 1 cup)

3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

8 to 10 strands of saffron

2 tablespoons ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg

¼ cup olive oil



2 whole chickens (3 to 3¼ pounds each), cut into 8 parts (or the equivalent in just thighs and legs)

4 medium red onions, peeled and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)

1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons honey



  1. In a large plastic zip-top bag, combine the ginger, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, grated onion, 1 teaspoon of the salt, saffron, turmeric, nutmeg, and olive oil. Seal the bag and gently smoosh until the contents are well mixed and a vivid yellow-orange. Open the bag and place the chicken  into it, seal, shake gently, and move the chicken around to coat all the pieces. Place the bag into a large mixing bowl and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place a metal rack into a broiling pan or on a tall rimmed baking sheet. Spray the rack and the pan with a mist of nonstick vegetable oil spray. Remove the rack and arrange the onions in the bottom of the pan. Place the oiled rack back on top of the onions.
  3. Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry. Discard all of the marinade (see Kitchen Tips). Place the chicken on the rack, over the onions. Sprinkle the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt over the chicken (top and bottom too).
  4. Bake the chicken for 30 minutes, or until the skin begins to bubble and takes on a toasty brown color. Carefully open the oven and slide out the oven rack, being careful not to splash yourself the hot chicken drippings. Carefully pour the chicken stock into the bottom of the pan. It may sizzle and steam a bit. Drizzle the chicken parts with the honey. Gently slide the oven rack back into the oven.
  5. Lower the heat to 275°F and bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until the dark meat’s juices run clear and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh reads 165°F.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven. Transfer the chicken to a clean platter. Remove the rack from the pan, skim off and discard any scum and oil that has risen to the top of the onions, and  transfer them to the chicken platter, arranging them around and under the pieces. Serve immediately.

Kitchen Tips

Discard marinades or that have been used for meat, poultry, or fish when you are ready to cook, as they can harbor dangerous foodborne bacteria. Some recipes suggest that you can kill any bacteria by boiling it for 15 minutes, but this is not true—and not  safe. The same is true for drippings that are released from partially cooked meat, poultry, or fish. By exposing cooked food to these uncooked or partially cooked marinades and juices, you can recontaminate the cooked foods. Likewise, don’t place cooked chicken on any previously used platters, where bacteria might lurk.

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