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Roasted Chili-Spiced Chicken with Pumpkin Seed Sauce

Shelled pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, give the chunky Mexican-inspired sauce paired with this chicken a rustic look. Toasting the seeds coaxes out their earthy, nutty taste, which is offset by the acidity of tomatoes, the heat of a jalapeño chili and the herbal flavor of oregano.

Ingredients:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil for greasing, plus 2 Tbs.  
  • 1 chicken, about 4 lb.  
  • 1 tsp. chili powder 
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more, to taste 
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more, to taste 
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed, plus 1 clove, chopped 
  • 1 white onion, chopped 
  • 1 jalapeño chili, seeded and minced 
  • 1 can (14 1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained 
  • 1/3 cup shelled pumpkin seeds, toasted 
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano 

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 425°F. Place a V-shaped roasting rack in a flameproof roasting pan and lightly oil the rack.

Pull off the fat from around the chicken’s cavity and discard. Brush the chicken all over with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. In a small bowl, stir together the chili powder, the 2 tsp. salt and the 1/2 tsp. pepper. Season the chicken inside and out with the chili powder mixture. Place the crushed garlic cloves in the cavity. Place the chicken on its side on the roasting rack and roast for 20 minutes. Turn the chicken on its other side and roast for 20 minutes more. Turn the chicken on its back and roast until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast, away from the bone, registers 160°F, 30 to 40 minutes more.

Meanwhile, in a fry pan over medium heat, warm the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chopped garlic and jalapeño and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Stir in the tomatoes, pumpkin seeds and oregano and cook just until the mixture is heated through, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until the pumpkin seeds are coarsely chopped.

When the chicken is done, tilt it so any juice in the cavity flows into the pan. Discard the crushed garlic. Transfer the chicken to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes.

Pour the pan juices into a glass measuring cup and let stand for about 2 minutes, then use a spoon to skim the fat off the surface. Return the pan juices to the roasting pan and place the pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Add the tomato-pumpkin seed mixture and cook, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom, until hot, about 2 minutes. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Transfer the sauce to a warmed bowl or sauceboat.

Carve the chicken and serve immediately. Pass the sauce at the table. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Chicken, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2008).