chicken / poultry Filipino

Roasted Annatto Chicken and Vegetables (Mediterranean-Filipino Fusion)

Monday, July 21, 2014Enz F

One of the most prominent appliances in our kitchen since I was a child was our sturdy and ever-reliable portable oven with a signature counter-top cooker, which is more popularly known as turbo broiler. Prominent in a sense that it never only ate up so much space in the kitchen area but it was also a sought after cooking device that could serve you anything from instant popcorns to a more convenient and healthier option for roasting your marinated meat, or simply like a copycat microwave oven for heating and re-heating quick meals. But unlike real microwave ovens, anything you dump inside the turbo broiler aside from food must be heat proof, preferably made of metal.

This dish got its inspiration from Filipino chicken inasal.
It was during the 1970s to 1980s when turbo broiler became popular in the Philippines and in many parts of the Southeast Asia (I was born somewhere in the ‘80s and we used to have one that was at least five years older than me). Those were the early days when the more sophisticated convection ovens and electric ranges were not yet mainstream and way too impractical for a typical Asian family of minimum wage earner to avail. To be honest, we have never owned a single decent oven at home until today yet and we have always been used to cook our dishes either on the stovetop or in the turbo broiler. But now, since I am starting to get inclined into baking, I feel the need to own even just a mini-conventional oven so I could have something to practice my red velvet cupcakes and chocolate roulades, and actually intend to buy one before the end of the year.

When we speak of lechon manok (roasted chicken) at home, it is always synonymous to turbo broiled chicken.
Essentially, turbo broiler must have been one of the smartest lifehacker an efficient and always-on-the-go cook or chef could ever have in the kitchen. As one might have already quoted, “This must be heaven sent.” During gradeschool, I can still remember my grandma would always turn to our turbo broiler whenever she needed to prepare a quick packed lunch for me and my little brother. She would just set the temperature and timer, and in just 20 minutes or so, the seasoned pork chops and longganisa were already jumping inside our lunchboxes, just in time for the garlic fried rice – multitasking best exemplified! As a child, I often cook without adult supervision and I had found it safer to use the turbo broiler instead of the flaming stovetop. When our gas burner ran out of methane gas, there was no better and more versatile savior but the master turbo. And it never failed to amaze the foodie in us how the roasted ham – the famous star dish of the noche buena we just had for Christmas Eve and the juicy browned chicken my grandma promised on my 10th birthday became groundbreaking and undisputed masterpieces of the “genius” decade-old portable turbo cooker. Lechon (barbecued/roasted pork or chicken) is indeed the most requested main course in every special occasion and should I say the most convenient too (sans the smoke from glowing charcoal and the manual fanning). When we speak of Roasted Chicken at home, it is always synonymous to turbo broiled meat – a cooking method that, in my humble opinion, would very well fit for the month-long Mediterranean cooking theme in one of my communities in Google+.

I tried my best to reinvent a Mediterranean fusion without breaking so much rules.
The moderators and organizers of Foodies+ Community in Google+, where I have been a member since I started this food blog, launched a Mediterranean theme for the entire month of July, in time for the summer season in many parts of the world. The contributors, mostly food bloggers alike and representing the cuisine of the country where they hailed from were invited to post their own (traditional or modern) version of Mediterranean recipe, taking into account the basic principles of Mediterranean cooking: simplicity, flavors, freshness and respect for the seasonality – in a simplest sense, Mediterranean cooking should depict healthy cooking for healthy eating. +Loretta Sebastiani, our resident connoisseur of Italian cuisine and whose roots could be traced in the Mediterranean shores, is the main forefront of the project. She provided valuable insights on the indispensability of these very important pillars. I carefully read many of her recipes and through her numerous posts, she gave me a better grasp of the concept of Mediterranean cuisine, a UNESCO-proclaimed intangible cultural heritage. As I understood from many of her write-ups, Mediterranean cooking does not totally forbid animal meat as long as it is done in moderation and always accompanied with seasonal fruits or vegetables. I have also observed how she would painstakingly scrutinize what kind of shortening agent or fat is used in the dish which seems to strictly allow nothing except olive oil, paying respect for the Mediterranean way of eating.

I have utmost admiration for the amazing Mediterranean cuisine and it took me enough courage before I could finally post this blog. Being a neophyte in this subject, I am afraid to disregard the principles and break the rules. With all these taking into consideration, I asked for Loretta’s opinion beforehand if my recipe would qualify for Mediterranean principles and I was very glad that she gave me her blessing to post my write-up. I truly believe that a person should, at the very least, understand the basic rules before spreading his own wings and depart away from his comfort zone. And most often than not, personal research coupled with insights of people with better know-how of the topic would help a lot in reaching our final destination, soundly and safely.

This recipe is actually an integration of Mediterranean flavors with some well known Filipino ingredients and cooking techniques, thus, I inserted “Mediterranean-Filipino fusion” in the title. Mediterranean cooking, as we all know, is very rich in herbs and spices. Long before MSGs and other artificial seasonings invaded our kitchen cupboards, people were so dependent and engrossed to the flavors that are prolific in nature. Olive oil and red wine, on the other hand, are just equally excellent and regarded as healthy by-products of nature. The side vegetables which I also roasted are abundant in the Philippines all year round, thus, acknowledging one of the basics of Mediterranean cooking – respect for the seasonality.

Integrating different cuisines in a dish is nothing but fun!
To add some Filipino touch to my Mediterranean-inspired roasted chicken, I included calamansi lime juice and atsuete (annatto) extract among my basic ingredients. Calamansi or calamondin lime is the closest, easiest and freshest citrus fruit that Filipinos could readily use as substitute for lemons. Meanwhile, the annatto oil extract and honey just snatched the limelight by taking the role as coating and finishing touch for the chicken meat. Annatto extract is a plant-based food colorant widely used in Philippine cuisines. It is believed to have originated from the Caribbean and South America. Being a natural food additive, it is known to be beneficial to health as it also carries anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties. I could not discount that honey has its own wonders too, being a natural antioxidant and energy-booster.

This dish got the inspiration from the chicken inasal, a well-known Filipino grilled chicken that uses local seasonings and spices, butter and annatto extract as marinade and basting sauce. What sets it apart from the local inasal is the Mediterranean spices I infused in the meat and the substitution of olive oil for butter. Finally, the convenience (or inconvenience) of maintaining an old-fashioned turbo broiler that occupies so much room at home only made my quest into this rarely visited gastronomy of the world a real sweet victory.

Loretta asked me if I liked the fusion compared to the traditional taste of my cuisine. I have to say that Mediterranean flavors are breath of fresh air to me. The herbs took me into different dimension with their more soothing and more delicate scent as compared to the traditional spices that I have grown up with which are stronger and more aromatic. Both of them are great in their own ways. I am always thrilled to explore recipes, be adventurous and amalgamate flavors. What I love most about it is that it leads me to recreate dishes that could possibly knit different palates together. Thus, another realization that people could actually find unity in food if we only try to reinvent and be open-minded. In that way, everyone will surely emerge a winner.
Roasted Annatto Chicken and Vegetables (Mediterranean-Filipino Fusion)
Number of Servings: 3 to 4

For the chicken, marinade and basting sauce
  • 2-3 pcs. chicken quarter cuts (choice of either leg or breast part)
  • 2 tbsps. atsuete (dried annatto or achiote seeds)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ tbsp. oregano powder
  • ¼ tbsp. thyme powder
  • ¼ tbsp. dried basil
  • ¼ tbsp. cayenne powder
  • ¼ tbsp. cumin powder
  • ¼ tbsp. ground peppercorns
  • ½ tbsp. salt
  • 3 tbsps. calamansi lime juice
  • 3 tbsps. red wine (optional)
  • 1 small tomato, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed and coarsely chopped
  • 4-6 pcs. dahon ng laurel (dried bay leaves)
  • honey or muscovado syrup (2 tbsps. muscovado sugar + ¼ cup water), for coating
For the vegetables
  • 1 bunch of local Baguio beans or green beanstalks, both ends trimmed
  • 2 pcs. small tomatoes
  • 1 white onion, quartered
  • 10 pcs. baby potatoes, parboiled and bigger pieces cut into halves
  • 2 pcs. small red bell pepper, cut into halves and deseeded
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Marinate the chicken
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the olive oil and annatto seeds. Follow the steps in making annatto extract. Set aside the oil to cool at room temperature.
  2. In a bowl, combine the annatto oil extract, calamansi lime, red wine (optional), oregano, thyme, basil, cayenne, cumin, ground peppercorns and salt. Stir to combine well. Set aside ¼ cup of the annatto marinade mixture for basting.
  3. Wash the chicken slices and pat dry with paper towel. Gently loosen the skin of the chicken by sliding a finger between the skin and the meat. Insert 2 bay leaves under the skin of each chicken cuts.
  4. Place the chicken slices in a resealable container or ziplock bag. Pour the annatto mixture on chicken cuts, including the calamansi rinds, and toss to evenly coat the meat with marinade. Rub the garlic and the finely chopped tomatoes. Spoon some marinade sauce inside the skin and then fasten the edge of the meat and skin by piercing a wooden toothpick. Seal the container or ziplock bag and keep inside the fridge to marinate for 1 hour to overnight.
Turbo broil/ roast the chicken
  1. Pre-heat the turbo broiler to 375ºF (190ºC) for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain the chicken and allow the excess marinade juice to drip off for a few minutes.
  2. Arrange the chicken pieces with skin side down along with the chopped onions on a low rack. Position the rack under the broiler so the surface of the chicken is about 5 inches away from the heat source. Do not overcrowd the rack. Cook by batches if necessary.
  3. Broil the chicken for 20 to 35 minutes, flipping and brushing with basting mixture halfway through. The chicken is done if the juices run clear and internal temperature reaches 175ºF (80ºC).
  4. Five minutes toward the end of cooking time, brush the chicken all over with honey or muscovado syrup. To prepare the muscovado syrup, just combine the water and muscovado in a saucepan and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. The muscovado syrup can be prepared while the chicken is broiling.
  5. Place the chicken in a platter lined with aluminum foil. Serve along with roasted vegetables.
Turbo broil/ roast the vegetables
  1. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and pepper, and brush with basting sauce.
  2. Place the vegetables on the rack in the pre-heated broiler.
  3. Depending on the toughness of the vegetables, broil for 8 to 12 minutes. Begin with the ones that take longer to cook and finish with those that cook easily. Flip the vegetables halfway through the cooking time and brush with basting sauce as needed
  4. Serve together with the roasted chicken. Enjoy!

  1. You may also use a one whole chicken. Turbo broil it for one hour, flipping and basting several times to evenly cook and avoid drying.
  2. Salads or any vegetables in season are perfect as side dishes.
  3. The marinade and basting sauce also work very well with other types of meat such as beef, pork, turkey or lamb.

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