Read // Eat: 5 Spice Chicken from ‘The Interestings’

Looking for a recipe from The Interestings to impress your book club? Alicia has us covered with this

As a teenager at Camp Spirit-in-the-Woods, Jules thought she had found her life’s calling: a glamorous life as an actress. Her camp friends, members of the title clique of Meg Wolitzer’s novel The Interestings, encouraged her budding talent, but her dream never quite panned out.
“She ate his five-spice chicken, and it was cooked perfectly, the flesh as tender as a change purse, she told him–‘not that I’ve eaten a change purse, though I bet it would be exactly this tender if I did.’”
Now in her 30s, Jules and her husband Dennis live in a small apartment, cooking budget meals and drinking cheap wine, working hard at jobs that never seem to pay enough. In contrast, her camp friends Ash and Ethan have become wildly successful. Ash, always charming, is an acclaimed feminist director, and Ethan has turned his passion for cartoons into a career illustrating and producing TV shows.
“Ash and Ethan were never idle, never still. The work they did invariably became something wonderful. If they cooked a chicken, it would feed a subcontinent.”
This recipe for 5-Spice Chicken won’t quite feed a subcontinent. It will, however, offer an easy and affordable meal for a weeknight dinner for two and lunches the next day. When I’m just cooking for myself, I often roast a whole chicken (cut up like this one or butterflied) on Sunday night and eat it throughout the week.

There are infinite variations of this recipe depending on the spices and cooking oils you want to use; I switch it up between butter and olive oil, “warm spices” (like cinnamon and ginger) vs. herbs (like sage and thyme), and occasionally add citrus juice for something tart.The 5-spice powder that Dennis and I used in our recipes is a spice blend that’s often a combination of cinnamon, cloves, star anise, black pepper and fennel seeds. I buy Chinese 5-Spice Powder from The Spice House in Chicago, but had to order it online to make this recipe in Virginia. Our dear Dennis apparently buys it in NYC’s Chinatown. This blend is a great way to give traditionally cinnamon-spiced dishes a twist: 5-spice French toast, coffee or Snickerdoodles. Enjoy!


5-Spice Chicken from The Interestings — Serves 4
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons ghee, butter or olive oil
1 tablespoon 5-spice powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 medium navel orange
Root vegetables of choice: carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips, etc.
1 yellow onion
1 whole chicken, cut up into pieces
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small, microwave-safe bowl, melt ghee or butter if using, then allow to cool. Mix in 5-spice powder, salt and pepper to create the spice rub.
Cut root vegetables and onion into large chunks and place in a large bowl. Line a roasting pan with foil (optional for easier clean-up). Toss vegetables with half of the spice rub until thoroughly coated, then pour out into the roasting pan.
Use the remaining spice rub to thoroughly coat each piece of chicken. Make sure to put spice rub underneath the skin to impart greater flavor. Arrange the chicken on top of the vegetables. Cut the orange into six slices and squeeze the juice of three over the pan. Halve the remaining three slices width-wise and add to the pan for roasting. There is not a strong orange flavor in the final dish, but the aroma while roasting is lovely.
Cook for 45 minutes or until juices run clear. Remove from oven and allow meat to sit at least five minutes before serving.
Well friends, this is my last Read//Eat post! I’ve had so much fun with this series and have appreciated your suggestions and comments. And we’re actually replacing it with a DIY column aimed at small spaces and apartment dwellers. But you can still get your monthly dose of recipes from Claire and Kitchen Globetrotter!

One Comment

Christine Williams

I just finished that back a few weeks ago! Totally loved it, it brought me back to my awkward theater camp days 🙂 I love the idea of mixing food and reading! Very cool.


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