A Taste of Home: Dancing Chicken

My mom’s “Dancing Chicken” was always a favorite dinner when we were kids. We called it dancing chicken because you roast it on a vertical roaster, and we thought the chicken looked like it was dancing (and yes, we did move the legs and wings around to make it dance)!

We loved the chicken for its sweet crispy skin, that had been basted with the sauce while roasting, and we’d fight over any bits of crispy skin clinging to the carcass. We’d spoon the finished sauce over the chicken and some buttered egg noodles. It’s simple comfort food, and makes me think of home, and my first experiences of learning about food.

Once a month, the kitchen store in Rochester held cooking classes. My mom and her best friend Carol would go, and sometimes Mike or I tagged along. I loved the classes – I thought it was so cool that the demonstration kitchen had a mirror over the stove, so you could see everything that they were doing. And then, my favorite part – at the end of the class, you got to taste whatever they were cooking! Many of the recipes from the classes were fancier things that were more for dinner parties than weeknight meals, but this one went into heavy rotation for many years.

The sauce for the chicken is similar to a chinese sweet & sour sauce, though probably a lot better for you than what you’d get in your takeout. I’ve altered the original recipe quite a bit, taking it in a more Asian direction and I’ve added a little heat to the sauce with fresh ginger and some chili sauce, as well. You don’t need to roast this on a vertical roaster, so if you don’t have one, just roast it horizontally – it’ll be just as good. I served the chicken with rice noodles tossed with some wilted spinach, then ladled the sauce over both.


Dancing Chicken, Revised
Serves 4

1 whole chicken
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 T soy sauce
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1tsp dry mustard
3 T cider vinegar
3/4 cup pineapple juice
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp siracha chili sauce

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Season chicken inside and out with salt.
  2. Place chicken on roasting stand and roast at 400 for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, start the sauce. Place all of the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and let sauce simmer on low heat, covered, while the chicken’s roasting. After 20 min at 400, turn the oven down to 375. Roast for another 35 minutes. Baste the chicken with the sauce a few times during the last 1/2 hour of cooking. When the chicken’s done, pull it out of the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes while you increase the heat to medium on the sauce to boil and reduce the sauce until it gets a bit thicker. Carve the chicken and serve with buttered noodles, spooning the sauce over both.

One thought on “A Taste of Home: Dancing Chicken

  1. The chicken looks slightly scary! When I worked at the butcher shop we used to always dance with the raw chickens. That doesn’t sound right, but it always made us laugh.

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