Chicken marinated in herbs with orange slices tucked under the...

Chicken marinated in herbs with orange slices tucked under the skin. Credit: Marge Perry

Are you like me, tentatively dipping your toes in the now-unfamiliar turf of having people over again? Just a few at a time, maybe to celebrate a birthday or graduation — or perhaps the fact that the worst of the pandemic really may be behind us. Years from now, I will remember my first nonfamily hug. And I’ll remember the beautiful and very tasty green chicken — a tribute to the glories of this spring — I made the first time friends joined us for dinner.

Nearly all the work — and that's just throwing a bunch of ingredients in a blender and another bunch in a bowl — is done ahead. The chicken marinates in citrus and herbs, with a slice of orange tucked under the skin of each piece. That infuses the chicken with great flavor and beautiful color.

Transfer the chicken and any extra orange slices to a sheet pan and pop it in the oven just as folks arrive. Toast the day, and the days ahead, and enjoy sitting down to a wonderful meal with friends and family again.

The recipe below calls for one whole cut up chicken, but you can make this with all bone-in breasts or thighs if you prefer.

Green Chicken

2 cups fresh cilantro leaves

2 cups fresh basil leaves

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 cup olive oil

5-6 pound chicken, cut into 10 pieces

1 navel orange, halved and cut into very thin half-moon slices

1 teaspoon salt

1. Combine the cilantro, basil, orange zest, lemon zest, orange juice, lemon juice, garlic, pepper and olive oil in a blender; purée.

2. Place the chicken in a large bowl, pour the cilantro mixture over the chicken and toss to coat. Tuck one piece of the sliced orange under the skin of each piece of chicken (except the wings). Refrigerate 2 to 24 hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a sheet pan with cooking spray.

4. Remove the chicken from the marinade, place it on the prepared sheet pan and season with salt. Arrange remaining orange slices around the chicken.

5. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of thickest part of the largest chicken piece registers 165°F, about 35 minutes.

Makes 4 servings