Hirsch: Agave nectar a natural alternative to sweeteners

Agave-barbecue roasted chicken is sweetened with agave nectar, which has a sweet, fruity flavor.

Agave nectar (sometimes called agave syrup) is an amber liquid that resembles honey, but has a cleaner, sweeter, even fruitier flavor.

 

In recent years, it has evolved into a booming $200-million industry. It helps that agave syrup is sweeter than conventional sugar. So while it has the same calories as white sugar, you can use less of it without sacrificing flavor.

When substituting, aim to use about 25 percent less than you would with refined sugar.

Agave-barbecue roasted chicken

Start to finish: 1 hour

Servings: 6

3- to 5-pound whole chicken

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

For the barbecue sauce:

6-ounce can tomato paste

5 tablespoons agave syrup

3 tablespoons olive oil

5 tablespoons cider vinegar

1½ tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the chicken on a cutting board with the breast down. Use kitchen shears to carefully cut from the neck hole down the length of the backbone and out the rump. Repeat on the other side of the backbone. Discard the backbone. The cutting will require a little effort, but the shears should cut through the bones without too much difficulty.

Spread open the chicken, exposing the cavity. Sprinkle the inside with salt and pepper. Turn the chicken and place it cavity-side down in a roasting pan just a bit larger than the chicken. Gently press the chicken to flatten. Season over and under the skin with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil and roast for 30 minutes.

Prepare the barbecue sauce. In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Set aside.

After the chicken has roasted for 30 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and remove the foil. Use a pastry brush to brush the barbecue sauce thickly over the entire chicken. Return the chicken to the oven and roast for another 30 minutes, or until the meat at the thickest part reaches 165 F.

Nutrition information per serving: 580 calories; 330 calories from fat; 37 g fat (10 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 150 mg cholesterol; 22 g carbohydrate; 39 g protein; 2 g fiber; 950 mg sodium.

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