Now this is a winner winner chicken dinner.
This recipe comes from The Italian Country Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper. I put this on my "to make" list well before we began our Italian quest, and so I was delighted to have an extra reason to make it. Basil, pancetta, chicken, garlic, balsamic?? What more could one need in life?
The chicken cut in half with the marinade on it:
Ready with the potatoes to go in the oven:
Oh boy oh boy do I love roasted chicken and potatoes!
A slightly blurry picture that is really just a bunch of brown roasted goodness:
The original recipe:
1/4 medium onion
3 large cloves garlic
1/4 tightly packed cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon each dried oregano and marjoram
4 slices (1.5 to 2 ounces) pancetta, chopped
5 tablespoons high-quality commercial balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 3.5-4 pound chicken (if possible, hormone- and antibiotic-free)
6 medium Yellow Finn, Yukon Gold, or red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 2-inch chunks
1/2 to 1 cup dry white wine
Parsley or fresh thyme for garnish
If times allows, season the chicken ahead and refrigerate it several
hours or overnight. Preheat the oven to 400°F when ready to cook the
chicken. Mince together, by hand or in a food processor, the onion,
garlic, herbs (dried ones could be in here too), and pancetta. Then
blend in 2 teaspoons of the balsamico, the oil, and salt and pepper to
Cut out the chicken's backbone and open the chicken out flat, skin
side up. With your palm, firmly press down the breast area to flatten.
Stuff most of the herb mixture under the skin of the thigh, leg, and
breast areas. Rub the rest all over the chicken. Place the bird skin
side up on a large shallow pan (a broiler pan or half-sheet pan).
Scatter the potatoes around it and sprinkle everything with salt and
Roast 20 minutes, then pour in 1/2 cup wine. Roast another 70
minutes, or until the thigh reaches about 175°F on an instant-reading
thermometer. Baste the potatoes and chicken frequently with the pan
juices, turning the potatoes often to brown evenly and prevent them from
sticking. Add more wine if pan is dry. Turn over the chicken two thirds
of the way through cooking for even browning. If after an hour of
roasting, the chicken isn't browning, raise the heat to 500°F to finish
cooking. (Or wait until it is done and run it under the broiler 5
minutes to crisp the skin.)
Let the chicken rest 5 to 10 minutes at room temperature, then
present on a warmed platter along with the potatoes, sprinkling
everything with the rest of the balsamic. Garnish with bouquets of
parsley or fresh thyme.
Our thoughts and notes:
We marinated this early in the morning and cooked it for dinner that night. I think marinating it that long made the flavors so very robust, and I highly recommend doing it if you can make the time. We also used prosciutto instead of pancetta, because I like to put prosciutto in recipes whenever possible. And we used red potatoes, which I quite liked in this dish.
We didn't have a pan big enough to get all the chicken and all the potatoes in one pan. So we cut the chicken in half (after it's already cut open in half) and put half in one pan with some of the potatoes, and half in another with the rest of the potatoes. And by we I mean the husband, as I am not such a lover of cutting apart whole chickens. He's a champ.
Ohhh the basting with wine. This is one of many reasons I love Italian cooking. We most definitely used closer to the 1 cup end of the spectrum than the 1/2 cup end. Or maybe more than that? Oopsy.
We have an average balsamic vinegar, but for this kind of recipe where balsamic is such a prominent flavor, and where you're literally supposed to pour balsamic on it immediately before serving it, I wish we had a higher quality balsamic. I have seen a number of variations on this recipe in different cook books, so I hope to try another version and use better balsamic.
We used only 40 minutes of the last 70 minutes of roasting, it was most definitely finished, and some of the prosciutto was burning a bit.
My question for the readers is- what is your preferred brand of balsamic vinegar? Have you found moderately priced ones that are (nearly) as delicious as the more expensive varieties? This is another area we'd like to explore as we're on this Italian quest, and we appreciate your thoughts!