Pollo Spaccato agli Odori e Vino Bianco

Split Chicken with Herbs and White Wine

The crusty texture of the skin in this split chicken makes me think of some of the wonderful roast birds one orders in Chinese restaurants just for the sake of their skin. The method, ingredients, and flavor, however, are unequivocally Italian. The chicken is first cooked in a pan with wine, garlic, bay leaf, and basil. Then its skin, saturated with cooking juices, is caked with grated Parmesan and the bird goes into a very hot oven, or under a salamander or broiler.

Ingredients

  • A 1¾- to 2¼-pound chicken
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper in a grinder
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • ½ teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 or 5 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano (Parmesan)

Method

  1. Split the chicken in half lengthwise from the back.
  2. Place the chicken breast side down on a counter or cutting board. Pound it as flat as possible with a meat pounder. If in doing so you splinter some of the small bones, work them loose and remove them. Wash the chicken in cold water and pat thoroughly dry with kitchen towels.
  3. Choose a lidded sauté pan that can subsequently accommodate the chicken lying completely flat. Put in the butter and oil and turn on the heat to high. Do not cover the pan. When the fat is hot, slip in the chicken skin side down. Brown the skin side well first, then turn it and brown the other side.
  4. Add salt, several grindings of pepper, and all the other ingredients except for the grated cheese. Turn the heat down to medium and cover the pan, setting the lid slightly askew. Turn the chicken from time to time while it cooks. Cook until the meat is tender enough that it comes easily off the bone.
  5. Turn on the oven to 450°.
  6. Using tongs or a large slotted spatula, transfer the chicken to a shallow baking dish, placing it skin side up. Tilt the pan and spoon off all the clear fat. Pour the remaining cooking juices over the chicken. Sprinkle the grated cheese uniformly over the chicken, patting it down with your hand to make it stick. Place the baking dish in the uppermost level of the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, until the cheese melts and forms a slight crust. Serve at once.

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