One of my favorite appetizers at Superba Snack Bar
, the Venice restaurant helmed by great chef (and person) Jason Neroni, is his fried chicken. An order brings you two fried thighs covered in pickled chilies and a giant fluffy mountain of parm grated right on top.
Now, I don't know why, but frying just stresses me out. (Frying, and mail--I hate lugging out the oil as much as I hate having to buy stamps.) Enter, roast chicken: it's homey, it looks like you tried, and it's also really easy.
And so, I opted to merge Jason's appetizer with my favorite main. I butterflied the chicken and cooked it al mattone
, meaning, "under a brick," to ensure a crispy skin and quick cooking time. I then made my own pickled chilies to heap on top. The combination is delicious, and a fun spin on a classic.
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- 1 chicken (3 pounds, butterflied with backbone removed)
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- For pickled chilies:
- 2 red chili peppers (jalapeño for a real kick), thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 cup parmesan, grated finely (you want a fluffy, soft texture, so I use a thin hand grater setting, like the one I'd use on chocolate)
1. First, pickle the chilies: Combine the rice wine vinegar, salt, sugar, and garlic in a small pot over medium heat.
2. Bring to a simmer, remove from heat, and add the sliced chilies. Let them sit for at least 15 minutes.
3. Rinse and fully pat dry the chicken--the drier the skin, the crispier it'll get.
4. Mix together the rosemary, salt, pepper, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Then, rub the mixture all over the chicken (under the skin too), cover, and marinade in the fridge for an hour.
5. Take the chicken out 20 minutes before cooking to take the chill off.
6. Preheat the oven to 500 F. Preheat an ovenproof 10-12-inch skillet over medium-high heat for a minute.
7. Put remaining olive oil in the pan, and let it heat up for about 30 seconds (you don't want it smoking).
8. Place the chicken in the skillet skin-side down, and weight it with another skillet or with one or two bricks or rocks, wrapped in aluminum foil. (You want to flatten the chicken as much as possible by applying weight evenly over its surface.)
9. Cook over medium-to-high heat for 5 minutes, then transfer to the oven and roast for 15 minutes more.
10. Remove from the oven and remove the weights. Turn the chicken over (it will now be skin-side up) and roast 10 minutes more, or until done (large chickens may take an additional 5 minutes or so). If you want your skin extra dark or crispy, you can broil the chicken for one or two minutes just before you take it out.
11. When the chicken is done, top with the pickled chilies and grate the parmesan over it. Serve hot.
Photograph: Claire Thomas