POLLO AL MATTONE WITH PICKLED CHILIES + PARMIGIANO

DSC_5347

One of my favorite appetizers at Superba, the Venice restaurant of great chef/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.  It’s decadent and rich, but the parm and chilies just push it over the 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.  I want to stomp my feet like an angry little tyrant of a child and wail, “Whyyyyyy?”  It’s silly, but it’s true.  Frying isn’t particularly difficult or labor intensive, but lugging out the bottle of oil, the smell as it heats up, dodging the hot spits that seem to always miss my eye by sear into arms, and then throwing away the used oil afterwards…just UGH. NO. WAHHHH!

Enter, roast chicken.  I love roast chicken.  It’s homey, it’s a meal, it looks like you tried.  It’s also really easy.  So, since I didn’t feel like frying my chicken and I don’t have the calories to spare on deep frying main courses, I opted to merge Jason’s appetizer with my favorite main.  I butterflied the chicken and cooked it “al mattone” style, meaning, “under a brick,” to ensure a crispy skin and quick cooking time, and made my own pickled chilies to heap on top.  The combination is delicious, and such a fun spin on the classic “roast chicken dinner.” Thanks for the inspiration Jason!

DSC_5319

DSC_5374

INGREDIENTS

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

INGREDIENTS (GARNISH)

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 parm, grated over a fine grate

you want a fluffy, soft texture, so I used a thin hand grated, like one I’d use on chocolate

DIRECTIONS

Rinse and fully pat dry the chicken.  The drier the skin, the crispier it’ll get. Mix together the rosemary, salt, pepper, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Rub the mixture all over the chicken (under the skin too), cover, and marinade in the fridge for an hour. Take the chicken out 20 minutes before cooking to take the chill off.

Preheat oven to 500F.  Preheat an ovenproof 10-12-inch skillet over medium-high heat for a minute.  Put remaining olive oil in the pan and let it heat up for about 30 seconds (you don’t want it smoking).

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.

Cook over medium-high to high heat for 5 minutes, then transfer to the oven. Roast for 15 minutes more. 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.

To pickle the chills, combine the rice wine vinegar, salt, sugar, and garlic in a small pot over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer, remove from heat, and add the sliced chills.  Let them sit for 15 minutes.  When the chicken is done, top with the pickled chilies and grate the parm over it.  Serve hot.