Chicken Cantanzaro-Style
Pollo alla Catanzarse


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Chicken Cantanzaro-Style
Pollo alla Catanzarse
cookbook: Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy
region: Calabria
main ingredients: chicken
recipe
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serves: serves 6

In these days when the choice of chicken dishes seems limited to variation of grilled chicken breast, this recipe is a refreshing departure. You butterfly (slit open) a whole chicken, fill it with savory stuffing, close the bird up again, and pan-roast it in a cast-iron skillet, creating a wonderful sauce at the same time. It is beautiful and bursting with flavor. And though the chicken is plump, the dish is light and fresh-tasting.
 

Ingredients

3½ pound roasting chicken
¼ cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped
3 anchovy, fillets, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated and juiced
½ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon, ground
½ cup capers, small, drained and chopped
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 small onions, peeled and halved
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

Equipment

A heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet;

Directions

Remove the giblets and any excess fat from the cavity of the chicken. Do not trim away extra skin, because you will need it to close up the stuffed chicken later, with the chicken breast up, slice along the neck cavity with a tip of the boning knife to find and expose the wishbone (or collarbone); loosen it and pull out. Turn the chicken over and, with a chef's knife, cut forcefully from neck to tail along both sides of the back bone, freeing it from the body (and saving it, plus the other bones and giblets, to make stock, of course). Now, with the bird still on its breast, pull apart the split sides and fold them open like a book. With the boning knife, cut under and detach the ribs from the inside flaps of the torso; cut the breast bone from the meat on both sides of the breast. Turn the chicken over, so the skin side is up, and press down on the now boneless breast to flatten the bird.

To make the stuffing: Put the bread crumbs in a small bowl and stir in the chopped parsley, anchovies, lemon zest, nutmeg, and 2 tablespoons of capers. Drizzle over it 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and toss all with a fork until the crumbs are evenly seasoned and moistened with oil.

Season the chicken all over with the salt. Lay it skin side down, spread open the body flaps (the legs and wings will be underneath the), spoon about two-thirds of the crumb stuffing into the center, and press it flat. Fold the flaps of torso closed, and bring them together in a tight seam, closing the gap where the back bone had been. This will bring the wings and legs together, too. To keep this package closed draw loose skin from one side over the other side, at the neck and tail end of the seam, and pin them in place with toothpicks (wings will now be on top, and the stuffing will be enclosed).

Next, carefully turn the chicken over, breast-skin side up. Starting at the neck, work your fingers under the skin, loosening it from the meat without tearing the skin or pulling it off the breast. Push the remaining crumb stuffing into this pocket, then run the outside of the skin to spread and smooth the stuffing over the breast meat (under the skin). With toothpicks, pin the skin closed at the neck end and anyplace where the skin has come loose and the stuffing can leak out.

Set the cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for a minute or two. When it's hot, pour in the remaining olive oil, and carefully lay in the chicken breast side up. Cover the pan, and let the chicken cook and brown on the seam side, about 5 minutes. With a wide spatula and tongs, carefully lift and flip the chicken to cook breast side down. Replace the cover, and let it brown on that side for 5 minutes more.

Turn the chicken over again (breast side up), and scatter the onions all around the bird, turning them on the pan bottom to coat them in oil. Put the cover back on, lower the heat, and cook slowly for about 40 minutes, until the onions are tender and the chicken has released all its fats and juices. Tilt the skillet, spoon off excess fat, and carefully flip the chicken once more-it should be breast side down now. Raise the heat a bit, scatter in the remaining capers, and cook uncovered about 4 minutes, to brown the breast again.

Turn the chicken for the last time, so it is breast up, pour in the lemon, pour in the lemon juice vinegar, swirl them in the pan, and bring to a simmer. Put on the cover, lower the heat to maintain the simmer, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the chicken is very tender, the onions are soft and carmelized, and the juices have concentrated.

Carefully lift out the chicken and slide it onto a cutting board. Let the bird rest for 5 to 10 minutes, remove the toothpicks and cut it into serving pieces. Spoon onions and pan sauce from the warm skillet over each portion of chicken, and serve.

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