Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pollo al Forno con Patatine, Pancetta, e Aglione - Roasted Chicken with Potatoes, Pancetta and Herbs

You must believe at this point that all we eat is rich Italian dishes in this house, but that is far from the truth. We eat a lot of chicken usually prepared very low-fat using skinless boneless breasts. However we do adore an outstanding roasted chicken once in a while. To achieve the best results the key is to roast at a high temperature which gives the chicken a crispy skin and a moist meat. The following preparation is a typical dish of Bologna's countryside trattorie that would still be serving traditional dishes of the area. This type of dish brings back memories of my grandmothers cooking.
Cut 1 large (5 to 6 pounds) chicken into 8 serving pieces. Wash and dry with paper towels and place the pieces in a large bowl and add 1/3 cup olive oil (or up to 1/2 per personal taste). In a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary, 2 tablespoons thyme leaves (traditional you would use 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, however we are not that crazy about the flavor of sage in this household) and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Add this mixture called aglione in Italian, which is a mixture of chopped herbs with salt to the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Mix everything well. I find it easiest to use my hands. Cover and refrigerate for a few house. Remove the chicken from the fridge 1/2 hour before roasting.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. when the oven is good and hot, peel 3 large potatoes ( I use red or Idaho mostly) and cut them into 1-inch pieces. Add them to the boil with the chicken and mix well to coat with the herb mixture. Transfer the chicken, potatoes and any herbs and oil left at the bottom of the bowl into a jelly roll pan. This will give you the best browning capability. Place on the middle rack of the oven and roast for about 40 minutes. At this point the chicken and potatoes should be richly browned and crisp, and should stick a bit to the bottom of the pan.
Ass 2 to 3 ounces of pancetta thickly sliced and diced to the pan and stir in. Roast another 3 to 5 minutes longer. Note: To keep aglione - chop all the herbs with the garlic and salt and place in a small airtight container or jar. Be sure to cover tightly and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.
While I am going on about roasting chicken, I will share another favorite version in our house. It isn't Italian however it is incredibly simple and delicious. It produces aromatic and flavorful pan juices which makes a spectacular tasting gravy.

1 - 5 pound whole chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme
1 Meyer lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons flour
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out and remove any excess fat and pat the outside dry. Place the chicken in a roasting pan. Salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of the lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wings tips under the body of the chicken. Scatter the onion slices around the chicken.
Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to rest and prepare gravy if you so wish.
Note: I also add thick slices of potato along with the onions at times. You can use rosemary in place of the thyme, or use a combination of both. When making gravy, I prefer the taste of the thyme alone.

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