At Erminia Marasi’s trattoria Il Vecchio Molinetto in Parma, this dish is the specialty of the house. Cooking the chicken in two stages and weighting it as it sautes draws off most of the bird’s fat while crisping it perfectly. (The weight is improvised with what is available in the kitchen.) The two-step cooking also makes this good company food, as it needs little last-minute attention. First the chicken is sauteed, then hours later, just before dinner; it is reheated and given its final crisping.
This is an easy recipe, but it uses a technique unfamiliar for most of us. Follow the timing for the two-step cooking carefully, and you will have no difficulties. The chicken is excellent eaten cold or hot. If serving it hot, do not refrigerate it between cooking and reheating.—Lynne Rossetto Kasper
One 3 1/2-pound frying or roasting chicken
A 3-inch branch fresh rosemary, leaves only, or 1/3 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 small garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little extra for the second cooking
1/2 cup water
2 to 3 branches fresh rosemary for garnish (optional)
1. For the best flavor season the chicken 18 to 24 hours before cooking. Rinse the chicken. Cut it into 8 pieces, halving each side of the breast and eliminating the wings and backbone. Pat the pieces dry. Blend the rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice into a paste and rub over the chicken. Set the pieces on a platter, lightly cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
The first cooking
1. Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch sautepan over medium-high heat. Slip in the chicken pieces skin side down. Turn the heat to medium. Cook for 1 minute to lightly sear them, then turn the pieces to coat them with oil.
2. Arrange the pieces in a circle in the pan’s center. Set a 9-inch cake pan on top of the chicken and weight it with several heavy cans. The breast pieces will cook faster than the thigh and leg pieces. Cook the weighted chicken, turning the breast pieces after 8 minutes and the thigh and leg pieces after 10 minutes, putting the pan back on the chicken after each turning; sprinkle the chicken with the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice before returning the weighted pan. Cook the breasts another 8 minutes and remove. Cook the thigh and leg pieces another 10 minutes.
3. Crisp the chicken to a rich dark brown by turning the heat to medium-low, arranging all the pieces back in the pan skin side up and cooking under the weighted pan for another 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon or tongs, immediately remove the pieces to a platter (set the pan aside). Cool for about 10 minutes, and then lightly cover the chicken with plastic wrap or foil. Set aside, or cover and refrigerate (see head note).
4. Pour away all the fat and replace the saute pan over high heat. Swirl in the water and boil down by half while scraping up the brown bits with a wooden spatula. Turn the pan juices into a small bowl and put in freezer for 2 hours; then lift off hardened fat.
The second cooking
1. Have a serving dish warming in a low oven. Film the bottom of the saute pan with a little olive oil. Have the heat at medium when you slip in the chicken piece, skin side down. Top with the cake pan and weights, and heat for 5 minutes. Then remove the weighted pan. Turn the chicken pieces, moistening each piece with the defatted pan juices. Lightly cover with aluminum foil and heat for another 5 to 8 minutes.
2. Pile the pieces on the platter and garnish with rosemary sprigs if desired. Serve hot or cold.
Recipe © 2003 Lynne Rossetto Kasper. All rights reserved.