Erminia’s Pan-Crisped Chicken

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

Erminia's Pan-Crisped Chicken Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • 3 H, 30 M
  • Serves 6


  • 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
  • 2. 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.
  • 3. 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.
  • 4. 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).
  • 5. 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
  • 6. 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.
  • 7. Pile the pieces on the platter and garnish with rosemary sprigs if desired. Serve hot or cold.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

Kim Venglar

Sep 04, 2003

The recipe appears to be a lot of work between the different cooking times for the white and dark meat and having to use a cake pan with heavy cans, but it’s really very simple. The chicken cooked up nicely and it was really easy to manage the timing between the white and dark meat. Once the chicken is cooked, it says to drain the excess fat. I saved this fat and not only used it during the second cooking of the chicken, but also tossed seasoned potatoes in it and roasted them, leaving almost no oil to waste. It was a little difficult to make a paste to rub on the chicken because my mortar and pestle were on loan and there weren’t enough ingredients to put in a mini food processor. The fragrance of the rosemary and garlic was very strong so I was a little concerned these flavors would dominate the chicken, but they didn’t. The chicken had a nice flavor throughout, not just on the skin. Using the cake pan and heavy cans seemed a little odd, but it allowed the chicken to cook more evenly and develop a beautiful brown color, and kept the oil from splattering everywhere. I also really like that this recipe doesn’t create a lot of dirty dishes. Everyone loved the chicken. I didn’t even have to ask what they thought of it because everyone said how good it was as soon as they bit into it.

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