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February 13th,
written by Meg

YummmmTasty potato and green bean closeup!

OK, so this dish is not officially named “Butterfly Chicken” but that’s what Arthur and I call it because that is the verb for when you cut out the chicken’s backbone, break the breastbone, and lay it flat, “to butterfly a chicken” – it looks sort of like a butterfly.  I think the official name is “Balsamico Roast Chicken” (it comes from The Italian Country Table, by Lynne Rossetto Kasper).

I have been talking about purchasing a dining table since at least August and with my 30th birthday fast approaching, I decided to finally go for it – let’s face it, who wants to be 30 and admit that they eat all of their meals on the sofa?  (Although, now that we have the table, Arthur still seems to prefer the sofa…)

To break in the new table we decided to call upon our good friend Debbie, some excellent board games, and this classic recipe – who doesn’t love a whole chicken with potatoes roasted in the bottom of the pan?  We started out the evening with a bottle of white wine while Debbie prepped a delicious salad (arugula, walnuts, cranberries, goat cheese, prosciutto, with balsamic fig dressing) and I got the chicken going.  Dinner guests always seem impressed by a whole roasted bird (even though it’s not much work!) and this recipe smells great cooking, cooks more quickly because of the butterfly technique and has never come out dry because of all of the delicious extra fat from the pancetta.  If anything, Arthur, if asked, will warn you not to get over-zealous with the pancetta.  We tried bumping up the pancetta amount one time (’cause we love it so much) and it just turned out waaaay too greasy – and you know it was reeeeeally greasy if we’re saying that…

[DDET Click Here for the Balsamico Roast Chicken and Potatoes Recipe]

from The Italian Country Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper


¼ medium onion                                                         4 slices (1 ½  to 2 ounces) pancetta, chopped

3 large garlic cloves                                                     5 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

¼ tightly packed cup fresh basil leaves                      1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon dried basil                                                            Salt and freshly ground pepper

¼ teaspoon each dried oregano and marjoram           ½ to 1 cup dry white wine

1  3 ½- to 4-pound chicken                                         Parsley or fresh thyme for garnish

6 medium Yellow Finn, Yukon Gold, or

red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and cut

into 2-inch chunks

  1. If time allows, season the chicken ahead and refrigerate it several hours or overnight.  Preheat the oven to 400˚ F when ready to cook the chicken.  Mince together, by hand or in a food processor, the onion, garlic, herbs (dried ones could be in here too), and pancetta.  Then blend in 2 teaspoons of the balsamico, the oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Cut out the chicken’s backbone and open the chicken out flat, skin side up.  With your palm, firmly press down the breast area to flatten.  Stuff most of the herb mixture under the skin of the thigh, leg and breast areas.  Rub the rest all over the chicken.  Place the bird skin side up on a large shallow pan (a broiler pan or jelly-roll or half0sheet pan).  Scatter the potatoes around it and sprinkle everything with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast 20 minutes, then pour in ½ cup wine.  Roast another 70 minutes, or until the thigh reaches about 175˚ F on an instant-read thermometer.  Baste the potatoes and chicken frequently with the pan juices, turning the potatoes often to brown evenly and prevent them from sticking.  Add more wine if the pan is dry.  Turn over the chicken two thirds of the way through cooking for even browning.  If after an hour of roasting, the chicken isn’t browning, raise the heat to 500˚ F to finishing cooking. (Or wait until it is done and run it under the broiler 5 minutes to crisp the skin.)
  4. Let the chicken rest 5 to 10 minutes at room temperature, then present on a warmed platter along with the potatoes, sprinkling everything with the rest of the balsamic.  Garnish with bouquets of parsley or fresh thyme.


Once you have started pre-heating the oven to 400, I recommend starting by rinsing and chopping the red potatoes into roughly 1 inch cubes (the recipe says 2 inches, but if you want to make sure they’re fully cooked and get nice and crispy on the outside, 1 inch is best in my experience).  Toss your potato cubes in a large bowl with some olive oil, salt, pepper, dried basil, marjoram, and oregano.  Then use olive oil to grease the bottom of your roasting pan and throw those spuds in there.  Next, prepare the “stuffing” according to the recipe- it’s not technically stuffing, because it’s going to go under and over the skin, not actually inside the bird, but that’s what I call it.

When your pan and your stuffing are ready, grab your whole “roaster” chicken and a sharp knife… and cut out the back bone! Yep, cut the whole. thing. out.  If you are squeemish, you can have the butcher do it for you at the grocery store, but it’s really not that hard. (Plus, think how proud of yourself you’ll be if you do it yourself!  It’s a task that always makes me feel like a real chef).  Just set that c

hicken up so it’s sitting on the counter facing away from you and make 2 cuts, one down each side of the backbone from neck to tail.   Then, throw out the backbone (unless you want to save it for making stock).  Lay the chicken down flat on the counter, breasts up, and press your thumbs down on the breastbone until you hear a snap – now the chicken will lie flat in a “butterfly” position.  It cooks quicker this way and still looks really cool.

Ready for the oven...

Putting the stuff under the skin is fun, but be sure not to get carried away: you’ll want to save some to pat onto the outside of the skin (Arthur likes to be sure to pat it on, trying to rub it in does not seem to be as effective).  Finally, put your chicken in the roasting pan (on the rack, above the potatoes).  Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, then pour 1/2 coup of white wine over the chicken and potatoes.  After, roast for another 70 minutes (or however long it takes for the chicken to finish roasting), basting every 20 minutes, or so.

Check to see that the chicken is fully cooked by slicing the thickest part of the thigh or breast with a knife and making sure the juices are running clear.  Then lift the chicken on its rack off of the pan, and let it “sit” for another 20 minutes or so while you jack the oven up to 50o degrees and finish giving those potatoes a nice crisp finish.  (This dish tastes great with green beans, too.  Just add them to the bottom of the pan with the potatoes for the last 40 minutes to an hour of cooking time).

Thanks, Debbie!

My new table is now officially broken in.

Easy! Delicious! Impressive!

(If you’re lucky enough to have Debbie joining you for dinner, she might just bring some homemade chocolate madelines with ice cream to finish off the meal…)

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  1. Arthur

    Nice first post Sallay!

  2. Loren

    Ditto, good one Meg!

    Also, the 2 two hours until my lunch will now be a tortuous experience. Good god, I can taste this already.

  3. Meg

    Thanks, gents!

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