Over the last few months Karen and I have been playing with a new/old cooking technique that we discovered on our trip in the Santa Marguerita, Portofino on the Italian Riviera. They have a very unique way of cooking chicken, and Karen and I thought passing this technique on to you would be interesting and a fun thing to try.
The chicken is cooked in an open wood/gas fired oven that gained popularity in the United States for cooking pizzas. Here we call them "pizza ovens" and mainly use them as such. However, in Italy the restaurants are small and family operated so they use their equipment for many different aspects of their daily cooking routine.
One of the intriguing things about this technique is that the chicken is cooked in the oven between two pieces of granite or bricks. This technique sears and cooks the chicken faster than the traditional technique of roasting or using a rotisserie. Therefore, you need to throw out all preconceived ideas of how long to cook your chicken. Karen and I have been trying to master this technique at some of our Sunday dinners and I believe we have the fundamentals down to where we can confidently pass it on to you.
First you will need to purchase two 12-by-18-inch slabs of granite. These will be difficult, if not next to impossible to find if you go to places such as restaurant supply companies. Karen and I talked to one of Karen's tile and marble installers (Leon) and he cut us our slabs. What I recommend is go to Carson Masonry, or some other similar supplier, and I am sure they would be happy to cut and sell you the granite.
The granite we used is the same as what is used for counter tops (1/2 -inch to 3/4-inch thick). You can also use granite tiles (12-by-2 inches). They are big enough to cook one chicken, split. It works, but not quite as good as the granite slabs because they do not have the weight. These granite tiles (3/8 inch to 1/2 inch) can be easily found in any tile store and do not have to be custom cut.
Trying new techniques is a lot of fun so get out there and purchase what you need so your culinary adventure can begin.
To begin your adventure, I recommend purchase of a certified organic chicken such as Rosie's, which can be found in Carson City at Raley's Supermarket. Bring it home and split it in half by cutting away the backbone piece. (Set this aside to make a chicken stock when winter comes. It's the beginning of a great soup.) Rinse thoroughly and pat dry.
At this time you need to start your barbecue; gas or charcoal is fine. Close the lid. When the coals are white and red hot, place your granite pieces on top of the grate. Heat for approximately 45 minutes. The barbecue thermometer should read 450jF plus.
While you wait for the grill and granite pieces to get hot you should season the chicken. I start by rubbing it with finely chopped garlic and olive oil. Sprinkle it with fresh ground pepper and kosher salt and, finally, with fresh herbs from the garden. Karen and I have been using lemon balm, however any fresh herb such as rosemary, thyme, basil or oregano would be excellent.
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Special Note of Caution: You will be putting the chicken between the two slabs/tiles so be sure to use heavy oven mitts to pick up the slab/tile that will be placed on top of the chicken. These slab/tiles will be extremely hot and heavy.
Place the chicken bone side down on one of the slabs/tiles and drizzle a little bit of extra virgin olive oil on top and then place the other slab/tile on top.
We have found that Rosie's is a large chicken and it takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes to cook. There is no need to turn the chicken over as you normally would do on the barbecue. After about 20 minutes I start to check it for doneness. You will notice that it has a nice golden color.
When you check the chicken after about 20 minutes and are using a gas fired barbecue, turn it off. The slabs/tiles will retain heat long after the chicken is done. It takes approximately a 25 percent less time to cook the chicken so keep a close eye on it.
When Karen and I remove the chicken from the barbecue we immediately squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice over it while it is still sizzling hot and also add a little more olive oil. Let set for 10 minutes and cut into serving size pieces (leg, thigh, breast).
I'll give you a salsa recipe that you can make as an accompaniment, but don't feel you need anything other than the fresh herbs, olive oil and garlic as we have already discussed. The chicken in its simplicity and the way it is cooked has a clean distinct flavor and the meat is moist and tender.
Do not attempt to clean the slabs/tiles immediately after using. They will be too hot to handle. Let them cool down so you can comfortably handle them without burning yourself.
My beverage recommendation is a nice crisp Sauvignon Blanc such as Geyser Peak of Sonoma. This is a very reasonably priced wine and is also excellent in quality. It is always one of the top Sauvignon Blancs every year in California. The other type of wine I recommend is a Pinot Grigio such as Danzante Pinot Grigio which is a joint venture of Marchesi de' Frescobaldi and Robert Mondavi.
Don't be afraid to try this technique with other cuts of meat or grilling vegetables. Karen and I have used it for pork chops, steaks, zucchini and other firm squashes.
As always, we want you to enjoy your dining experience while trying this new technique. The final results will be astounding.
Cheese and Pepper Salsa
1 medium or 1/2 cup sweet white onion, finely chopped
5 or 1/2 cup firm Roma tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped E
4 or 5 pasilla chilies, roasted and peeled, finely chopped
3 fresh cayenne peppers, finely chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, diced 1/4-inch sizeEEEEEEE
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup crumbled goat cheese
Gently mix onion, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, lime juice, salt and pepper together. Mix in 1/2 cup of the goat cheese. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of goat cheese over the top and serve.
Serves 4 as a side dish.
1 cup cooked bulger wheat
1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (salad should be very lemony; you may have to add more)
Fraction is half to three quarter above
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon kosher salt
11/2 cups of fresh parsley, finely chopped (I like Italian flat leaf here)
1 cup green onions, finely chopped
1 cup Roma tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
Mix all ingredients together and let sit for 1 hour. Taste and add more lemon juice and salt if needed. Use your own judgment. Some people like garlic in this salad but I am not one of them.
When serving, line a salad bowl with cleaned, whole Bibb or Butter lettuce leaves. Spoon the Tabbouleh into the middle.
Charlie Abowd is the owner and chef at Adele's. He and his wife, Karen, have lived in Carson City for 22 years where they have raised three children. Charlie is a fourth generation restaurateur.