I hope you won’t think me immodest if I say I can roast a serious chicken. Because, ahem, I can.
The art of chicken roasting is a lifelong project and all, so maybe my chickens aren’t the best they can be (yet); and it could be that half of the knock-you-off-your-chairness of my roast chickens owes to their being Podere di Melo chickens, but I nonetheless think my roast chickens are cause for immodesty. And unchecked gluttony too, since Jim and I are liable to polish off a whole bird whenever we roast one.
Usually, I keep it simple with roast chicken: some lemon, butter, salt and pepper—and into the oven. I’m always in love with the outcome, and it’s hard to want for anything different. Except, of course, if there’s cheese involved.
Mascarpone cheese in fact, and how could anyone resist that? There’s herbs too, and even the tiniest bit of olive oil, and lots of salt and pepper. And if you follow the recipe, I promise it will be a serious chicken, with skin so crisp it crackles, and cheese hiding underneath it, lush and herb-y. There’s more cheese than can be stuffed under the chicken, so halfway through the roasting process, you spoon the uncooked cheese all around the chicken. It makes a creamy, curd-like sauce. If you’ve ever had milk-braised pork, you know what the sauce will taste like, and it’s okay if you need to leave right now to procure a chicken.
Don’t fret if you’ve never spatchcocked a chicken before (and don’t skip this step, spatchcocking allows for every inch of the skin to crisp up into a delicious golden brown). All you need is a good pair of kitchen shears (or a good handle on your sharpest knife). You cut out the backbone, and then place the chicken cavity-side down on the cutting board. Press down with a heavy hand to break the breast-bone, so that the chicken lies flat. Ta-da! You’re done. It can seem a little brutal the first time, backbone cutting and breast-bone breaking, but let’s not forget that we are eating the chicken already, so we might as well prepare the thing right. I imagine if I were to be roasted and feasted upon, I’d want to look like this:
Roast chickens can be a tough thing for families—one roast chicken never seems to feed enough people—but in this recipe, a little goes a long way. Jim and I couldn’t finish our pieces, no matter how hard we tried (and normally we put away a whole one). It was so luscious and filling, one chicken could certainly feed four. But better yet, you could make it for one, and have a lot of leftovers.
Mascarpone and Herb Stuffed Chicken
for the filling
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz mascarpone cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
small handful of oregano
small handful of parsley
small(er) handful of thyme
for the chicken
1 chicken, any size, though to feed 4 you’ll need about one of about 4-5 pounds
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Combine garlic, mascarpone, eggs, parmigianno, herbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl.
Cut out backbones from chicken with kitchen shears. Pat chicken dry, then spread flat, cavity side down, on a cutting board. With a heavy hand, press down at the middle of the breasts until you hear the breast-bone break. Cut two slits in the chicken skin, in the creases between the thighs and the breasts.
Sprinkle each chicken with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. To loosen the skin, gently slide your finger between skin and flesh of the breast, starting at the top. Slide your finger between the skin and flesh of the legs by going through the slits you made (be careful not to tear skin). Using a small spoon, slide 2/3 cup ricotta mixture under skin, using a finger outside of skin to spread filling over meat of breast, thighs, and drumsticks. Tuck the wing tips under. Drizzle olive oil over the chicken and sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Place chicken in a well oiled roasting pan, skin side up.
Reserve remaining filling.
Bake chickens in middle of oven 30 minutes, then spoon remaining filling around chicken. Continue baking until chicken is just cooked through and instant read thermometer reads about 165F, about 20 minutes more. Let chickens stand 10 minutes, then cut each into quarters. Serve with cheese.