Flattened Chicken on Crispy Bread
These last few weeks have been intense ones. The birth of our first child along with all the physical and emotional side effects that brings means I’ve needed a little hand-holding. Good thing my mom flew in from the States, bringing with her nearly 30 years’ and three babies’ worth of experience. Because it’s not so obvious to a first time mother what is normal and what means you’ve given birth to a teenage mutant ninja turtle. Because focusing on feeding someone else up to 8 times a day means you’re apt to forget to feed yourself. And because the solid fruits of my epic freezer-filling fest didn’t last us a week.
Now, now. I know that the above photo could bring some tasteless birth scenarios to mind, but I promise the timeliness of this post has nothing to do with stirrups or spreading eagle. This is truly effortless, delicious, family fare. Just what is needed when sleep overrides eat and we start to burp the dog.
Chicken on bread, as it is known in my family, was created on a whim by my dad some years ago when we had a chicken to roast and stale bread lying around. It was modified a while later when Francesco was living with my parents and suggested the chicken be flattened in the Italian alla diavola style. A sharp knife through the belly and voilà! Flattened chicken on bread.
Why make flattened chicken on bread? Because the juices and oils from the chicken seep into the bread, which becomes caramelized with the savory flavors of the bird and whatever spices or herbs you decide to add. The bread becomes at once gooey and crunchy, serving as the perfect side dish, a sort of stuffing on the most basic and satisfying level. Plus, it’s as easy as laying slices of bread on a pan then sticking a chicken on top. There’s not a lot more to it. And not a lot is just about as much as I can muster at the moment.
Tonight, as crazy as this sounds, we’re having a small dinner party. Nothing too serious – just some fresh bread, some sort of pasta and salad. Someone else is making dessert. My mother will be here to help, of course, which is all a new mother could ever ask for. That and a few extra hours of sleep. And maybe a complete roast chicken dish like this one. And for someone else to make dessert.
FLATTENED CHICKEN ON CRISPY BREAD
Serves 4 – 6
about 1/3 loaf good-quality bread (stale is fine!), sliced
whatever herbs and/or spices you like on your chicken (see below for suggestions)
Preheat oven to 350F/180C. On a baking tray or in a roasting pan, layer the slices of bread to cover the bottom. It’s okay if they overlap a bit. Sprinkle with olive oil.
Lay the chicken on its back and, using a sharp knife, cut it in half. It will be hard to break the wishbone, but go for it! Lay your flattened chicken skin side up on the bread. (If you’re not sure about slicing your bird in half, you can roast the chicken whole.) Sprinkle with olive oil, and rub with salt (and whatever herbs/spices you desire). Sprinkle whatever bread is not covered by the chicken with some olive oil.
Bake in your preheated oven for at least an hour (more like an hour and a half, depending on the weight of your chicken), until the leg easily comes away from the rest of the chicken when twisted. If you’re not flattening your chicken, bake for longer, until the chicken is done.
SUGGESTIONS (try alone or in combination): fresh rosemary; herbes de provence; hawaiage; za’atar; sage and lemon; roasted garlic; harissa; black pepper; thyme.