Modena Balsamic Vinegar Roast Chicken

Only two regions in Italy produce true traditional balsamic vinegar- Modena and neighboring Reggio Emilia. True balsamic vinegar is made from a reduction of pressed grapes. The resulting thick syrup is subsequently aged for a minimum of 12 years in a battery of different wood barrels of increasingly smaller sizes. True balsamic vinegar is rich, glossy, deep brown in color, and has a complex flavor that balances the natural sweet and sour elements of the cooked grape juice with hints of wood from the casks.

Reggio Emilia designates the different ages of their balsamic vinegar (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia) by the label color. A red label means the vinegar has been aged for at least 12 years, a silver label that the vinegar has aged for at least 18 years, and a gold label designates that the vinegar has aged for 25 years or more. The flavor intensifies over the years, becoming sweet, viscous and very concentrated. During this period, a portion evaporates- it is said that this is the “angels’ share”, a term also used in the production of bourbon, scotch, wine and other alcoholic beverages.

A drizzle of traditional balsamic vinegar is used atop iced cream, cooked pasta, vegetables, and roasted or grilled meats and poultry, including this wonderful dish.

Pollo al Forno con Aceto Balsamico – Balsamic Roast Chicken

Three things make this recipe special: infusing the chicken with a fragrant combination of rosemary, garlic, and olive oil; butterflying (aka splatchcocking) the whole chicken to cook in half the time with twice the crispness and moist meat; and the magic of good balsamic vinegar.
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Course: Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Northern Italy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Dry marinate: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 1 hour
Servings: 6
Author: My Hungry Traveler

Equipment

  • Rimmed baking sheet, wire rack, instant-read thermometer
  • Kitchen shears or stiff sharp knife.

Ingredients

  • lb Roasting chicken, preferably Kosher or free-range
  • 1 tbsp Fresh rosemary leaves or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • ¼ tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp Baking powder
  • 2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp Fresh ground black pepper
  • 6-8 sprigs Fresh rosemary
  • 4 tbsp Artisan-made Tradizionale balsamic vinegar (or commercial Balsamic Vinegar of Modena blended with ½ tsp brown sugar)

Instructions

Butterfly and Marinade Chicken

  • Splatchcock (butterfly) the whole chicken by cutting down both sides of the spine and removing it. Flatten chicken by placing it on a cutting board and pressing down hard on the breastbone to flatten the chicken as much as possible.
  • Rinse and dry chicken. Make marinade paste by mincing the rosemary leaves and garlic in the salt and baking powder. Rub skin side of chicken in olive oil and then rub rosemary-garlic paste all over the skin. Sprinkle with pepper.
  • To marinade, place chicken in a pan big enough to hold the butterflied chicken but small enough to fit in the refrigerator. Cover the chicken lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 24 hours.

Cook and Serve

  • Remove chicken from refrigerator. Place 3 sprigs rosemary on a parchment-lined baking pan. Place wire rack over the rosemary and then place flattened chicken skin-side up and spread as wide as possible.
    Preheat oven to 500°F (260°C) with the rack in the upper-middle position.
    Roast chicken until the thickest part of the breast registers 150°F (66°C) on an instant read thermometer and thigh is at 165°F (77°C), about 45 minutes. Reduce heat to 450°F (232°C) if skin begins to darken too quickly. Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes.
  • To serve, carve chicken and arrange pieces in a serving dish. Either pour balsamic over the pieces or serve separately in a small bowl so diners can spoon their own.

Notes

  • Splatchcocking poultry is a technique that once learned, will become your go-to way to grill and roast chicken and turkey. Half the time, crispier skin, and moister meat. What could be bad? 
  • The “good stuff” balsamic vinegar is well worth the cost as you only need a small amount and it really is transformational.

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