Thursday, September 9, 2010

figgy piggy chicken


Aahhh, sweet September.  Fall is just around the corner, children are back in school and figs are ripe for the picking.  Each time I pass dainty pints of green and black figs, I feel as though they are taunting me.  “Take us home,” they seem to say,  “if you wait, you’ll be sorry.” 

“Next time…,” I silently vow.  I want to take them home but not without a plan.  Figs have a funny way of showing up, acting like regulars and then vanishing into thin air for another ten months.

My introduction to fresh figs came a decade ago when my produce guy, Frank Genzale, sang their praises and did what he does best.  He sold fresh figs to a skeptic like me with unflinching finesse.  The man is a regular produce evangelist.  He says, “Brussel sprouts?  Easy.  Fry up some bacon and shallots, throw in your brussel sprouts and shake ‘em around ‘til they’re tender and caramelized.  You’ll love ‘em.”  The man had me at bacon.

Bacon is to figs what peanut butter is to jelly.  In this recipe, adapted from Gourmet magazine, fresh black mission figs plump during roasting, releasing deeply fragrant juices.  Their musky, exotic sweetness mingles with salty smoked bacon, crisp garlic, comforting chicken and the heady aroma of fresh thyme.

figgy piggy chicken 



1/2 pound sliced bacon, halved 
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced lengthwise
one 5 pound free-range whole fryer chicken
10 fresh thyme sprigs
12 fresh black or green figs, quartered
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
coarse sea salt
freshly ground pepper



Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit

In Donna Hay’s cookbook, ‘The Instant Cook’, she outlines a method to speed up the cooking time for whole chickens.  I have implemented her technique in this recipe with stellar results.

First rinse the chicken, remove any gizzards and pat dry with paper towels.  Place the bird, breast side down, on a large plate or plastic cutting board.  With sharp kitchen shears, cut through the spine, from tail to neck.  It requires a good measure of elbow grease to cut through the bone and cartilage but can be done.

The result is a flatter bird with more surface area which means faster cooking.  Because the skin and bones remain intact, the meat does not dry out during cooking.  Rub meat with 1-2 teaspoons sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper.  Set aside.

In a large, heavy-bottom, high-sided skillet or dutch oven, cook bacon over medium, until lightly crisped.  Transfer to paper towels to drain.  Reserve bacon drippings in skillet.  Add garlic, stirring until golden, about 1 minute.  Transfer to paper towels with bacon. 

Turn heat to medium-high.  Once the bacon fat begins to smoke, add the chicken, breast side down.  Brown for 6 –8 minutes.  Using tongs, turn chicken on its wing side, resting against the wall of the skillet, and brown for 3 –4 minutes.  Repeat on other side.

Place the chicken breast side up in the skillet.  Scatter thyme and figs over the chicken.  Place pan in the oven and roast for about 25 – 30 minutes or until internal temperature registers 165 degrees. 

Transfer chicken and figs to a serving platter.  Deglaze pan with lemon juice by simmering on the stovetop over medium-high heat.  Stir, scraping up crispy brown bits for a minute or so.  Pour over chicken.

To revive bacon, place in oven on low broil for 1 – 2 minutes, watching closely so as not to burn.  Scatter bacon and garlic over the chicken. 

Serve with: roasted cauliflower with kalamata vinaigrette

Drink with a slightly sweet white, preferably with notes of honey and dried honey.  Muscatel, Gewurztraminer or Moscato d’Asti are good bets.

recipe adapted from Gourmet magazine, September 2009

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