Anyone whose ever tried porchetta knows that slow-roasting pork with a mixture of herbs, garlic, and heady fennel pollen is one of the most delicious ways of treating a pork roast.
This recipe for Roast Chicken in Porchettata or "chicken in the style of porchetta" from Mindy Fox's A Bird in the Oven and Then Some was inspired by chef Sara Jenkins, proprietor of New York's Porchetta, a restaurant specializing in what else? Porchetta.
I'm a fan of Jenkins' porchetta and Fox's way with roast chicken, so this recipe was a must-try, but first there was the matter of procuring the fennel pollen. Sweeter and more potent than fennel seed, the pollen is harvested from dried fennel flowers and can be pretty tricky to locate. After exhausting all of the local gourmet markets and spice shops, Adam Erace, the generous co-owner of Philadelphia's Green Aisle Grocery offered to share some of his hand harvested stash with me. If you aren't up for an illicit herb trade, fennel pollen can be ordered online through Zingerman's.
With the fennel pollen procured, I set about mixing a deep green-yellow butter full of garlic, sage, thyme, rosemary, and fennel pollen. The butter is spread under the skin of the breast and thighs of the chicken, which gives the chicken a rich, herby-butteriness as it bakes. Once it's time to carve, cut into it to reveal a layer of herbs, garlic, and fennel sandwiched between the skin and the flesh.
It's pretty genius—a perfectly roasted chicken meets the gorgeous Italian herbs that go into porchetta.
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of A Bird in the Oven and Then Some to give away this week.
- 1 (4-pound) whole chicken
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon wild fennel pollen
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary leaves
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme leaves
- Flakey coarse sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the 450°F with the rack in the middle. Pull off the excess fat around the cavity of the chicken, then rinse and pat dry very well, inside and out. From the edge of the cavity, slip a finger under the skin of each breast, then gently but thoroughly use your fingers to loosen the skin from the meat of the breasts and thighs.
In a bowl, mix the butter, garlic, sage, fennel pollen, rosemary and thyme together well.
Using your hands and working with about 1 tablespoon of the butter mixture at a time, gently push the mixture into the spaces you created between the chicken skin and meat, being careful not to tear the skin. As you work the mixture in, gently rub your hand over the outside of the skin to smooth out the mixture and push it further down between the skin and meat where you may not be able to reach with your hand. Tie the legs together with kitchen string. Season the chicken all over the outside, using 1 tablespoon of salt and generous pepper.
Put a roasting pan (not non-stick) or 9x13-inch baking dish in the oven to heat for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately put the chicken into the tin, breast-side up. Roast for 35 minutes, then rotate the tin and reduce the heat to 375°F. Continue roasting, basting with the juices occasionally, for a further 25–35 minutes until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with a fork, or an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads165°F. Remove the bird from the oven and leave to rest in the tin for 15 minutes, then baste with the juices.
Transfer the chicken to a chopping board; carve and serve with the pan juices and extra salt for sprinkling.