Simple Pleasures for Simple People: Balsamic Glazed Chicken With Grilled Radicchio & A Farm Wife’s Fresh Pear Tart

The title of this post is deceitful. Roasting a chicken is indeed a simple pleasure, but making a balsamic glazed chicken is slightly more complicated. Not much more complicated–it may still qualify as simple–but this simple guy had an issue. See the beautiful chicken with the crisped skin, browning in the oven?


I wish I could tell you this was the end–this was the chicken ready to be served. But it was not: it was only half done cooking and the skin was beginning to turn black. What could a simple person do? What did this simple person do? You must await the answer because I want to show you the simple cake that came later. Look at this simple cake!


When I tell you how simple this was, you won’t believe me. It’s the least effort I’ve ever expended for a fully baked dessert and the rewards were plentiful.

But back to the chicken.

This chicken comes from my estranged culinary hero, Mario Batali. Yes, Mario and I are on the fritz—he’s mad at me because of my Del Posto review and I’m feeling even worse about it because it’s now the #1 result when you Google “Del Posto.” Who knew I was so powerful? I’m just a humble man with a food blog.

But Mario, as I said in that post, I still love your cuisine, your cookbooks, your orange clogs. I wanted to reposition you on your rightful pedestal in my brain [oh: an aside to the commenter who said that Mario’s supposed to be an asshole to the people he works for, I’ve heard that too. One of my friends used to work at Lupa and said Mario was so awful to him he can’t go back because he’ll have Mario flashbacks. But I separate the art from the artist–for example, I greatly admire the paintings of Adolf Hitler (just kidding)–but seriously, I think most chefs are assholes. It’s part of the job.] and I decided to do so by cooking from your “Simple Italian Food.” On Sunday night I chose your Balsamic Glazed Chicken and purchased the appropriate ingredients at Whole Foods.

The first part of this preparation is masterful. You get a 3 1/2 to 4 lb chicken (preferably organic). You clean it, you dry it, put it aside. Then chop up 4 Tbs of Rosemary leaves:


Combine that with 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 Tbs of black pepper (whoah! 2 Tbs! That’s so much!), 1 tsp of sea salt and 3 Tbs of olive oil.


You rub this all over the chicken and then let the chicken sit in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.


[That picture above prompted one Flickr reader to write: “Yum!” I guess he likes raw chicken.]

Preheat the oven to 475. (Hot!) Slice two red onions into 1-inch discs and layer at the bottom of a heavy bottomed roasting pan.


Place the chicken on top, breast side up.


Here’s where it gets interesting. Pour 3/4 cup of Lambrusco or other dry red wine on top (I used a Shiraz I had and it worked fine). Then rub all over with 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar. It looks like this:


And into the oven it goes for 1 hour and 10 minutes (or until done).

That’s where I encountered problems. Halfway through it got as dark and browned as it is in the picture at the top: I was scared if I kept letting it cook at such a high temperature, it would blister and burn. So I lowered the temp to 375 and then did a dumb thing: I flipped it upside down so the breast–which was beautifully crisp–became soggy in its own juices. If I could go back in time, I’d do something else: I’d have wrapped it all in aluminum foil because that’s supposed to stop the skin from burning much like wearing a long sleeved t-shirt at the beach stops you from getting tan.

As it was, the “flip the bird upside down” technique didn’t diminish the moistness or flavor of the chicken–it just spoiled the skin.

Now to serve, Mario says you should buy radicchio which you slice in half and grill or place under a broiler for three minutes per side. I did this and I kind of regret it. Does this look worthwhile to you?



I suppose, looking at that, I didn’t let it get dark enough under the broiler. I’ve had radicchio at restaurants that looked almost burnt but it tasted wonderful. I’m sure the ideal version is the one made on the grill. Regardless, here was the final presentation:


Make sure to spoon pan juices all over the top. The pan juices are luscious.

The chicken and the onions were a hit; the radicchio, not so much. But when I say the chicken was a hit, I mean a big hit. My guest, first initial D., kept making a b-line to the chicken where she pulled more pieces of chicken off the carcass onto her plate.


The chicken served us well and then we wanted dessert.

I’ve learnt from experience that when people come over for dinner they want dessert. So I had a very winning plan: I would make the easiest dessert ever. The dessert would be “A Farm Wife’s Fresh Pear Tart” from Marcella Hazan’s “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.”

This recipe is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful and should be in everyone’s repertoire because it’s so easy and so adaptable. All I had to buy were pears–preferably Bosc pears, but Bartletts and Anjous work well too.

To make, preheat the oven to 375.

Beat 2 eggs and 1/4 cup milk together in a bowl. Add 1 cup granulated sugar and a tiny pinch salt and continue to beat. Add 1 1/2 cups flour and “mix thoroughly to produce a compact cake batter.”

Next, take 2 lbs fresh pears and peel them.


Cut them in half lengthwise, ged rid of the core with a melon baller, and cut into slices 1 inch wide. [I cut it lengthwise, but now that I think about it I probably should’ve done it width-wise.] Add to the batter in the bowl and mix it all around.

Rub butter all over a 9-inch round cake pan and then sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bread crumbs, where could I get bread crumbs? Oh yeah!


Del Posto gave us breadcrumbs on our way out. Now I’d finally put them to use.

So you sprinkle into the pan (though I’m sure just flour would do fine) and shake out the excess. Add the batter to the pan, level it with a spatula. Then–and this is an interesting move, I’ve never done it this way–you make little holes with your finger and add dabs of butter. You can also put in up to 12 cloves—I put in 4 (cause I was scared we’d choke on them, but we didn’t. And they do add flavor.)


Into the oven it goes for 50 minutes or until the top becomes lightly colored.


It’s kind of like a giant pancake with pears in it that’s crispy on the top. It’s simple, elegant and best served warm. Flip it out on to a plate and then reflip on to a platter. I didn’t do this, but I bet you could sprinkle it with powdered sugar. People might like that.

In conclusion, simple pleasures are those which warm our souls in simple, direct ways. Chicken tastes good, cake tastes good. Radicchio? Not so simple, not so good. We are children at heart and we want to be made happy. To quote Pippin: “Simple joys have a simple voice that says ‘why not go ahead?’ And wouldn’t you rather be a left-handed flea?” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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