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.

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

  1. The roast chicken sounds delicious and so does the dessert. I’d use apples, though. I think I’ll make it when I’m not in crunch time for my last film.

    Don’t feel guilty about Del Posto–everyone’s entitled to their opinion and you have a reasoning for your opinion. But, still, I understand your dilemma.

  2. hi there, how much milk did you put into the pear tart? it looks wholesome and delicious. i’d like to try it out.

  3. Well at least something good came out of your horror trip to Del Posto.Maybe next time start with the chicken breast side down and then flip it halfway to breasts up (hu huh)

  4. This chicken looks fantastic. I’ve been wanting to roast a chicken but I usually use a recipe that I believe comes from Ina Garten, where a head of garlic is sliced in half and shoved into the bird along with a whole lemon. I love the idea of the balsamic vinegar and all that rosemary. I’m going to have to give this one a try.

    As for radicchio, I once made it using a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis. It was sauteed, and I have to say it was WAY too bitter for me. Perhaps I would like it more if it were grilled/broiled.

    Another thing to try. I better go shopping.

  5. roasting a chicken is one of the most difficult things to do properly and unforunately, i feel like after all the effort it’s just a letdown. but this one looks fab and so does the pear dessert.

  6. I have often cooked a turkey or large chicken breast side down for the first 1/3 time, and then finished it breast side up. Not only does it give you a nicely browned, but not burned skin- but browning the back helps keep in the juices without the bird being fatty.

  7. Almost all of the ‘balsamic’ vinegar sold here is sweetened with added sugar, and that’s why the chicken was browning so quickly…the sugar was going from caramel to burnt.

    Best roast chicken:

    generously salt the chicken (use sea salt or kosher)…really generously!

    leave it uncovered (this part is critical) in the frige for a few hours at least, overnight better

    roast at 350-400 F until done

    you can start it breast side down and flip it after 20 minutes, but it’s not necessary

  8. Fabulous blog – long time snooper, first time commenter…folks overthink the chicken roasting thing. Start out w/a really hot oven (500 F) for 1/2 hour the lower the temp to 350 F until the juices from the leg/thigh joint run clear. [Put lemon, garlic, onion in the cavity and then herbs/butter under or on the skin (lots of shallots added to the the pan during roasting is fabby).] Also, (a tip from Lulu Peyraud/Richard Olney) after the chicken comes out of the oven, set it in a gratin dish on top of cooked pasta. The pasta soaks up the juices. Serve at table with oodles of happy ‘mmmmmh, chickeny” all around.

  9. I happened upon your site a few days ago through the Red Lobster Hates its Employees! blog via, and have been reading obsessively. As in I’m already back to early 2004 entries obsessively. There might be something wrong with me. I am in slowly-but-dilligently-learning-to-cook-mode and I wanted to let you know that I find your site incredibly helpful (as well as entertaining). This dish looks delicious, I will try it as soon as I have the money to buy the ingredients!

    Thanks again from a VERY amateur undergraduate student.

  10. Food Network star Mario Batali might have trouble keeping his newest restaurant, Del Posto, open after Superior Court Judge Helen Freedman ruled in favor of his Chelsea landlord yesterday and denied Batali injunctive relief. I hear Batali must fix alleged lease violations or vacate the premises, but landlord Keith Rubenstein was enraged when the chef and his lawyers stood him up for a meeting to resolve the dispute. “We want him out,” Rubenstein’s lawyer, Warren A. Estis, told me. “His goose is cooked.”

  11. That roast chicken look so delicious! I do roast chickens in sooo many different ways. Its one of my favorite dishes to cook! So comforting especially when paired with roasted potatoes or even mashed potatoes…drooool….I think I need to go roast a chicken now :P

  12. Hello,

    Your blog is awesome and the pictures and recipes are as well. I hope you don’t mind if I subscribe to your blog? My blog is new, but please come by sometime. Thanks.

    to your good health,


  13. I always turn the chicken about ten minutes before I pull it out of the oven so that the juices flow into the breast. The chicken sounds great, you could try slicing a lemon into the bottom of the pan also, its delish.

    Oh, and I like your blog and hope you dont mind me “havin a look”.


  14. I love roasted chicken. The recipe I use most frequently involves an hour of brining with smashed garlic, pepper and rosemary. It’s almost too garlicky – oh my god, did I just say that?? Weird. Anyway, as mentioned in previous comments, the first 30 minutes in the oven are at a higher tempeture than the last 50 or so. And I flip it, too.

    Your pear pancake thing looks like it is crying for ice cream or creme fraiche. YUM. (not the raw chicken!)

  15. Great blog! Your pear cake is just crying out to be made (by me) if only so I can use that jazzy title. I don’t like cloves though (bad mulled wine experience). I’m thinking cinnamon? Wrong?

  16. I made the balsamic roast chicken last night, using the trick of covering it in foil when it was perfectly brown. That was possibly the best chicken I’d ever had. I skipped the radicchio and instead set the chicken on a bed of cooked egg noodles so the juices would season the pasta. It was delicious. Thanks so much for the recipe!

  17. I tried the chicken this weekend. Loved it although it may have been a little too peppered. I used a cheap wine from Whole foods–their in-store Merlot–and it tasted wonderful. (I guess a oenophile would notice the difference.) I’ve tried the rubs in Real Simple Magazine’s November or December issue–they’re wonderful as well.

  18. Amateur gourmet, you say? :) I think not! I think you’re a wee bit brilliant.

    I love your blog and the photos are downright amazing. That photo of the pear tart just made me want to dive in with a pint of vanilla bean ice cream nestled in my arms. It looked like the epitome of comfort food.


    Christina (who now has to go get some pears to try this tart…)

  19. Hey there – I made this chicken for Easter Dinner. It turned out deliciously, except that it needed salt. Not sure why, but my onions cooked down much further than yours. I think that I put extra liquid in (I winged it with the wine and the vinegar). I ended up serving the carmelised onions on the side with the drippings (I siphoned off some of the oil). THEN – with the left overs and some chicken stock – I made a French Onion type soup. It was DELICIOUS!

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