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Balsamic Roast Chicken

In Modena and Reggio, cooks rub garlic and fresh rosemary into a chicken before roasting. At the table, the dish is finished with a few spoonfuls of the family's own balsamic vinegar. Few dishes have the elegance of this one.

4 to 4 1/2-pound frying or roasting chicken (organic free-range preferred)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
1 large clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
8 sprigs rosemary
3 to 4 tablespoons artisan-made tradizionale balsamic vinegar, or a high-quality commercial balsamic blended with 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

Rinse the chicken under cold running water. Dry it thoroughly inside and out. Set it on a dinner plate. Mince together the rosemary leaves and garlic in the salt. Rub the olive oil over the chicken, then rub in the herb mixture. Sprinkle with pepper. Put two rosemary sprigs in the bird's cavity, and refrigerate 24 hours, lightly covered with plastic wrap. Keep the remaining rosemary sprigs for garnishing.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Truss the chicken if desired. Rub into the chicken any of the seasoning that has fallen onto the dinner plate.

Use a small heavy roasting pan and place the chicken in it breast side down. Roast 20 to 25 minutes per pound (about 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 hours), or until a thermometer tucked into the thickest part of the thigh or leg reads 170 degrees. Baste every 15 minutes or so with the pan juices.

During the last 30 minutes of roasting, turn the chicken over to brown the breast. If the chicken is not deep golden brown when the cooking time is up, turn the heat to 475 degrees and brown it about 10 minutes, turning once.

Transfer the chicken to a heated serving platter. Present it whole, drizzled with balsamic vinegar, and carve at the table. Or carve into 8 serving pieces and drizzle each with a little vinegar. Garnish with the remaining rosemary sprigs. Serves 6 to 8.

"The Splendid Table" by Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Wednesday, March 28, 2001

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