Aioli Chicken (for the Bonacchi Chianti Borgo Antico)
March 4, 2012
A quick procedural note: this entry will begin a series of recipes commissioned by my friends Margaret and Raffi, who run the Ohio arm of an Italian wine distribution company. They gave me and Carolyn a rather staggering quantity of wine, and in return, I’m going to write a series of recipes that pair each of those wines with a dish or a meal. (If you ask me, it’s a pretty excellent deal.) To those of you who have come here because of a Tuscany Distributors wine tasting hosted by Margaret and Raffi, welcome! I hope you enjoy this recipe, and stick around for the rest of this series.
These are wines designed to be weeknight dinner wines – something to replace the somewhat blah, mass-market sameness of Barefoot or Yellow Tail wines. Those wines have their place, and it’s when you’re hosting a party and you don’t want to blow a lot of money per bottle. I’m no expert in pairing (although Margaret is; she’s a trained sommelière), but I’ll try to match these Tuscan wines with foods that complement their flavors.
Let’s get started!
This Chianti is spicy and full-bodied, and I suppose tradition dictates that you pair it with rich red meat, but Margaret said it’d be perfectly fine to pair it with roasted poultry. I wanted to play the peppery spiciness of this wine off of something fun and different, and that was the impetus behind this recipe. I know aioli is a Provençal thing, and this wine is Italian, but that’s the point of this exercise – you already know to pair a Chianti with a Tuscan-style roast pork loin; I’m here to expand your horizons!
You might find it a little strange to smear mayonnaise on a raw chicken, and I want to address that up-front. Mayonnaise, or, in this case, aioli, is nothing more than the colloidal, emulsified form of olive oil. It’s just fat with a little egg yolk, and the reason I’m having you rub it on a chicken is twofold: first, it’ll stay in place better than a drizzle of oil, which will simply run off and pool under the chicken; and secondly, it will protect the garlic from burning – if there were no mayo, you’d have to put all that garlic under the chicken’s skin, which is more work than I’d generally ask you to do.
Still with me? Great!
Serves 4, with leftovers a’plenty, or 6-8, with scant leftovers
You will need:
- One chicken, 3-4 lbs, ideally whole or butterflied
- one large head of cauliflower, OR
- 1 large carrot, 2 parsnips (or 1 big one), and 1 sweet potato
- 1/2 cup of olive oil-based mayonnaise, like Hellman’s, or homemade aioli
- 3 to 5 garlic cloves, depending on preference
- 1/2 to 1 tsp coarse-ground black pepper
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 3/4 cup water
- A roasting pan
Note: if you made your own mayo or aioli, first of all, good on you!, and second of all, you may see fit to reduce the amount of garlic (but I certainly wouldn’t.)
1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Take your chicken out of the refrigerator and put it on a plate – dry it off completely with paper towels. Wiggle it around. Get used to its presence. Then push the plate aside, and wash your hands.
3. Do your veg prep. What you’re going to be doing is creating a bed of vegetables for the chicken to roast on, and they’re going to roast for about an hour; they’ll get very soft and squishy, and the parts beneath the chicken will taste exceptional. You could use cauliflower here, but if you’re worried that the meal will turn out a little bit too white, feel free to use the root vegetables. You can go either way, and it’ll taste delicious.
But choose one. Don’t overfill the roasting pan – I had a rather small (and expensive!) cauliflower, and I compensated on the second run of this recipe by using too many vegetables. I scooped the excess out of the roasting pan and made a soup from them later (and I’ve made the necessary adjustment in amounts for you; don’t worry). I’ll be posting photos from both recipe tracks in parallel, so you can compare and choose, depending on the season or the availability of various vegetables.
4. Mince the garlic as fine as you can – you want it to be as powerful-tasting as you can make it, and small garlic is strong garlic. Mix it in a small bowl with the mayonnaise, the black pepper, and the cayenne. You won’t need to add salt unless the mayonnaise is uncommonly bland. Taste for seasoning, and if it’s not garlicky enough, add more garlic! And perhaps a touch of rosemary or basil, or both.
5. Nestle the chicken on top of the vegetables.
6. Now, with a spatula, or, if you’re feeling brave, your hands (do it! it’s so much fun!), spread the seasoned mixture on the chicken, inside and out – dollop any extra on top of the vegetables. Wash your hands again!
7. Pour the 3/4 cups of water over the vegetables and wiggle the pan around to distribute it all. Pop the roasting pan in the oven for 50 minutes to an hour, or until the thickest part of the thigh registers 160 degrees F, and the juices run clear.
Here’s the Cauliflower Chicken, which took about an hour:
And here’s the Root Vegetable Chicken, which took under an hour to cook through:
That aioli will form a delicious crust, and it’ll keep the chicken nice and juicy. Let it rest for a few minutes as you get the table set and the wine opened. I used this time to quickly sauté some asparagus, because the first run of this recipe was, though scrumptious, a little unremittingly white.
The vegetables become incredibly soft and yielding – particularly the cauliflower; it’ll absorb the chicken drippings and become rich and silky. I ate about half of it before I even tasted the chicken, which is succulent and garlicky and everything you’d want from a good roast chicken.
The root vegetables also take on a rather silky cast, but the carrot and parsnip will still have a pleasant enough bite after an hour in the oven. And look at that crust:
Doesn’t seem so weird to put garlicky mayonnaise on a chicken now, does it? Bon appétit! Drink deep and enjoy the spicy interplay of flavors.
A final note: I worked on this recipe while spending a long weekend at my parents’ place, while I was dog-sitting for them. I wanted to point out my holiday gift to them, which they had framed in a really beautiful way, and put up in their kitchen.
I say this not to pat myself on the back about how excellent of a son I am, but to draw your attention to the artist behind these lovely prints – my friend Adriana, who really wants to paint your dog. These four paintings constitute the Four Seasons of Food; she’s got Summer Red Pepper, Autumn Pumpkin, Winter Onion, and Spring Asparagus. I have Spring Asparagus in my apartment, and so should you! If there’s a beautiful animal in your life that you’d like to commemorate, take a photograph and send it to Adriana; she’ll make it a beautiful portrait.