February 04, 2013
Venetian Chicken Frisinsal
There is a wonderful, medieval attraction to the notion of tearing apart a roasted chicken with one's bare hands, and this dish can be the wonderful result.
There are quite a few recipes for this floating around, many of which appear to be derivatives of "Tagliatelle W/ Chicken From The Venetian Ghetto" from Nigella Lawson's "How To Eat" or "Tagliatelle Frisinsal" which appears in Claudia Roden's "The Book of Jewish Food" which appears to be its antecedent.
I've adjusted the name into something that makes better sense for the amendments that I've made. Gone is the Tagliatelle, because I'm using broad egg noodles instead (and less of them). Other adjustments include opting in for the parsley which Nigella uses (absent from the original), and roasting the chicken on ribs of fennel (to be discarded after), which adds a subtle perfume to the dish, and lifts the chicken off of the roasting pan.
This is a glorious recipe. It may not look terribly exciting, and it is assuredly not low-fat, but it is wonderfully fragrant and delicious, making it a beautiful comfort food sort of meal.
Venetian Chicken Frisinsal
1 medium chicken
3-4 stalks of fennel
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt, as needed
1 long sprig of fresh rosemary (about 5 inches)
1/3 cup golden sultana raisins
1/2 cup pine nuts
225 grams broad egg noodles
Rub the chicken with olive oil and salt lightly on all sides. Place the chicken, breast side down, onto your roasting pan (I use a large cast iron skillet) which has been lined with enough stalks of fennel to keep the chicken elevated from the bottom of the pan. Roast at 400F for 50 minutes, then turn the chicken breast-side up, and continue to roast until the chicken is completely cooked - 20 minutes to 1/2 hour will do nicely for a 3 pound chicken. Remove the chicken from the roasting pan to a plate, and allow to cool for twenty minutes or so, until it is cool enough for you to remove the chicken from the bones with your bare hands.
While the chicken is roasting (and then cooling), soak the sultanas in a little water for about half an hour, and then drain. Toast the pine nuts until just lightly golden brown - this can be done in a dry skillet on the stovetop, and only takes a few minutes. Mince the rosemary finely, and set aside. Chop the parsley as you like it, and set aside.
While the chicken is cooling, remove the fennel stalks from the roasting pan (let the drippings on them fall back into the pan) and discard. They are stringy and tough, and now overcooked, so there's not much use for them; they have given up their flavour to the chicken juices, which is as good a fate as they could hope for. If you really need to watch your fat intake, pour all of the drippings from the chicken into a bowl, and let the fat rise to the top. Skim off some of the fat as desired. Otherwise, just leave the drippings in the skillet, add the chopped rosemary, the pine nuts, and the drained raisins to the drippings, and bring to a simmer. Next, pour any liquid that has pooled around the chicken (on its cooling plate) into the skillet with the rest of the drippings. Reduce the heat to very low and cover, while you prepare the rest.
Bring a large pot of water up to the boil (for the pasta) while you remove the meat from the chicken. Using your hands, strip the meat and skin from the bones and tear into bite-sized shreds, putting them in a large serving bowl. Be sure to use the crispy skin, as well, but any flabby skin can be discarded with the bones. When all of the chicken is shredded* (you can put the bones aside to make stock or to freeze for later use), quickly cook the pasta (do add a little salt to the water). Egg noodles only take a few minutes to cook, which is handy. Drain the noodles, or use a spider-tool to lift the noodles right from the water onto the shredded chicken meat in the bowl. Pour the sauce of drippings, raisins, rosemary and pine nuts over the top, add the parsley, and toss gently to combine.
I recommend a fresh salad with a bit of crunch, to balance the richness of this dish. Fennel & Radish Salad is about perfect with this (since you already have the fennel).
In the spirit of full disclosure, I note that I actually removed the chicken breast (but not the tender) to a separate plate, because a whole chicken's worth of meat was more than we needed for the four servings of this dish. You could, of course, increase the amount of pasta, use all of the chicken, and feed two to four more people, especially if you had a side dish or two to round it out. The chicken breast that I hived away in this instance made a lovely chicken and fennel white pizza two days later.
*When you are stripping the meat from the chicken, be sure to take the meat from the back of the chicken - especially the two lovely roundish bits referred to as "the oysters" from just above the thighs. This is the closest thing to a tenderloin on a chicken, and is a wonderful bit not to be missed. They are small, firm, intensely flavourful bits of dark chicken meat, sometimes doled out as a special favour, or harboured as a cook's treat.