This is one of my favorite moments of the year. With the approaching celebrations, life slows down and suddenly a pair of warm socks and glass of wine mean much more than anything in this world. Your old table transforms into a magical holiday table and becomes the centerpiece of your festive universe.
You are preparing to offer to your guests all those Christmas recipes that have gained you the reputation of a culinary guru. And you’ll probably have success for another year. But what if, this time, you surprise your family. What if, instead of the usual lemon-and-herbs-roast chicken, you have on your table an original ancient Roman Roast Chicken with Nuts?
The recipe takes part of the book “De re coquinaria” of the famous Roman culinary expert Apicius and is as fast and easy to be done as to pronounce its name: Festive Roast Chicken with Nuts.
For this great recipe you’ll need to buy a 1.5 kg (3 lb) chicken, but if you prefer something more traditional for the season, you could freely substitute it with a duck or other bird of your choice. I personally used a free range chicken as it is bigger and with a lot better flavor. As for the rest, you’ll need:
For 4 servings
1.5kg / 3 lb chicken or other bird
100 ml / 3.5 fl oz red wine
3 tbsp vinegar
3 tbsp garum (or fish sauce)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp lovage
1 tsp dry mint
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp dry celery
1 pinch (= 1dose) saffron
a handful of fresh parsley
1 tbsp almonds
2 tbsp hazelnuts (See below *Val’s tips)
1. Butterfly the chicken by removing first the backbone and then the breast bone. If you use a free range chicken it will take you more efforts to butterfly the chicken but it is absolutely doable.
2. Open incisions into the chicken and place it in a deep cooking pan
3. Cut the fresh parsley
4. In a sauce pan mix the parsley, the wine, the olive oil, the garum (fish sauce), and the spices
5. Crush the nuts into small pieces and roast them in a dry pan over a hot stove for a minute
6. Add the nuts to all the other ingredients and boil the mixture for 2-3 min
7. Pour it over the chicken paying special attention to the incisions
8. Preheat the oven to 200 C / 400 F / gas mark 6
9. Cover the cooking pan and roast the chicken for about 1 ½ hours
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In the original text is not mention what type of wine is used, so if you feel better with using white wine, go ahead! Also, you may happen to have difficulties with finding lovage. In this case, I recommend you to increase the quantity of the dry celery to 1 ½ tsp.
Chances are, you don’t keep saffron in stock in your kitchen. You can easily purchase from the large supermarkets where it is usually sold and later use the rest for some really nice and exotic ancient (and not) meals. If you don’t feel like buying it, you could substitute it with the cheaper safflower or just skip it.
The festive roast chicken with nuts turned to be truly amazing. Thanks to the incisions, the chicken was whole soaked up of spices that gave aroma to every single bit of it. The olive oil-vinegar-garum mixture has softened the meat and facilitated the filtrations of the herbs. And the nuts…they just gave one final touch of perfection by covering everything with a pleasant nutty savor and delicate, butter-like taste.
As we expect our families to gather this year at home for the holydays, we unanimously decided this time to have the Festive Roast Chicken with Nuts for our Christmas lunch. You may try it too!
*Val’s tips: As in the original recipe are mentioned almonds OR hazelnuts, you can choose one of them and just add 3 tbsp, according to your preference. The mixture of the two, though gave excellent richness to the nutty flavor of the roast chicken.