Easy Crispy Baked Chicken

Crispy Baked Chicken Legs

Sometimes I just want or even have to cook something simple yet tasty. Such was the case yesterday, when I realized all the work my initial recipe for this post required and that I didn’t have the time to make it. Consequently, I opted for a far less complicated dish that despite its simplicity yielded loads of flavor: Crispy Baked Chicken.

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Devil’s Shrimp with Brandy & Fresh Tomatoes

Devil’s Shrimp

While self-quarantining these days, I’m cooking even more often than usual. I might attribute this increase to my attempt to avoid waste by using up ingredients before they go bad. I’m sure many of you face the same predicament. We buy more than we need at the market fearing that a long sought-after item might not be available the next time we’re there.

A recent case in point for me was with Roma tomatoes. Because the ones I purchased needed a little more ripening, I had set them aside on window sill where they enjoyed some California sunshine. Well, the proverbial out-of-sight out-of-mind maxim proved true and, if my better half hadn’t noticed them just in time, they might have been out-of-kitchen.

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Calabrian Chili Pasta

Calabrian Chili Pasta

I know this recipe may offend some traditionalists; nevertheless, I’m posting it for two reasons. First of all, it’s my first encounter with Calabrian chili paste, an unctuous spicy condiment that I see becoming a staple in my pantry. Secondly, the recipe takes an innovative approach to cooking pasta that eliminates using a dedicated pot for its boiling. I admit that I was skeptical about this method, but for someone who cooks at home almost every night, having one less pot to clean seemed most appealing.

This relatively quick and easy recipe is from an episode of Giada DeLaurentiis’s “Giada at Home” that I saw while having breakfast early on a Sunday morning. The finished dish looked so good that immediately after church I made a trip to my local Italian specialty store to look for the chili paste. I was surprised to find there a couple of varieties, both imported and domestic, but chose the imported one from Tutto Calabria.

My only variation on the recipe was using heaping tablespoons of the chili paste, which although quite spicy, is not very hot.

Rather than pairing this dish with a southern Italian red, I opted for a Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo–perfect for a warm spring evening.

Here’s a link to the original recipe and video.


1 pound penne pasta
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup grated pecorino
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 tablespoons Calabrian hot pepper paste
1/3 cup chopped chives
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon lemon juice, from 1/2 lemon
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a 10-inch high-sided saute pan, bring 1 inch of water (about 4 cups) to a boil over high heat. Add the penne and the salt.

Pasta with about an inch of water

Cook, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente, about 9 minutes; there should be a little water left in the pan.

The cooked pasta

Sprinkle the pecorino over the pasta; toss to coat. (Work quickly, making sure that the cheese doesn’t clump together and is evenly distributed.)

Add the tomatoes, chili paste, chives, lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil, and toss.

Wine Pairing: Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo or Sauvignon Blanc

Spicy Grilled Chicken Roman Style


Last night, we grilled on the terrace for the first time this year. Not allowed by our building to use charcoal or propane, we have a small outdoor electric grill which does have its limitations (size, heat, etc.). Nevertheless, the grill is large enough to accommodate a splayed chicken held in place with a clamp grill, like the one used to grill hot dogs.

This recipe comes from one of my favorite Italian cookbooks, Cooking the Roman Way. (The book is out or print, but is available in an affordable Kindle edition.) It calls for a four-pound chicken with its backbone removed and then flattened with a mallet. You can either do this at home or, if you’re like me, ask you butcher to do the dirty deed.

The result is a juicy lemony chicken, fragrant with rosemary and garlic, with crispy skin and moist meat.

Galleto alla Diavola (Adapted from Cooking the Roman Way by David Downie)
4 pound chicken, back bone removed , spread, and flattened with a mallet or rolling pin.
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
6 sprigs of rinsed and dried rosemary (remove the leaves from two and chop fine; leave the other 4 whole)
2 lemons juiced and halves flattened
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (The recipe says you can also use 2 peperoncini, Italian hot chili; but these can be rather hard to find.)
2 strips bacon
Kosher salt, coarse ground black pepper (The recipe specifies fine salt, but I chose coarse Kosher.)

1. Rinse and pat dry the chicken and place it in a baking dish large enough to accommodate it spread open.

2. In a small bowl, place the minced garlic, 2 sprigs of minced fresh rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon (or a tad more if you really like things hot) of crushed red pepper flakes, the juice of two lemons, and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Flatten the juiced lemon halves and reserve. Mix thoroughly.

3. Using a basting brush, spread this mixture on both sides (skin and meat) of the chicken.

4. Secure 1 slice of bacon with a toothpick to each inner side of the chicken. And then place two sprigs of rosemary over each slice of bacon. Top these with the flattened lemon halves. Season the chicken generously (or to taste) with Kosher salt and fresh coarsely ground black pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and/or foil and let the chicken marinate in the fridge for at least one hour or even better over night. (I went for about 8 hours.)

5. Preheat your grill or build a medium-hot charcoal fire. (You can also do this dish in the broiler, but unless you’re good at broiling, I would not attempt it.)


6. Place the chicken in the clamp grill with the rosemary. (I removed the lemons.) Clamp it shut and place the chicken on the grill. (I started skin side down.) Cook turning frequently until cooked through, about 30 to 35 minutes. (Given my grill, I cooked the chicken for almost 50 minutes and turned it almost every 10 minutes.) You can tell when the chicken is done by pricking it with a fork and the juices run clear. You can also use an instant-read thermometer.

The book gives directions for cooking the chicken either under a broiler or on a grill without the clamp grill using a steel spatula. Given the frequent turning and the size of the bird, I think it’s better shelling out a few bucks for the clamp grill.

Serve hot.

We served with fingerling potatoes roasted with garlic and herbs followed by an arugula salad.

Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc