Chicken Cooked in Clay

This recipe originally appeared in Italian Family Cooking (Random House, 1971), by Edward Giobbi.

Chicken Cooked in Clay
This recipe takes an ancient method and turns it into fun for the whole family.
Yield: serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 (3 1/2-4-lb.) chicken, rinsed
  • Salt
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 5 lb. nontoxic sculptors' clay
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup dry marsala
  • 14 cup chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

  1. Soak chicken in a large pot of heavily salted water for 1 hour. Drain, rinse, and pat dry. Preheat oven to 350°. Loosen skin from chicken breast, then tuck garlic under skin. Season cavity with rosemary, salt, and pepper. Rub chicken with oil, then season with thyme, salt, and pepper.
  2. Completely wrap chicken in foil, leaving no holes for steam to escape through. Line a work surface with a plastic garbage bag. Roll three-quarters of the clay out on plastic to a large rectangle about 14" thick and put wrapped chicken in center. Seal chicken in clay with no foil showing. Shape some of the remaining clay to make it resemble a chicken head and tail feathers and attach them to clay-wrapped chicken body, if you like. Using a fork, spoon, or table knife, decorate the body so that it appears to have wings and feathers. Transfer chicken to a baking dish and bake for 1 hour. Increase heat to 450° and bake for 30 minutes more (seal any cracks that form with remaining clay, if necessary). Allow chicken to rest for 15 minutes, then decorate clay with water-based poster paints, if you like. Present chicken at the table and crack open with a hammer. Return chicken to kitchen.
  3. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat and cook onions until soft. Add marsala and cook until reduced by half. Unwrap chicken and pour juices into pan. Simmer sauce while carving chicken. Serve chicken with sauce. Garnish with parsley.