Poulet Antiboise

This is one of the simplest and most delicious ways of cooking a whole chicken. Whenever I cook it, everyone wants the recipe. It’s known as buried chicken in my house (others call it Antibes Roast Chicken), a dish I discovered years ago in Elizabeth David’s A Book of Mediterranean Food. The bird nestles upside down in a deep casserole on an impossibly large mound of finely sliced onion. The only seasoning is olive oil, salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper. After about an hour and a half in a moderate oven, the onions flop down to a puree imbued with chicken juices and olive oil. This sweet sauce is served under or surrounding the jointed bird with a few stoned black olives and triangles of parsley-edged fried bread. The dish is rich and doesn’t really need an accompaniment.

Serves 4

Prep: 20 min

Cook: 90 min

1 medium-large chicken

6 or 7 large onions, approx 900g in total

6 tbsp olive oil

pinch cayenne pepper

4 slices dense-textured bread

12-18 small black olives, preferably Nicoise

2 tbsp finely chopped parsley

     Heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Peel, halve and finely slice the onions. Remove any flaps of fat just inside the chicken cavity and season inside with salt and black pepper. Pour 2 tbsp oil into a large Le Crueset-style, deep, lidded casserole that can just accommodate the onion and chicken. Pile the sliced onion into the pan. Season lavishly with salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Pour 2 tbsp olive oil over the onions. Place the chicken, breast side down, on top of the onions, pressing it down firmly. Pour the remaining olive oil over the chicken. Cover – you may find the lid won’t fit, so use baking parchment or foil and perch the lid on top; as the onions melt, the lid will position itself properly. Cook in the middle of the oven for 90 minutes. Remove from the oven. Leave covered for 10 minutes before lifting the chicken onto a plate for carving. Carve into joints or pieces rather than slices, discarding the now flabby skin, and arrange on a platter surrounded by onion. Garnish with olives and fried bread. To make the fried bread, cut the crusts off the bread, cut each slice into 4 triangles and fry golden is olive oil. Dip one edge of fried bread in the oily onion juices then into the parsley so it sticks.