Christmas Cheer | Roast Chicken + Sourdough Toasts & Marsala Cream

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Happy holidays to all! Here at Flora + Davis, we are still basking the afterglow of Christmas day and the joyful overabundance of cookies, wine, wrapping paper, quality time with loved ones and of course, our celebratory Christmas dinner.

While planning my menu for Christmas dinner, I knew immediately what I wanted to serve: this delectable roast chicken served with Marsala wine cream sauce, sage-scented ricotta cheese, crispy sourdough toasts, and topped with lemony arugula.

Based on a recipe from San Francisco’s Tosca Cafe restaurant, I first made this flavorful bird several months ago for my father’s birthday. It was a smash hit in terms of both flavor and presentation, and I mentally filed it away as perfect for a holiday gathering (apparently having minor amnesia regarding the overall amount of work it entailed – we did not eat dinner that night until ten o’clock p.m.).

Tosca
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Bon Appétit has kindly shared Tosca’s recipe with those of us living many, many miles from culinary civilization. While the ingredient list is fairly ordinary and not particularly cumbersome, do not let this fool you. The meal takes several hours to prepare, and the steps are numerous and run concurrently, with instances of “set the bird aside, and…” while you wonder to yourself, “Set the bird aside where?” as the piping hot bird cools by the minute. Also note that you do need to dry-brine the chicken overnight, so preparations must begin 24 hours in advance. 

On the plus side, as Bon Appétit writes, “the results- from the drippings-soaked sourdough toasts to the glossy pan sauce- are transcendent.”

Thus, having made the dish before, I was prepared for the convoluted steps. Although, I must say that juggling the pans, spoons, spatulas, jars, and knives, while timing it all just so, did remind me why professional chefs study the culinary arts for years before serving these dishes to the masses…! But, with Adam as my trusty co-host – ensuring our guests’ glasses were filled, crackers replenished on the cheese board, and whisking away dirty dishes immediately – it went off without a hitch! Dinner was served at 7:30, the conversation flowed as freely as the wine, and a lovely time was had by all. ❤

This fabulous roast chicken remains one of my all-time favorite dishes.

A note on plating: You will see from the photo included in the recipe that Tosca’s presentation is far more refined than my piled-on-a-platter, family-style dish, but I find this far easier to serve for a service of five. While it may lack the sophisticated plating, the flavors remain the same and, quite honestly, are far more likely to be served still hot and crispy, than if I attempted to individually plate every piece! However, for a romantic meal with your significant other, this could easily be plated individually.

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Roast Chicken with Crisp Toasts & Ricotta

Recipe by April Bloomfield & Josh Even, Tosca, San Francisco (shared courtesy of Bon Appétit)

ingredients for chicken + stuffing 

  • 1 3½–4-lb. chicken
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¾ cup fresh whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 slices 1”-thick slices rustic sourdough loaf

ingredients for Marsala sauce + assembly

  • ¾ cup dry Marsala
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup spicy greens (such as arugula or watercress)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling

To prepare the chicken + stuffing: 

1. Season chicken inside and out with kosher salt and chill, uncovered, 12–24 hours.

2. Let chicken stand at room temperature 1 hour.

3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450°. Pulse sage and sea salt in a food processor until finely ground. Add pine nuts and pulse until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a medium bowl and mix in ricotta, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Stuff chicken with ricotta mixture, then tie legs together with kitchen twine.

4. Place chicken in a large ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven and rub all over with oil. Roast, basting every 10 minutes after the first 30 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest 
part of a thigh registers 165°, 45–55 minutes. Brush butter over chicken and roast 5 minutes longer. Let rest 5 minutes.

5. Arrange bread slices in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or a cutting board with a well. Place chicken on top of bread and pour pan drippings over (reserve skillet). Tent chicken with foil and let rest 15–25 minutes, allowing bread to soak up juices.

Preparing the Marsala sauce + assembling the bird:

6. Heat reserved skillet over medium heat, then add wine, scraping up browned bits from bottom of skillet. Bring wine to a boil, reduce heat, and whisk in cream, broth, and butter until incorporated. Simmer, whisking often, until sauce coats the back of a spoon, 8–10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, and season sauce with salt and pepper.

7.  Meanwhile, heat a medium cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Transfer soaked bread to pan and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Set toasts aside.

8. Toss greens, 1 Tbsp. oil, and remaining 1 Tbsp. lemon juice in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper.

9. Remove twine from chicken. Spoon stuffing onto reserved toasts and arrange on a platter. Cut chicken into quarters and place on top of bread. Pour sauce around; drizzle chicken with more oil and serve with greens.

A 4-pound bird plus the trimmings serves 6 comfortably.

From our table to yours- enjoy!

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