Italian life, Florentine life, is what I dream of. One of the recipes that transports me from whatever kitchen I’m in to my apartamentino in Florence is Pollo Spaccato e Speziato or spicy spatchcock chicken.

Cooking up this simple recipe takes me on a journey. Daily trips to my favorite neighborhood market in Sant’Ambrogio by foot or by bike to provision not only my larder but my soul. Daily check ins happen first at my favorite café Cibreo where I can chat with Isidoro or Yumi and see my other friends to say hello, not only once a day, but sometimes two or three. I know exactly where I want to go and what I want to pick up and the vendors expect me. It’s still very much a people-to-people experience. If I don’t show up, I am often asked why not? Or “tutto bene”? Is everything ok? It’s the place I meet people for coffee, lunch or aperitivo. And yes. I could spend the whole day.

I walk everywhere. I pay my bills at the post office, pick up fresh flowers in the piazza, window shop, wave at the owners I know, and awe at the surroundings. It’s city life like any other, except it’s not. It’s Florence, home of the Renaissance and the geniuses that we still adore today. I cross the Ponte Vecchio and hang a left and within a minute I’m at Le Volpe e L’uva wine bar. It’s open all day with bruschetta, small plates and wines by the glass. It’s another place to touch base. I taste a nice white from Sicily and buy a bottle to take home.

Across the bridge I go again, taking my shortcuts past the Uffizi around the back side of the Palazzo Vecchio. As I round the corner and walk down Via del Corno I can see my place at the end of the street. I wave at the cooks from the corner trattoria hanging out in the street smoking cigarettes on break. I open my door and prepare to climb the 72 stairs to the 4th floor to reach my apartamentino loaded down with flowers, sacks of vegetables, fruits, a smelly cheese and a bottle of wine. I set them down. Did I forget fresh bread? I fling open the very large windows and feast on the view. I pour myself a glass of wine, make a nice roast chicken for dinner and smile.

For now, I dream. Pollo spaccato at home in Boulder, with a nice glass of something reminiscent of the old world, cypress trees and the soft light on the Florentine hills.

Pollo Spaccato e Speziato (Spicy Spatchcock Chicken)

1 whole organic chicken
1 lemon
3-5 garlic cloves, smashed
3 whole dried red peppers
3 stalks of rosemary, taken off the stems and chopped
1/2 cup of e.v. olive oil
Salt and pepper


Wash chicken with salt and let sit in salty brine water for 10 minutes. This cleans the chicken well. Meanwhile, make a marinade of 1/2 lemon, the peppers, the chopped rosemary and a few chopped cloves of garlic and the olive oil.

Pat the chicken dry and put it in a heavy cast iron skillet or baking dish. Use your strong kitchen scissors to cut through the breast. Open up like a book. Take the tip of a knife and put punctures in the meat. Take the rest of the garlic cloves and put them in. Pour the marinade evenly on the chicken. Slice the other half of the lemon and put the slices around on top of the chicken.

Put in the oven at 375F for one hour. Check for doneness by slicing through the crevice between the body and the leg. If the juices run clear, it’s done.

Serve and enjoy!




Want to travel and get in the kitchen with us? Explore our program to Tuscany: La Cucina al Focolare  and Peggy Markel’s other upcoming Culinary Adventures.