Chickens Cooked in Clay

This recipe is often called Robber or Brigands chicken. It involves a primitive cooking technique, but the end result is fantastic. I have been told that fish is also good fixed this way. The cooking time for fish would be a lot less.

You will need a small (3-4 lb) chicken, garlic and salt, grape leaves, a yard of cheese cloth, some string and clay.

Rub the chicken with salt and garlic, both inside and out. spread the cheesecloth out and lay down a layer of grape leaves large enough to wrap around the whole chicken. If you have grape vines, great! If not, you can purchase grape leaves in specialty shops or grocery ethnic sections. Rinse them thoroughly in either case. Place the chicken in the middle of the leaves and wrap the leaves and cheesecloth around it. Secure it with the string to make a tight package. Now comes the good part. You can purchase pottery clay or dig your own. Mine came from a local construction site. Pat the clay into 1/2" thick 'pies' and plaster them on the chicken until it is covered completely. You can then place the chicken in the oven (350 for 2 hours) or you can place it in the coals of a fire for approximately the same amount of time. If you are not sure if the chicken has cooked enough, let it go a little longer. The clay will not be completely dry. When you think it is done, remove from the oven or fire, hit with a hammer to remove the clay, unwrap the cheesecloth and serve. I recommend trying this out first before springing it on a large group of people, as timing can be tricky. The end result is a really moist, tender chicken that literally melts in your mouth.

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