Chef Recipes

How to make gourmet chicken breast: Alice Waters' super crispy recipe

Alessandra Meldolesi
copertina alice waters 2024 04 12 00 16 15

As an ambassador of Slow Food across the ocean and a pioneer of the farm-to-table movement, Alice Waters stands as one of the most influential chefs in contemporary gastronomy. Among her countless engagements as an activist for universal access to good and healthy food, she has been running the revolutionary Chez Panisse in Berkeley since 1971, where simplicity takes a back seat to the product.

Photo of Alice Waters on cover: @Chris Hardy

*Chicken photo on cover for representational purposes


Alice Waters is perhaps best known for her salads and fruit salads, yet she has never shied away from meat at the celebrated Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Indeed, at her Café, the very Italian-sounding "Pollo al Mattone" (as it appears on the menu) with its super crispy skin is a classic. As in the original recipe, the bird is cooked under a weight: the result is indeed a super crispy, irresistible texture.

alice waters Matthew Scott
Matthew Scott

The recipe, taken from the book "The Art of Simple Food," is so simple that it doesn't require measurements and is ready in no time, as it only involves cooking the breast of the bird, deboned and complete with skin. The only difficulty lies in adjusting the fire. The great American chef recommends pairing it with a cheerful glass of Beaujolais.


alice waters pollo super crispy


  • 1 boneless chicken breast with skin intact
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


Season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and thyme leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and let marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Take a large cast iron skillet big enough to hold all the meat and place it over medium heat. Once hot, pour a tablespoon of oil, then arrange the chicken breasts with the skin side down, ensuring it is entirely in contact with the skillet. Alternatively, thyme sprigs can be scattered on top.

Wrap another skillet of the same size in aluminum foil to use as a weight. Place it on top of the chicken. This will push the skin into contact with the hot surface of the skillet, making it super crispy. Adjust the heat so the meat sizzles moderately. The goal is to have it golden brown, releasing some of its fat, without burning or overcooking.

After a few minutes, lift the weight and check how the skin is progressing. If it is browning too quickly, reduce the heat slightly. If it is still pale, raise it slightly. When it is golden brown and crispy, after about a dozen minutes, the meat should also be cooked.

At this point, remove the weight and carefully flip the chicken with tongs. Discard the thyme and sprinkle the released fat over it. Finish cooking for a few more minutes. Briefly drain on paper towels before serving.


Chez Panisse

1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA 94709, United States

Phone. +1 510-548-5525

alice waters Eric Risberg AP
Eric Risberg, AP

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