Aviv Fried might be the only biomedical engineer who's delivered his own freshly baked sourdough on a bicycle. "I began fooling around [with bread] the summer after I graduated and I just couldn't stop," he says. Five years ago, Fried walked away from a lucrative corporate career to play with water, flour and sourdough starter full-time. He began experimenting madly, selling his creations to friends and delivering them on his bike. Not satisfied with the results, he went to work for the masters: award-winner Jeffrey Hamelman in Vermont, Chad Robertson of Tartine in San Francisco and, most thrillingly, Jean-Luc Poujauran, who supplies Paris's best restaurants with his sourdough. Now Fried owns Calgary's beloved Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, and his sourdough – with its crackly crust and moist crumb – is so good that fans sign up for his bread-making classes. When he entertains, the Tel Aviv native serves this Israeli-style roast chicken with za'atar, a Middle Eastern spice mixture that can be found at specialty shops. He serves it with croutons – sourdough, naturally.
Servings: 4 to 6
Ready time: About 2 hours
4 to 5 lbs whole organic chicken
Coarse grey salt and black pepper
4 or 5 thick slices sourdough bread
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tbsp sweet paprika
3 tbsp za’atar, divided
1 lemon, washed thoroughly
A few sprigs of fresh thyme and oregano
6 potatoes, cut into large dice
2 onions, quartered
1 head garlic, broken into cloves
A day before serving, wash the chicken, pat it dry and season generously with salt and pepper. Put the bird in a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight. Cut bread into large bite-sized chunks and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, paprika and 1 tablespoon of za’atar. Spread croutons on a baking sheet and toast lightly in 350 F oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Reserve for the next day.
A couple of hours before dinner, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 400 F. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and place in a roasting pan. Rub it with olive oil and za’atar. Pierce the lemon a few times with a knife and place it, along with herbs, inside the chicken’s cavity. Roast it on the bottom rack of the hot oven.
After 20 minutes, remove the chicken from the oven and transfer it to a plate. Add potatoes, onions, garlic and croutons to the roasting pan and toss to coat evenly in fat. Place chicken on top and cook approximately 40 minutes longer or until juices run clear. Allow chicken to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving with vegetables, croutons and the roasted garlic.