Peasant Style Chicken - by Marge Gall (neé Felice)
I have been very fortunate to have many of those from my family who loved cooking teach me a significant amount about what they do, and how they do it so well. Those of you who know me know that I am compiling family recipes and will eventually publish a Felice family cookbook, including recipes from my extended family as well as from my own kitchen. My aunt Marge was one of those classic Italian nonna cooks who would just stand at the stove, wave her arms, and amazing things would happen – I saw her so rarely in my life, but when I did, I would always ask her about this or that dish. She was so giving of her time and talent. This was a dish she made for me when I stayed with some of my Chicago family when I was passing through, on way to Butler University for the first time to complete my master’s degree in music composition. It was such an excellent meal after a long day’s drive through torrential rains in Wisconsin and the death of my alternator at a rest stop. When I asked her about it, I was pleased at its simplicity – she said she would write down the recipe and send it to me through my father. (She of course, used no recipe – I suspect she may have had to measure out how much that pinch of salt was the next time she made it and wrote the recipe out for me)
- 3 lbs bone-in, cut chicken (I (Aunt Marge) use legs and thighs)
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 6 potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 2 medium onions, chopped (I slice them thin)
- 2 tomatoes, chopped (Frank here: I use 4-6 Roma tomatoes, and quarter them)
- 1 cup white wine (Frank: dry)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp oregano (she used dried)
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
Place chicken in a large bowl - add remaining ingredients and toss lightly. Place all in a roasting pan and bake at 375º F oven for 75 minutes or until chicken is done. Serves Four.
(minus a couple of my editorial notes, this is exactly the recipe she wrote to me)
This is quite straightforward – for ingredients I have played with some of the types and amounts a bit – sometimes I will use large russet potatoes and use less of them; I have also made the dish with skins on them, which are fine -- red (or new) potatoes work equally well. I also like larger cut, quartered onions instead of chopped at times. I tried making this with a sweeter wine (a Riesling) to see if I had been doing this incorrectly prior to this - it was incorrect to taste, so a dry white must be used. I usually bump up the last four ingredients a bit, esp the pepper, oregano, and garlic powder. Granulated garlic also works well. (and of course, you could also use fresh garlic and oregano – I think you ought to sauté the fresh garlic in a little oil first).
When you place everything together in the roaster, situate the chicken so it is not entirely covered by the mixture of the other ingredients – if using a roaster without a lid, cover the roaster with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Aunt Marge also reiterated using legs and thighs when she made this. Additionally, when I had it from her, I noticed that the skins had a nice browning on them. She accomplished this by uncovering the roaster for the last 15-20 minutes of cooking. When I make this, I will do those last 15 minutes under the broiler, removing the foil or lid. (Someday I might try this by frying the legs and thighs skin-side down in a little olive oil to crisp the skin prior to baking - ) - I will also occasionally siphon off some of the juice prior to serving, or leave it out of the serving bowl, since it can be a bit schmaltzy at times.