Yesterday was such a beautiful day, that it got pretty late before we had a chance to shop for dinner fixings, and our friends (one of whom has some food allergies we needed to accommodate) were coming over in a little over an hour. My plan to make a simple roast salmon was foiled by the $25/lb. (!) price tag on the salmon at our nearby market. Thinking on my feet at the meat counter, I remembered a chicken recipe from Lidia Bastianich that I'd made a few times before, and decided to make it instead.
I bought about three pounds of thighs and drumsticks (I would have gotten breast too, but there were only skinless ones, which didn't seem right for this recipe) and used the full amount of the rest of the ingredients in the recipe. We served the chicken with Ina Garten's "melting tomatoes" and a green salad. (Ina Garten's simple-but-delicious recipes continue to win me over.) Next time, I would up the quantity of tomatoes on the side dish by half. All in all, I think the flavors all paired nicely together.
To kick off the meal, my husband mixed up what he calls "funny cocktails." In this case, it was pomegranate juice, vodka, sparkling wine and a twist of lemon peel (loosely based on the Holiday cocktail we'd had at Buvette a few days before)--delicious! Appetizers were simple a big bowl of pistachios, and dessert was a chocolate cake our friends brought. It was a lovely Saturday night meal; here's Lidia's chicken recipe:
Chicken with Olives and Pine Nuts
From Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy; serves 6
4 pounds assorted chicken pieces, cut-up
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
1 cup brine-cured green Italian olives
½ cup white wine
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
1. Rinse the chicken pieces, and pat dry with paper towels. Trim off excess skin and all visible fat. Cut drumsticks off the thighs; cut breast halves into two pieces each. Season the chicken all over with the salt.
2. Put the olive oil and butter in the pan, and set over medium-low heat. When the butter is melted and hot, lay in the chicken pieces, skin side down, in a single layer; drop the garlic cloves and bay leaves in the spaces between them.
3. Cover the pan, and let the chicken cook over gentle heat, browning slowly and releasing its fat and juices. After about 10 minutes, uncover the pan, turn the pieces, and move them around the pan to cook evenly, then replace the cover. Turn again in 10 minutes or so, and continue cooking covered.
4. While the chicken is browning, pit the olives (if they still have pits in them). If you're using small olives like Castelvetrano, use a pitter and keep them whole. If you have larger olives (such as Ascolane or Cerignola), smash them with the blade of a chef's knife to remove the pits, and break them into coarse chunks.
5. After the chicken has cooked for 30 minutes, scatter the olives onto the pan bottom, around the chicken, and pour in the wine. Raise the heat so the liquid is bubbling, cover, and cook, gradually concentrating the juices, for about 5 minutes.
6. Remove the lid, and cook uncovered, evaporating the pan juices, occasionally turning the chicken pieces and olives. If there is a lot of fat in the bottom of the pan, tilt the skillet and spoon off the fat from one side.
7. Scatter the pine nuts around the chicken, and continue cooking uncovered, turning the chicken over gently until the pan juices thicken and coat the meat like a glaze.
8. Turn off the heat, and serve the chicken right from the skillet, or heap the pieces on a platter or in a shallow serving bowl. Spoon out any sauce and pine nuts left in the pan, and drizzle over the chicken.