Today’s post is pretty much a repeat of one I did four years ago. It wasn’t until we sat down to supper that my husband asked if we hadn’t had this dish before. Well, I checked after dinner and, sure enough, he was right. There was, however, one major difference. The first time I prepared the dish, I used chicken thighs; last night, I used a whole chicken cut into 10 pieces as suggested by the recipe.
Aside from having to butcher the chicken, this change made the cooking more complicated. In my earlier post, I had said that the dish required “some babysitting.” Last night, however, tending to the bird became a full-time job. Whereas using bone-in thighs made for uniform cooking, each of the cut-up pieces seemed to have its own schedule—even the four breast pieces had different times. Obtaining even the minimal “some color” of the recipe took close to 60 minutes and required a load of temperature adjustments, which in turn called for adding considerably more wine than the called for 1/2 cup. I wound up hovering over that chicken like a mother hen.
The end result was good, but not as good as the first time. Some pieces, mostly the white-meat, were on the dry side; however, the legs and thighs were perfectly cooked. The minimal sauce is actually more of a glaze and adds loads of flavor, especially when enhanced by pressing the juices from the solids in the pan. As I said in my first post about this dish, its “intense lemon and herb flavors compensate for any chromatic deficiency.”
I served the dish with a side of rosemary and garlic oven roasted potatoes.
Pollo al Limone di Agata Lima ( From Naples at Table by Arthur Schwartz ) Serves 4
1 3½- to 4-pound chicken, cut into 10 pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
4 or 5 large cloves garlic, lightly smashed
12 or more large sage leaves
2 or 3 6-inch sprigs rosemary, leaves stripped off the stem
½ cup dry white wine (I used at least a cup.)
2/3 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice (I added the zest of one lemon.)
1 rounded tablespoon finely cut flat-leaf parsley
1. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper.
2. Arrange the chicken (skin-side down) in a skillet or sauté pan that can hold it all in 1 layer – a 10- to 12-inch pan. The chicken may crowd the pan. Tuck in the garlic, the sage, and the rosemary. Do not add any oil or fat. (I cheated here and lightly misted my pan with some olive oil.)
3. Set over low heat and continually shake the pan or jiggle the pieces of chicken so they don’t stick to the pan. After a few minutes, the chicken’s fat and juices will start running, and this will become less of a problem.
4. Turn the chicken pieces. Continue to cook over low heat, turning the chicken frequently. It will not brown, but will take on color. If the chicken juices accumulate in the pan, more than just skimming the bottom of the pan (because the chicken is particularly moist), increase the heat slightly. (Note: This first stage of cooking took approximately 17 minutes.)
5. After about 15 minutes, when the chicken has taken on some color, add ½ the white wine. When the first addition of wine has nearly evaporated, in about 10 minutes, add the remaining wine. There should never be more than a skimming of liquid at the bottom of the pan. Keep turning the chicken frequently.
6. When the second additional of wine has evaporated, add ½ the lemon juice (and, if using, the lemon zest). When the first addition of lemon juice has reduced, add the remaining juice. Altogether, the chicken will cook about 50 minutes. In the end there should be very little sauce – just a few spoons of reduced juices and fat. (As I said in my introduction, my chicken required about an hour’s cooking time, with several additions of wine.)
7. Arrange the chicken on a platter. Scrape whatever is left in the pan – herbs, garlic juices – into a strainer. With a spoon or spatula, Press the juices out of the solids and let them drip over the chicken.
8. Serve hot, sprinkled with parsley.
Wine Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc