When my grandmother, Josephine, was getting up there in years- way up there- my sisters and I thought it would be a good idea to start asking her for her recipes. Of course, we understood that none of them would have measurements, or the exact ingredients, but we thought we could figure that out from watching her or asking about how many handfulls, cans, etc we should use. We come close on many of them, each one of the three of us has almost mastered at least a couple of her best dishes. When she passed away she was 99 and still had all her marbles as they say. She left us with a legacy of love through the table that was only made stronger by our mother. Naturally, making her recipes makes me think of them both (my mother has, sadly, passed as well) and I hope each time to capture just the right everything- flavors, consistency, even the smell, so I can capture her again, in her food and share a bit of her with those at my table. I’ve made her “sticky chicken” recipe ( it follows, such as it is ) many times and it wasn’t until I had made it for maybe the 10th time that I realized I was missing one of the most important ingredients- no, not garlic- that one starts every one of her recipes ” First, you fry a little garlic”-patience. I was missing patience. My grandmother cooked in a time when women had all day to prepare a meal, and no crock pot to do it in. Patience in cooking wasn’t something she had to practice, and that’s a good thing, because she didn’t have it for anything else!, she had all day. Many, if not all of the best dishes she made required, not just the garlic, but standing by the stove, turning, stirring, tasting, and doing it over and over for hours. She put all that time into her food, and it came out as love. I know we live in a different era, we are pressed for time, our calendars are beyond full, but if have the chance to take an old family recipe (or use this one, it’s delicious, I promise) and add the extra ingredient of patience, I know it will come out as love and fill your body and soul.
NANNI’S STICKY CHICKEN
you will need- chicken parts, dark meat only- a few legs and a few thighs (bone in)
tomatoes- she used canned, whole tomatoes- you need only a couple, and no juice
mushrooms- white button, not fancy mushrooms- let’s say about 10 or so, sliced
fresh flat leaf Italian parsley
and of course, garlic- and here’s an important thing to know and remember- real Italians do not use a lot of garlic ( I will be revisiting this many, many times, most especially in my restaurant reviews) just a little, maybe 2 cloves, chopped corsely.
First- you fry a little garlic in olive oil ( what else) – being careful not to burn it. Add the sliced mushrooms, sprinkle them with a little salt ( this will let them give up their moisture) and saute them until they are nice and brown. Place the seasoned chicken one piece at a time in the pan, but not on top of the mushrooms (skin side down for the thighs) and let it cook until the skin is brown, turning the legs until all sides are brown. Turn the thighs over and continue to cook them until they are cooked through. Here’s where I have to tell you, my grandmother overcooked everything!! And I pride myself on not doing that, unless I’m cooking one of her recipes, then I do it her way. If you see that the pan is getting too dry, you can add a little bit (1/4 cup) of chicken stock or water. At some point, take the two or three tomatoes you’ve taken out of the can, and with your hands (this is critical) over the pan, squeeze them to break them up and let them flop into the pan. Keep turning (loving) that chicken every once in while for about 1 1/2 hours, or more if have the time. I’m pretty sure she did this for three hours, but then again, that’s probably just my memory playing tricks on me! The chicken skin should be “sticky”. Just before you serve- take a scissor and cut up some parsley over the top. Serve with bread, of course.
Thank you, Josephine.
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“at some point” “a couple”. my kind of measurements!! ❤
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Great stuff Jo!
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There are many great memories of Nannie Forte I think about when I see her picture, smell garlic browning in a pan, see a big fig tree, or ripe tomato … but best memory of all was when I brought Joanne home after keeping her out all night. Her grandma held a small paring knife in her hand like she was going to peel an apple – pointed it at my eye and said – as only Nannie could say – “You summa na bish – you keepa my girl out all night – I cutta ya heart out!” I know she meant it. After that I knew I had to make an honest woman out of Joanne or this ol’lady was going to kill me. Forget about the Mafia – you don’t want to make a Calabrese angry!