My cousin Vita once asked me if I'd seen Mob Wives.
Where? Like at my house? At a wedding?
The short answer is, "I'm sure." But that wasn't what Vita was referring to. She was referring to the "reality" TV show. And no, I haven't seen it, because it's not about Mob Wives. I may be stating the obvious here, but if these women were - in "reality" - mob wives, they wouldn't be flapping their jaws on TV, am I right? Still, it's a sure money-maker, since many Americans are fascinated by The Mob.
It's called "The Outfit" in Chicago. Just saying.
I'm not quite so fascinated, since I've had enough "reality" on that subject to make it a little less than charming. Vita assures me that the TV show is hilarious, though, and she may be right. Any show starring a person named "Big Ang" might be worth at least one viewing. And I'm sorry to hear that Big Ang is sick. Hey! Angie, sweetheart! I hope you get better soon and I'm going to post a good soup recipe, just for you.
But not today. Today we're doing Chicken Vesuvio.
Let's start with some interesting facts about Chicken Vesuvio:
- This dish is, in fact, not Italian, but Italian-American;
- It originated in Chicago;
- In the 1930s, according to Wikipedia;
- The "Vesuvio" comes from the idea that the dish should be served with the potato wedges formed into the shape of a volcano, though I have never seen it served like this and can't imagine why anybody would bother;
- There are no peas in Chicken Vesuvio. No, there isn't. Don't start with me.
This recipe comes to me from my father-in-law who, once upon a time, owned a well-known Italian restaurant in Chicago. Dad was a colorful person. By colorful, I mean involved with some pretty shady characters. In his youth, he worked for Al Capone - dog races and a little booze running. One day he went legit by becoming a photographer for a newspaper and was one of the first on the scene of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, after having been tipped off by one of his former co-workers.
Eventually, Dad opened his restaurant and the Chicken Vesuvio became legendary. I'm going to give you two recipes. This first one was published in the New York Times, and I'm printing it here verbatim.
Two fryers, about 2 1/2 lbs. each, cut up
5 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup oregano
1 1/2 cup clear canned chicken broth
cup olive oil
Cover bottom of large roasting pan with about 1" of oil and preheat. Fry chicken and potatoes on top of stove for 20 minutes. Place in oven and bake at 375 degrees for another 20 minutes. Pour off most of oil, add chicken broth, sprinkle parsley, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper over chicken and potatoes. Cover and return to oven. Bake at 325 degrees till tender. Served with chilled white Orvieto wine. Serves 4.
Now, here's a revised version, for real life, not a restaurant. I mean, who's got room on top of their kitchen stove to fry two whole cut-up chickens and five potatoes? And what the hell is Orvieto wine?
Connie Staccato's Chicken Vesuvio
A couple of packages of chicken legs and thighs
3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 8 pieces each, lengthwise (in case you want to build a volcano)
A half a head of fresh garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 cup of chopped parsley (Italian flat-leaf, it's better)
1/4 dried oregano
Lots of olive oil
Salt and pepper
(Forget the chicken broth. Let the chicken make its own broth. And "pour off most of oil"? Are you kidding me??)
Turn your oven on to 375 degrees. Generously coat the bottom of a large roasting pan with oil, and heat it in the oven for a few minutes. Don't forget about it, or you got problems. (I line my pan with foil first, a step you will thank me for when you go to wash the dishes.) Put the chicken and potatoes in the pan and drizzle with olive oil. Take your CLEAN, BARE hands and rub the oil over the chicken and potatoes. Now, wash your hands REAL GOOD with soap and hot water or you're going to get food poisoning. Drizzle with more olive oil. Sprinkle all the other ingredients on top and put the pan in the oven. Cook until brown and crispy - about an hour-and-a-half, depending on the potatoes.
This makes good party food, served with a baked mostaciolli, a salad, and some good bread.
And to make it really authentic, hire a waiter named "Paulie".