Seasonal Flavors: Sicilian Chicken

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By Denise Zito

Joe Zito
Joe Zito, the author’s father

When I was growing up, my father did most of the cooking and food shopping. Times were tight and he was always in search of a bargain. So late on the occasional Saturday evening, he’d go to Conzatti’s Italian market in suburban Johnstown, Pennsylvania and make Chuck Conzatti an offer on all the meat still left in the display case. One pricefor everything. Then home he’d come to cut up and bag the meat into family-size packages for the freezer.

For me the worst part was watching him cut up those chickens! We were eating wings way before it was fashionable—because no one wanted them and thus they were cheap. Dad would prepare bags of wings, bags of thighs, bags of breasts and then of course bags of backs and necks for soup and stock.

When I had my own family (and a high pressure job and all the rest), I wanted none of the chicken butchering on Saturday night. In those early days before we had our own chickens, I would buy chicken parts. Dad had no qualms about rooting through my freezer when he came for a Free Union visit and I would get a lecture on my wasteful and extravagant ways in purchasing boneless chicken breasts. “Denise, Kroger has chickens on sale for sixty-seven cents a pound. Just go get five and cut them up yourself!”

Really? Are you kidding Dad? I took to hiding my chicken parts in the back of the freezer so he wouldn’t find them on his visits.

But of course, as one matures, one realizes that one’s parents are all-knowing and that Dad was right. (He is reading this from heaven and I’m certain he is pleased that I’ve finally wised up.)

The point is that you, too, can learn to cut up a chicken and with all the delicious local chicken to be had, it is a worthwhile skill. Full disclosure: as I have written before in this column, my son Joel and his fiancé Erica run the Free Union Grass Farm and their chicken is like that of my youth: juicy, yellow fat, and completely delicious. So go get a Free Union Grass Farm chicken at the Crozet Great Valu, or get in touch via www.freeuniongrassfarm.com, cut it up as Erica illustrates in this video on a terrific local food blog, Beyond the Flavor: www.beyondtheflavor.com/2013/03/28/kitchen-skills-breaking-down-a-chicken/ and then perhaps prepare our family special occasion chicken recipe. We always have this during the Christmas holidays.

Sicilian Breaded Chicken

  • One chicken, cut into pieces
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 2 T dried basil or ½ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 T dried parsley or ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup grated Romano cheese
  • Olive oil for greasing the sheet

Combine the crumbs, herbs, cheese, salt and garlic. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.

Dip the chicken in the egg, then in the crumb mixture. Coat a baking sheet with a generous amount of olive oil and place the chicken on the sheet. Bake at 350°F for an hour. Midway through the baking, remove the baking sheet and turn the pieces so that they brown on both sides. This dish can be served warm or at room temperature.