The weather this Labor Day weekend hasn’t been too congenial for a cookout. It seems Mother Nature has been in a changeable mood, sunny for a while, then cloudy, then stormy, and hot and muggy the whole while. So I took the chicken I was meaning to grill indoors and gave it an old-fashioned treatment that brought me back to Angelina’s Sunday dinners: cut up in pieces, mixed with potatoes, drizzled with a generous measure of oil and seasonings and roasted in the oven. Nothing could be simpler or more satisfying.
Angelina had her own take on the classic Italian baked chicken and potatoes, which is usually made with garlic and rosemary. Angelina used more onion than garlic, which gives the dish a pleasant, mellow sweetness, and substituted parsley for the rosemary. And she added a bit of parmesan cheese (not too much) for extra savoriness. Sometimes she added a bit of chopped tomato, too. The result is not very pretty to look at perhaps, and it certainly isn’t elegant. But it is honest, unpretentious cooking, and it sure is delicious eating!
- 1 young chicken, cut into serving pieces
- 4-6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
- 1-2 cloves of garlic
- 1 médium onion, finely sliced
- 50g (1/2 cup) grated parmesan cheese
- A handful of parsley, finely chopped
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- A few ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
Mix all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Be very generous with the salt, pepper and especially the olive oil.
Arrange the chicken and potatoes in a baking dish large enough to accommodate the ingredients. (The chicken needs to be in a single layer, with potatoes strewn around them.) Drizzle any remaining oil from the mixing bowl, together with a bit of white wine or water over all.
Roast in a moderately hot oven (375°F/190°C) for an hour, or until the chicken and potatoes are cooked through and golden brown. Turn the ingredients once or twice during the roasting process for even cooking, and baste it from time to time with the oil and cooking juices. But let it alone for the last 10 minutes to allow a nice crust to form. If, on the other hand, the chicken seems to be browning too quickly, lower the temperature a bit (to 180°C/350°F).
Let the dish rest for at least 15 minutes or so before serving, so the juices can be absorbed back into the chicken and potatoes.
The real secret of making a delicious chicken and potatoes is not to go light on the seasonings, in particular the oil and salt. Yes, I know, I know… but if you want that old fashioned taste, you just can’t skimp on either. When you take the dish out of the oven, it will seem to be swimming in oil—that’s the way it should be. After the dish rests—and resting is the other key step here—the oil will be drawn back into the chicken and potatoes and infuse it with unctuous deliciousness. Other than that, as you can see, the dish practically cooks itself.
You want a young chicken, a ‘fryer’ rather than a roaster, cut into ten pieces: two drumsticks, two thighs, two wings, and each breast (bone in) cut into two. Each piece should be small enough that the seasonings can really penetrate the meat. For the same reason, you should give the chicken a long cooking time as indicated in the recipe. Don’t worry, the generous amount of oil will keep the chicken from drying out, so long as you turn and baste the pieces as directed.
Some recipes will call for splashing a little white wine on your chicken and potatoes before placing them in the oven. Angelina didn’t do that but there’s nothing to stop you if you want to. I do find that modern chickens tend to give off quite a bit of liquid on their own, however, so judge for yourself.
Long-time readers may recognize chicken and potatoes as a close relative to another meat and potato dish: agnello e patate al forno, which we featured some time back.