Pollo alle Olive ~ Chicken with Olives

On Thursday night, I rented the beautiful Naked Kitchen on Valencia and taught a class of 35 delightful people how to turn an evening of cooking into boisterous fun among friends. Today's featured chicken was a last minute addition for those who preferred not to eat pork. It is simple and my husband adores it, yet I had not made it in some time and couldn't recall ever teaching it in one of my classes, yet all who had it raved about it and I was reminded of how it came to be.

It has been a favorite since 1988 when, not even 25 years old, I created it for a man I was sure I would marry. As it turned out, even back then, my instinct for food was far superior to my understanding of men.

Ted, the fellow in question, eventually married my beloved friend Olivia-aka the risotto queen, while I tortuously found my way into Ted's best friend John's imperfectly perfect arms.

Before you get all hot and bothered expecting salacious details...there are none. There was no overlapping, no hair pulling, no fisticuffs nor duels. The only strife happened at Olivia and Ted's wedding, when they could not agree on whose side I would stand-he won.

Today the four of us are still bonded by a deep, unquestioning affection and a long shared history of joys and sorrows, disappointments and successes.

Chicken and olives continue to be part of the never-ending conversation that is our friendship.

Olivia, Teddi, Johnny: here's to love and friendship. And yes it is forever.


Pollo alle olive in teglia

Stove top chicken with olives

 

for 6 to 8 people

1 chicken

salt to taste

1 cup black olives

4 sage sprigs

2 wide strips lemon peel

1 clove garlic olive oil

1 small green garlic stalk (or 1 clove garlic)

grated zest of 1 lemon

splash white wine

2 cups hot chicken stock

pepper to taste

 

The day before making the dish, have the butcher cut your chicken in 10 pieces and skin them. Instruct them to keep the back, as it will impart great flavor to the final dish.

Salt the chicken generously, cover and refrigerate.

When ready to start cooking, remove the salted chicken from the refrigerator and place on the counter to come to room temperature.

Rinse the olives well and place them in a small bowl. Squeeze them lightly with your fingers to loosen the flesh.

Pick the leaves off 1 sage sprig and rub them and the lemon peel strips between your palms to release their essence. Smash the garlic clove without peeling.

Add the rubbed sage and lemon and the smashed garlic clove to the olives then cover everything in olive oil.

Mince the green garlic to a paste with a generous pinch of salt and mix with the zest. Pick the leaves off the remaining sage sprigs and rub them between your palms to release their essence.

Select a sauté pan wide enough to accommodate the chicken pieces in one comfortable layer. Pour 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil in it and add the lemon/green garlic mince.

Set on gentle heat and add the sage leaves. Soften for 4 to 5 minutes stirring often to prevent burning and sticking.

Add the chicken pieces and bring the fire to medium to brown lightly on both sides, still stirring to ensure the garlic doesn't burn.

Raise the heat to high and deglaze with the wine. When you no longer smell the acidity, but just the sugar, pour the stock all over the chicken.

When the stock start boiling, lower the heat to medium low and cover the pan.

The chicken will need to cook for 30 to 35 minutes in a lively simmer. It will get quite tender. You will have to return to it often to ensure it is not burning nor sticking and has a bit of liquid on the bottom.

Discard the garlic clove and pour out some of the excess oil from the olives then add them to the chicken.

Braise for another 10 to 15 minutes, adjust salt and pepper. Transfer to a warm platter and serve.

NOTES

  • I prefer to use back olives for this. Gaeta, nicoise, taggiasca, Kalamata will all work. Even the sun dried or roasted ones are suitable, though they will give a slightly different flavor
  • Use green if you prefer, the flavor will be tangier but still delicious and I'd probably go with an herb like marjoram or oregano
  • Either way: leave the pit in, it does make for a better flavor
  • Use a cast iron pan, if you have it
  • Crack the chicken back in half before adding it,  as cracked bones give depth of flavor to stews