One of the things I love about doing Food Tours in Rome are the different people I have a chance to meet. While you’d think the conversation is mostly going one way (me telling visitors all about Roman food) I’m actually much more interested in creating a conversation. I LOVE hearing not only about personal details (I’m a nosey person at heart) but I’m always intrigued by how people shop, eat and cook at home.
I would say about 90% of my clients are American, and while I’ve had a wide range of interests, jobs, ages, hobbies, shapes and sizes over the years, there is one thing that about 75% percent of them all have in common which never, ever fails to surprise (or even shock) me.
You all eat a LOT of chicken. Like WAY more chicken than I ever thought possible. I’m talking like chicken 5 to 8 times a week!
Don’t get me wrong, I love chicken, but the chicken many are eating is a far cry from the chicken I eat here in Italy, which is still considered a special occasion kind of dish.
“We grill a big batch of chicken breasts on Sunday, that way we have them all week for lunch, “ is a common theme. “We have chicken, some way or another, at least three nights a week,” is another. And 9 times out of 10, it’s boneless, skinless breast. Boneless, skinless chicken breast has, it seems, become the fall back lean protein that a lot of Americans think is the healthy choice.
I can’t think of anything I’d less want to put in my mouth.
There are a lot of reasons I won’t buy chicken in a supermarket these days, even if it is purportedly organic. While some of the reasons have to do with health (mine , the chicken’s and the environment’s), the most important one is taste. The swollen chicken breasts you get in the supermarket in no way taste anything like a real chicken that has been raised by a farmer.
Which is why, I guess, I’m eating a LOT less chicken than most people I know. The chickens I buy are, admittedly, expensive. As they should be if they are not industrially raised. And when I do get my hands on a good chicken? I treat it as special thing it is: with respect (I eat every bit, including the delicious skin) and with simple ingredients that bring out the most and provide a celebratory, delicious, filling and absolutely not ‘lean protein’ approach to this fowl.
Here is one of my favorite recipes. If, in fact, you can call it a recipe. It’s an old fashioned Roman way with chicken. As with most Italian chicken recipes, it’s done on top of the stove (ovens in every home are a relatively recent thing). And like many Roman dishes it relies on the judicious addition of pork to bring extra depth and flavor.
These days when I do decide to make chicken I usually buy them directly from the vendor at the Farmer’s Market here in Rome. While I sometimes will buy a whole chicken I’m more likely to buy the cut up pieces that cost less. And they cost less because the breasts have been removed, to be sold separately. Because I guess even some Italians these days want boneless, skinless breasts sometimes too.
I hope you don’t take this post the wrong way. I’m not usually so preachy about what you should be eating. But if you do make the effort to get your hands on a real farm raised chicken, (I know it’s not easy) then you might decide that it’s worth the effort (and the cost). And that maybe boneless, skinless chicken breast is not something you want to be eating so often? Just a thought. And PLEASE DO leave your chicken comments below. As I said, I’m nosey.
To show you just how easy this delicious recipe is, I’ve made a video for you.
- 2 chicken thighs
- 2 chicken wings
- 2 chicken legs
- 2 tablespoons lard
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup canned tomatoes
- 6 sprigs fresh rosemary
- salt, pepper
- 1 glass white wine
- See video above