My husband proposed to me in a beautiful little Italian restaurant, at a private table tucked away in the wine cellar. (Not the dark, damp wine cellar you might be thinking of. More of a partially below ground room with lovely wrought iron racks of wine and ambient lighting). Does that man know me or what? I actually can’t remember what we ate that night, though I’m pretty sure we had a multi course dinner. I believe I might have a menu, specially printed for the evening, tucked away in a scrap book somewhere. But beside these little recollections the food and wine is a blur. I knew he was going to propose that night and despite my deep love of Italian food I just couldn’t concentrate on anything else other then that impending proposal.
My husband and I have been happily married for several years now. And most fortunately he has taken me back to that wonderful little place at a time when my brains weren’t leaking out my ears. I tried fried risotto balls, raviolis, Italian sausage, but strangely enough the dish that sticks out to me the most was a half of a roasted chicken that was served in it’s own pan sauce with Kalamata olives. To let you in on a little secret, while I make a mean roast chicken, it’s honestly not my favorite dish. For me roast chicken is usually just too bland. But this chicken was different. It was that pan sauce. It was a rich brown sauce, and was distinctly flavored with those briny, salty Kalamata and a pinch of herbs. Yet it didn’t over power with salt. I wanted to just take a bath in that gravy. My husband and I sopped up every last drip with the mashed potatoes, bread, and maybe even a risotto ball left from our appetizer. Then we asked for more gravy. I would almost drink that stuff straight. (Actually my oldest son loves gravy so much he will in fact drink it, like… in a glass.)
I’ve been wanting to reproduce that roast chicken, and most of all that pan sauce for years now. I’ve attempted from time to time and never quite managed. But I have gotten much much better at roasting chicken. In fact I can now achieve that perfectly crisp skin and keep the meat (breast included) moist and tender inside, it’s simpler then you might imagine (and a nice brine doesn’t ever hurt the matter if you have enough time). But I digress: I noticed as I was flipping through Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking that there are two mighty fine looking recipes for roast chicken. Since I have the crispy/moist/tender thing down I decided to give that mythical chicken with olives another go using Essentials as a jumping point for my experiment.
I came up with the recipe I’m sharing with you today, which is really fantastic. The problem is I haven’t been back to that restaurant in quite a long time, so I honestly can’t remember if it replicates the original dish. I guess that’s only a problem for me, as I promise you won’t have complaints about this chicken. When you make it, be sure to whip up some mashed potatoes or polenta (homemade! coming up next post), and plenty of bread to soak up the wonderful pan sauce.Print