Mother’s Chicken and Potatoes (with My Special Touches)

Grandmother Erminia’s caramelized Chicken and Potatoes is Joe Bastianich’s favorite platter of (as the restaurateur and winemaker describes it) "sticky, gooey goodness." This dish, which crowns the four-generation Bastianich holiday table, has roots in the family’s native Istria, Croatia, a region which was once a part of Italy. "Food brings us closer and identifies who we are," maintains his mother, Lidia Bastianich, the author, TV star and cofounder of restaurants such as Felidia and Del Posto. Lidia vividly recalls helping at the trattoria where her grandparents produced olive oil and wine, distilled grappa and cured their own meats. If Lidia’s favorite childhood tipple was a traditional bevanda— sugared water with a spoon of vinegar or wine—today she pairs this chicken with a Bastianich Vespa Bianco. Joe feels the dish calls for the caramel notes of his winery’s Tuscan La Mozza "I Perazzi" Morellino di Scansano. —Janet Forman

Wine pairing: Lidia pairs this chicken with a Bastianich Vespa Bianco. Joe feels the dish calls for the caramel notes of his winery’s Tuscan La Mozza "I Perazzi" Morellino di Scansano.

  • 2 ½ pounds chicken legs or assorted pieces (bone-in)
  • 4 to 6 ounces sliced bacon (five or six slices)
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • 1 pound red bliss potatoes, unpeeled, preferably no bigger than two inches across
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or more
  • 2 medium-small onions, peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • 2 short branches fresh rosemary with plenty of needles
  • 1 or 2 pickled cherry peppers, sweet or hot, cut in half and seeded

To prep and brown the chicken, potatoes and bacon:
Rinse chicken pieces and pat dry with paper towels. Trim excess skin and all visible fat. Cut drumsticks from thighs. If using breast halves, cut into two small pieces. Cut bacon slices in half crosswise and roll each strip into a neat, tight cylinder. Stick a toothpick through the roll to secure it; then cut or break the toothpick so only a tiny bit sticks out (allowing the bacon to roll around and cook evenly).

Pour canola oil into a skillet and set over high heat. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon of salt on the chicken, covering all sides. When the oil is very hot, lay chicken pieces skin side down an inch or so apart. (Watch out for oil splatters.) Don’t crowd the chicken: if necessary, fry in batches with similar pieces (like drumsticks) together.

Drop bacon rolls into the oil around the chicken, turning and shifting them often. Let chicken pieces fry in place for several minutes to brown the underside, then turn and continue frying until they’re golden brown on all sides: this may take seven to 10 minutes for drumsticks, possibly just five minutes for the breast. Remove from oil as soon as they are golden. Continue to cook the bacon rolls until lightly crisp but not dark. Adjust heat to maintain a steady sizzling and coloring.

Meanwhile, rinse and dry the potatoes; slice each one through the middle on the axis that gives the largest cut surface, then toss them with olive oil and the other ¼ teaspoon of salt.

When all the chicken and bacon are cooked and out of the skillet, pour off the frying oil. Return skillet to medium heat and add all the potatoes cut side down in a single layer. Add olive oil to the skillet; drizzle a bit more oil if the pan seems dry. Fry and crisp the potatoes for about four minutes to form a crust, then move them around the pan, still cut side down, until they’re brown and crisp: this should take seven minutes or more. Turn them over and fry another two minutes to crisp their rounded skin sides.

To assemble the dish:
Still over medium heat, toss the onion wedges and rosemary branches around the pan with potatoes. If using cherry peppers cut the seeded halves into ½-inch-wide pieces and scatter them into the pan.

Return leg and thigh chicken pieces (not the breast) along with any chicken juices that have accumulated to the pan, along with the bacon rolls. Raise the heat slightly, carefully turning and tumbling the chicken, potato, onion, bacon and pepper pieces to heat and coat them with pan juices. (Take care not to break the potato pieces.) Spread everything out in the pan with potatoes on the bottom as much as possible to continue their crisping, and cover.

Return heat to medium and cook for about seven minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, then uncover and again tumble the chicken, potatoes (and bacon rolls). Cover and cook another seven minutes or so, then add breast pieces. Give everything another tumble and cook covered for ten minutes more.

Remove the cover, turn pieces again and cook in open skillet for about ten minutes to evaporate the moisture and caramelize everything. Taste a bit of potato (or chicken) for salt, and sprinkle more as needed. Turn the pieces now and then; when they are all glistening and golden and potatoes are cooked through, remove skillet from stove and bring it right to the table.

Published on July 8, 2010