The nonnas cook using “a dash of this, a spoonful of that, and a pinch of whatever.” So on a rainy spring afternoon, it is surprising when they sit at the kitchen table and talk about recipes — American recipes — their daughters clip from newspapers and magazines.
“I don’t like the ones that use butter, not olive oil,” a nonna says. The rest nod knowingly while wrinkling their noses. The prospect of using a Northern Italian or French medium to brown chicken makes them shudder.
“We’re lucky we can find all the things we need to cook right here,” another says. “My daughter-in-law,” she pauses, ”the Irish one, she travels far to get what she needs to cook when her mother is coming to dinner.”
“Well, she could just use vegetables and chicken,” says a nonna brusquely. “They’re popular with everybody– Irish, American — and there are a thousand ways to cook them.”
“Back home, my mother made wonderful dishes–like chicken cacciatore–with mushrooms, celery, onions, carrots, you name it.”
“My daughter fixed a dish the other night that I thought was going to be cacciatore but it turned out she was using a recipe from a ladies’ magazine.”
“Bah! Those magazines and newspapers try to give original recipes, but the food never tastes the way it should.”
“She made something called Chicken Scarpariello–in the style of the shoemaker. My mother never served it. I’m pretty sure it’s an American recipe.”
“Did you taste it?”
“It was delicious,” the nonna answers. “It was chicken on the bone cooked with sausage, a little wine, and hot vinegar peppers.”
The nonnas all pay attention at the mention of hot vinegar peppers. “I always keep a jar in the refrigerator,” one says. “They’re nice on an antipasto plate.”
“And they’re good on a sandwich with mozzarella.”
The rain is letting up. The nonnas are placing their coffee cups in the sink and getting ready to leave. “I’m going to the butcher,” one says. “Does anybody need anything?”
“I’m fixing chicken tonight, but maybe you can pick me up a pound of sausage?”
“He keeps the vinegar peppers on the shelf,” says another. “Buy me a jar, please.”
Soon, the nonnas are in their apartments making dinner. A very distinctive aroma of vinegar and sausage wafts from every window.
The nonnas meet after dinner to walk to the novena together. Each changes the subject when asked what she cooked for dinner– a recipe from an American magazine, perhaps.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, quartered
- One 4-pound chicken, well rinsed, dried, cut into 10 pieces
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 pound sweet sausage with fennel, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
- 4 to 7 hot cherry peppers in vinegar, diced
- 1 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- In a skillet large enough to hold ingredients in one layer, saute garlic until golden.
- Remove garlic; set aside.
- Add chicken to pan; sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper
- Brown chicken thoroughly on all sides.
- Remove chicken from pan; set aside.
- In same pan, saute sausage until cooked through
- To pan, add diced peppers, including seeds; stir.
- Remove sausage and peppers from pan; set aside.
- Add wine to pan and reduce by half; add broth.
- Stir all scrapings from bottom of pan into the wine and broth.
- Return all ingredients to pan; bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat; cover closely.
- Simmer 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
- Remove sausage and chicken from pan; set aside.
- Over medium heat, reduce sauce until it coats a spoon.
- Pour sauce over chicken; serve with mashed potatoes.