Italian


This particular recipe is something I stole from my dad, mashed up until you can’t recognize it even a little (the only familiar ingredient is bone-in skin-on chicken breasts) and replated.

Turned out great!

The original recipe is sour cream stuffed chicken, and while it was good, it left a distinct “I am fat” feeling in its wake. I mean, you just ate a chicken breast that you ruined all nutritional value of with a 1/2 cup of sour cream. Per person. Eek!

These use less stuffing and more flavor, so you feel less fat and more full. First, buy some bone-in-skin-on chicken breasts. No cheating. Yes, the skin is on. You can take it off, if you’re that virtuous, but really, the amount of skin per breast isn’t very high, so it’s not that bad. Only eat half, save the rest for later, no big deal. Either way, you’ll be stuffing stuff under that skin, so you need it.

You’ll also need a small amount of ricotta cheese, garlic, your personal favorite blend of Italian seasonings, sea salt, and parmigianno reggiano. I like grating my own. I like grating cheese. I just do, okay?

Whoo. Personal oddities aside, clean out your chicken. Rinse it off, get rid of major fat deposits, but leave as much skin intact as possible. Also, if you can, select breasts where the skin is unbroken and still cleanly attached on one side. It makes stuffing much easier. Pat the chicken dry (hah! I just wipe and go. But if you’re looking for extra crispy skin, it does help). Mix sea salt and Italian seasonings in a bowl and pat the mixture all over the chicken. Or, you can do what I do and sprinkle both generously all over and pat down. Go you, you washed one less dish.

So, pull out a bowl (you really do have to this time) and put in 1 tablespoon of ricotta cheese per breast. Grate a healthy amount of cheese over the top (I would guess it was 1/2 tablespoon per?) and mix in 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic. If your guests aren’t garlic nuts, either puree the crap out of it and put in less, or leave it out altogether (boo!).

Stir all of that together and put 1-2 tablespoons in each breast. Roast at 450 for 15 minutes, and then drop the temperature down to 350 or so. Then, cook until the meat is 170 and the juices run clear.

Let the meat stand. LET THE MEAT STAND. I know it smells like heaven has come down upon your home to personally bless your chicken, but unless you like scalding hot ricotta spilling everywhere leave it be. It won’t explode, but it sure won’t be in your chicken either. 10 minutes should finish up the cooking.

Eat. Focaccia makes a great side, if you can eat carbs, and don’t forget your favorite Mediterranean veggie of choice.

Roasted spaghetti, oh, roasted spaghetti. How utterly delicious though art. How sophisticated, and yet so comforting…

Oh. Ahem. Yes. How, and why, to roast garlic (and tomatoes and chicken).

Garlic is probably the most widespread spice besides salt and pepper. Bad restaurants try to use it to mask their poor food, bad TV chefs use it to mask their lack of personality, and normal, decent, good people — well, they just like the stuff. Self included. I love it, and while I’d say it’s not the singular most common spice in my home (cumin? Hot chili powder? ITALIAN SEASONING BLEND?!) it is definitely up there. It’s an iconic flavor, really. That almost spicy, perfectly garlic flavor that can be described as nothing other than garlicky. When did our love affair with this beautiful bulb begin? I don’t know.

But roasted? Roasted is an entirely different love affair. There still remains in the bulb the barest hints of garlicky flavor, but this stuff you can eat straight. It makes a great vegetarian dip for crackers, to just roast a bulb and smash with olive oil. It’s round on the palatte, sweet without being overbearing, and tastes like heaven.

So now that you’re salivating (or maybe that’s just me), to roast it. Take a whole bulb, LARGE. The largest you can find in the store around this time of year. Later in the fall, when the garlic is delightfully in full season, it’ll be closer to average size that you’re wanting. You’ll want at least 2 for the recipe, and if you like this like I like this, add another for snacking on later.

Now, chop ‘is ickle head off! From the top end (Point side, not fuzzy side), hack off at least a quarter of an inch. enough to bare the tops of all the little cloves of garlic. And no, you didn’t hear me say peel, or smash, or any of those barbaric things. How are your little garlics supposed to become delicious naked and beaten??? You can only lop their heads off. Uncover the tops of as many cloves as you can, as the uncovered cloves will taste best, and will also be easier to work with. This might mean going back and slicing some cloves in half separately from the bulb, this is fine. Put these in a large pan (we’ll be putting other stuff in here later).

Now take some nice extra-virgin olive oil and drizzle it all over the tops, getting its preciousness down into all the little cracks and crevices. Mmm. Now stick in the oven you set to 400 a minute ago. You didn’t? Well, stick it in the cold oven, and set oven to 400. An hour from now (1/2 hour to 45 minutes otherwise) it will be quite delicious.

Okay. So now to prepare thine chickens! Plain old boring BSCB (Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, in Liz-Grocery-List speak), should be thawed and whole. If you can find Boneless, skin on, you are a lucky human being, dance for joy, and use those for maximum benefit. Normally I’d use plain chicken and debone myself, but if you’ve ever smelled roasting garlic, you know you’ll be too hungry to think of boning chicken when that comes out of the oven.

Drizzle some more of that olive oil on top of these chicken breasts, and smother with salt and cracked pepper. Do NOT bother if it’s not cracked pepper, it will get too hot and taste bitter. You can add pepper later to the sauce. When there is a half-hour left on your timer, and the garlic is starting to smell of something, put the chicken in the pan to roast. (I don’t cover the pan, so it’s actually braising, but it’s still quite delicious.)

Now onto the tomatoes! Cut these in half, a paring knife or kitchen shears will do the job nicely, and place them, skins down, in a small pan (or, if you work fast and hate dishes, you can put them in the pan with the chicken and garlic 10 minutes before countdown). Once they are all laid out, pull out some fresh romano cheese and your favorite cheese grater, and shred some romano cheese on the top. If this is too extravagant, plain parmesan will do.

Roast for 10 minutes.

Pull everything out of the oven, smelling like heaven. To get the roasted garlic out of the bulb, grab it by it’s root end and squish down the plant. Do this directly into your favorite blender. Get as much heavenly brown goo out as you can.

Here, the recipe departs into comfort food (dump all or most of the tomatoes in with the garlic, holding out a few for those that LOVE ROASTED TOMATOES LIKE ME) or Lady Sophisticate food (hold back all of the tomatoes).

Blend, adding olive oil in as you go. If you used the tomatoes, you’re looking for spaghetti sauce consistency. If you didn’t, you’re looking for something very, very thin.

Chop up your chicken and boil some penne (yeah, I know, misadvertised. You could use spaghetti, if you wanted). Mix everything together, top with some more cheese, and toss the reserved tomatoes on top.

Heaven.

Add some cumin to your favorite macaroni salad recipe for a surprising earthiness. Or to your favorite mac’n’cheese casserole.
Add a 1/2 c of parmasan and a 1/2 package of cream cheese to your mashed potatoes for a creamy, delicious flavor blast!
Make chili butter by adding 2 tsp of chili powder to a stick of butter while creaming it. Brush it on your corn-on-the-cob while grilling. (if you boil yours, leave it out on the butter plate after freezing the butter again so it’s firm.)
Mix 2 parts your standard, basic ketchup with 1 part hoisin sauce for an asian blast on your hotdog.
Take your hotdog buns and brush them with garlic butter and grill along with hotdog. (You might want to NOT mix this with the above. It could be good, but I’ve never tried it!)

Oh, also, don’t get any sparklers in your hair, and do get in at least one snapper fight (but never aim at the person!)

Have a happy and safe Independence Day!

Liz and Josh