On March 4, 2000, we had our first Grandpa Martino Memorial Dinner. As I described earlier, this was Sandra’s idea after we’d had a discussion about laia and if we could find a recipe for that garlic-laden concoction. I really had no idea at that time that any of Grandpa’s recipes had survived his passing but of course as you now know, nearly all of the things we remember Grandpa making for us as children have been recreated at these dinners.
I’d actually had some of the main dishes over the years, cuyettas for sure and Mom had made me laia after Grandpa was gone but this chicken dish, with its absolutely unique taste was something I had not experienced since I was a teenager.
So when Sandra said she had a recipe for it and suggested that we include it as a part of that first dinner, I was thrilled. We started early that Saturday, I remember that. And I remember there was wine, before during and after the meal.
We had the 1998 Jory Zinfandel for the dinner wine that evening. Dad had told me that the Zinfandel grape was the varietal that grew on Grandpa’s arbor outside his back door and this dinner started the tradition of having a Zin at every GMD.
But the thing that’s clearest in my mind from that evening is the taste of Grandpa’s Chicken, transporting me back to my childhood in a way that’s difficult to describe. I remember finding it very hard to control the emotion of that moment. I feel it even now as I write this many years later. It caught me off guard, I think, and while there have been many, many such moments like that at these dinners, this one sticks out above the rest. I really felt a connection to my youth, to my family, to Grandpa at that moment and it’s fueled the passion for these dinners ever since.
So for the children of Aunt Mary and Uncle Butts, if you have the memory of Grandpa’s Chicken and you haven’t tasted it since you were a child, I’m happy to include this recipe for you and for our bloodline. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
2-3 lbs. chicken (we use boneless, skinless breasts now but we always include a couple thighs or legs for flavor and because Diana likes dark meat)
1 cup flour
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
Fresh basil, oregano, rosemary in garni bag
32 oz. Swanson® Chicken Stock
1 six oz. can tomato paste
¼ cup red wine
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Place herbs and bay leaves into a bouquet garni bag (or place on 5-inch square piece of cotton cloth and tie shut). Sauté onions and garlic in a large skillet. Place flour and one teaspoon of salt into a shallow bowl and coat chicken pieces. Pepper to taste. Lightly brown chicken on both sides in skillet with onion and garlic.
Combine chicken stock and chicken in a large pot. Add the bouquet garni bag. Simmer on medium for 15 minutes. Add tomato paste and wine and continue to simmer an hour or so til chicken is tender.
By the way, Grandpa, Dad and I were all hunters back in the day and this recipe can be and was used for rabbit, squirrel or pheasant as well as chicken. Typically, this dish is served over polenta and it’s absolutely imperative that you have a nice Cabernet Sauvignon or Chianti Classico with this dish. Remember, in Italy, water is only used for bathing.