Eleanor was born in 1920, so she would have been a teenager during the height of the Great Depression. Although I have no idea what life was like for her during that time, I know she came from a HUGE Catholic family of sisters, and I can imagine they, like everyone else during that era, didn't do too well. So when I realised nearly every non-dessert recipe in The Box is heavily meat-centric, I wasn't too surprised. If you've gone through a period in your life where eating meat was not an affordable option, it makes sense that you'd later cook it for every possible meal.
I've never cooked a lot of meat, primarily due to an ill-fated attempt at vegetarianism that lasted through most of high school and most of university, and at which I'm sure Eleanor would have scoffed mightily. I guess I just missed my imprinting period when it comes to learning to cook meat, which means that, since I do nearly all of our meal-planning and grocery shopping, Judson and I don't eat a lot of meat.
THAT'S all about to change, much to Judson's delight. Pollo alla Verona was the first savoury recipe I've attempted from The Box (trying to ease my way in with a straightforward one before tackling things like “salmon loaf” and “pronto pups” later on). It calls for three 1.5 pound chickens, split. Let's take that sentence apart-- first of all, what even does it mean to “split” a chicken? I summoned Judson to handle this part, under the pretense of “I don't think my hands are strong enough to, you know, CUT THROUGH A BONE.” (Eleanor, give me a break on this one, please). So Judson came to my rescue and chopped the bird in half through its sternum, nearly breaking our knife along with it.
Secondly, THREE chickens to feed SIX people? I guess chickens were just a lot smaller back in the 1950s, because the recipe calls for 4.5 pounds (about 2kg) of chicken in total, and I bought the smallest bird I could find and it was that big on its own.
I'm not sure what makes this chicken “Veronese,” except that it has a tiny pinch of oregano in it, but it got a resounding thumbs up from us both. We ate it with a small green salad and some sautéed spinach, but it's hearty and filling on its own. Bonus? It reheats great, and the sauce was even better the second day.
he second best thing about it is that if you have someone you're trying to impress, it's really easy to make on your own-- no “stir this while chopping these” or “mix constantly while everything else in your kitchen burns.” The pan preps itself while you prep the chicken, then while it parbakes, you can make the sauce without worrying about the meat. Plus, the cooking times were perfect, even though I overcrowded the chicken halves in the roasting pan since we have the world's tiniest oven.
he best thing about this recipe? It calls for both red and white wine, so by the time you're done, you've got two open bottles at your disposal. My grandma definitely knew how to party. Dinner date, anyone?
5 Spoons out of five. It's delicious. Make this for someone who loves you tonight.
Pollo Alla Verona
6 tbsp butter, divided
1 1/2 medium onions, sliced
2 cloves minced garlic, chopped
4 ½ lb whole chicken, split in two halves through the breast (for me, this was one medium chicken-- if yours is smaller, scale up and get two birds)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
½ lb mushrooms, sliced
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tbsp basil, chopped
¼ tsp oregano
2 tbsp flour
¾ cup white wine
¾ cup red wine
red or green grapes and mint leaves (optional garnish)
Preheat oven to 375F/190C. Put 2 tbsp butter in a roasting pan and place in oven as it heats, just long enough to melt butter, then allow oven to continue preheating.
Scatter onion and garlic in this pan.
Rub chicken with salt and pepper, arrange skin-side down in butter mixture and bake 15 minutes.
Turn skin-side up and bake 15 more minutes.
Meanwhile, toss mushrooms with lemon juice and saute in remaining 4 tbsp of butter in large saucepan for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat, stir in parsley, basil, oregano, and (very slowly) flour.
Return to heat and gradually stir in both wines.
Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes.
Pour sauce over chicken in roasting pan and continue baking for 20 minutes longer, basting halfway through.
Chicken is done when juices from the thickest part run clear.
Taste and adjust seasoning. If sauce is too thin, put the roasting pan across two burners of your stove and heat it until it reduces to desired consistency. Spoon sauce over chicken and “arrange on a platter garnished with red and green grapes, parsley, and mint leaves.”
Serve with a chunk of crusty baguette to soak up the sauce. You can thank me later.
Serves 4, generously, or 6 with a side salad and baguette.