I was recently at a fundraiser at which one of television’s most-loved chefs, best-selling cookbook author and restaurateur – LIDIA BASTIANICH – was the honored guest and feature speaker. While chatting with the “First Lady of Italian Cuisine” I was delighted to discover she was indeed the “real deal” and came across as direct and delicious as her recipes. Her passion for cooking, comfort, and all things “La Familia” was evident in every word she spoke, and by the end of the evening I felt like we were true friends. I have prepared many of her famed recipes and continually reference one chicken dish as my all-time favorite when looking to serve family style comfort food that’s simple and flavorful and epitomizes all things “Lidia!”
3 to 4 pounds assorted chicken pieces, cut-up
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
1 cup brine-cured green Italian olives
½ cup white wine
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
Rinse the chicken pieces, and pat dry with paper towels. Trim off excess skin and all visible fat. Cut drumsticks off the thighs; cut breast halves into two pieces each. Season the chicken all over with the salt.
Put the olive oil and butter in the pan, and set over medium-low heat. When the butter is melted and hot, lay in the chicken pieces, skin side down, in a single layer; drop the garlic cloves and bay leaves in the spaces between them.
Cover the pan, and let the chicken cook over gentle heat, browning slowly and releasing its fat and juices. After about 10 minutes, uncover the pan, turn the pieces, and move them around the pan to cook evenly, then replace the cover. Turn again in 10 minutes or so, and continue cooking covered.
While the chicken is browning, pit the olives (if they still have pits in them). If you’re using small olives like Castelvetrano, use a pitter and keep them whole. If you have larger olives (such as Ascolane or Cerignola), smash them with the blade of a chef’s knife to remove the pits, and break them into coarse chunks.
After the chicken has cooked for 30 minutes, scatter the olives onto the pan bottom, around the chicken, and pour in the wine. Raise the heat so the liquid is bubbling, cover, and cook, gradually concentrating the juices, for about 5 minutes.
Remove the lid, and cook uncovered, evaporating the pan juices, occasionally turning the chicken pieces and olives. If there is a lot of fat in the bottom of the pan, tilt the skillet and spoon off the fat from one side.
Scatter the pine nuts around the chicken, and continue cooking uncovered, turning the chicken over gently until the pan juices thicken and coat the meat like a glaze.
Turn off the heat, and serve the chicken right from the skillet, or heap the pieces on a platter or in a shallow serving bowl. Spoon out any sauce and pine nuts left in the pan, and drizzle over the chicken.