Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pan-roasted chicken with tomatoes and olives

While there are advantages to being the younger sibling (parents are more lax, you don't have to babysit anyone, and you can usually learn from your older sib's social and fashion mistakes), there are disadvantages too. For one thing, you're rarely the first to do something. You pretty much have to watch your older sibling give something a go, and then later, sometimes much later, depending on your age difference, try it yourself. Second, hand-me-downs. And third, your tastes are often overrun by your older brother or sister.

My sister was very nice to me growing up, especially considering that we are four years apart and she could have completely ignored me. Rather, she would frequently include me when she and her friends played together. Our favorite activity in elementary school was dressing up as vampires and roller skating around the neighborhood--a game wittily named, you might have guessed, "Roller Skating Vampires." Since I was the littlest, I was cast as Baby Vampire, a role I like to think I played with great aplomb.

But she did dominate me in the food department, particularly when it came to pizza. We would always,  always get olives and salami as toppings.

I don't know why I didn't speak up more, but I never liked either olives or salami. I would have much preferred sausage or mushrooms or even what passed for exotic in the 80s--Hawaiian pizza bearing canned pineapple and Canadian bacon. So for many years, probably until I reached junior high, I did not like pizza, because I associated it with olives and salami, two ingredients I found overbearingly salty.

I did eventually come around to pizza, but it took me longer to like olives and salami. Salami, I realized at some point in high school, was pretty good, but only cold. I still don't like it hot. Olives began to interest me in my 20s, when I discovered there were actually countless varieties, the majority of which are not shiny and black, and do not come in cans.

Now I eat olives all the time. I like mild, pale green ones stuffed with blue cheese, inky purple kalamatas, and my favorite: wrinkled oil-cured olives. They are delicious plain, or served alongside some Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam cheese. Or, they provide a fabulous, salty bite to pan-roasted chicken with rosemary and cherry tomatoes.

Pan-roasted chicken with rosemary, cherry tomatoes and olives
Adapted from Marcella Hazan's Marcella Cucina

8 pieces of chicken (I use thighs)
2  T olive oil
2 t. minced rosemary
4-5 whole peeled garlic cloves
1/4 t. red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/2 c. white wine
24 cherry tomatoes
12 oil-cured black olives
salt and pepper

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet that can accommodate all the chicken pieces, heat oil, rosemary, and garlic over medium-high heat. Once the rosemary and garlic begin to fry, add the chicken pieces, skin-side down. Brown well on one side, then turn and brown the other, about 5 minutes per side. Add red pepper and toss the entire contents of the pan.

Add the wine and scrape the pan as it bubbles away. Turn the heat down to low, cover the pan, and cook for about 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If at any time there seems to be insufficient liquid, add a few tablespoons of water.

When the chicken is done (it should be nearly falling off the bone, according to Marcella, although I stop cooking it before it reaches this stage), add the tomatoes and the olives. Cook for another minute or two until the tomatoes burst. Serve at once with rice or polenta.


  1. Ha ha ha, Baby Vampire, what a great game :) That chicken looks delicious.

    Took awhile for me to get into olives too, and I make a very similar chicken dish that gets served on a bed of mashed potato. Perfect comfort food!

  2. Gorgeous. I am making this! Love shaz's idea of putting it on a bed of mashed potatoes too.

  3. Sounds like a perfect dish. Took me awhile with the olives too, but they do go very well with chicken (which I only realized a few years ago). Love the story about the roller skating vampires!

  4. This is one of my favorite Marcella dishes. Makes me hungry looking at the pic!
    I love the roller skating vampire story. yesterday I saw a red-caped and goggled super hero outside of Delfino pizzera. he wasn't a kid though.

  5. olives and salami on pizza? gag! olives are much more suited to dishes like this, and i love how they look with the maters. lovely!

  6. Vampires... you guys were so ahead of the trend!

    One of my fav delivery pizza topping combos has always been pepperoni-olive. But my other favs are sausage-mushroom and pineapple-ham! Guess I've always liked any kind of pizza. What I did not like as a kid and being forced to eat as the youngest in the house was liver and onions. And I've still never developed a taste for it! Don't really think I'm missing out on anything.

    That chicken dish looks so good! There is a Marcella cookbook here. I think I should refer to it more often! - Pete

  7. camille: isn't Mt. Tam the best? I think I could eat it every single day.

    shaz: You are right, mashed potatoes would be delicious with this--maybe best of all!

    agrigirl: give it a try!

    Connie: Yeah, I think olives can be a great accent to dishes...a nice salty bite!

    Pam: Ha! That's an "only in San Francisc" moment (well maybe Manhattan too!)

    grace: I am glad I am not the only one who thought olives on pizza was revolting!

    Pete: Liver and onions, ugh. My parents never forced those on us, but Danny's did! He hated them! ANd yes, you need to break out the Marcella book!

  8. I did. We all had it tonight and we loved it. Thanks so much for sharing. I used thighs and breasts and the boys ate it right up.

  9. Ha ha, it was opposite for me, since I was the older child. My sister copied all my food preferences and didn't realize until later in life that we didn't have exactly the same taste buds.

  10. I was the middle child but we were all 6 years apart. It was like being an only child. And we NEVER had pizza. I did not have it until I went away to boarding school. And then I made up for it. Back then, olives and salami were not options. Thank God.

    I love the combo in your dish...olives and tomatoes are perfect together.

  11. agrigirl: I am so glad you tried and liked it!

    Tiny: See? The older/younger experience is universal...

    Barbara: No pizza growing up? How unAmerican ;)

  12. Canned olives are a pale comparison to the real deal from an olive bar. It's like canned beets. You grew up hating them, but the first time you eat a fresh one, roasted with goat cheese, you love them.

  13. Mmmm... that sounds amazing. I love the strong flavours that you've used. I want to come for dinner.
    *kisses* HH

  14. Olives. Yum. I highly recommend the green, tree-ripened kind you can buy in a can (about $5/can, but so worth it) or at olive bars. They look dyed, but they're not. And they're mellow, savory and delicious. They'd go well with this meal, which I'll have to try making soon!

    As for sisters, mine is five years older and I completely concur with your sentiments. With us, one of the weirdest older/younger splits was with broccoli. I could only get the stalks because she preferred the florettes. Strange.

  15. Dear Baby Vampire...what fashion mistakes? You should have spoken up about the pizza; I can't remember you ever dissenting! Just be glad I didn't love bbq chicken pizza or, as I occasionally see in Jersey, hotdog-and-fries pizza. No joke. Just made Marcella's roasted red pepper and basil rigatoni tonight. I have never disliked any of her recipes. Sometimes a dish can take too long (cranberry bean pasta?), but they're never bad.

  16. CJ: That's a good comparison. I grew up eating canned beets and thought they were I love fresh ones.

    HH: you are welcome any time!

    Ash: I've had those,they are indeed delicious! Weird about the broccoli.

    MisterJary: Did I imagine those tapered stone-washed jeans with the fold-down waist-band? OK, I wanted them, who are we kidding. I mentioned hot dog and fried pizza to the husband and he said, "I would eat that."