Maria Bertuzzi's Lemon Chicken


Maria Bertuzzi shared this recipe at her Ristorante Grande in Rivergaro, along the Trebia River in Piacenza province. She called it good contadina, or farm food. I like the way fresh lemon finishes the dish's tomato sauce and the way the chicken easily reheats.

  • 3 1/2-pound frying or roasting chicken (organic free-range preferred), cut into 8 pieces
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 small carrot, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced
  • 3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, or 8 dried whole sage leaves
  • Shredded zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup chopped ripe fresh tomatoes (peeled and seeded) or thoroughly drained chopped canned tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup water or liquid from the canned tomatoes
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Garnish:
  • 2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley

Working Ahead: The chicken can be made 1 day ahead and stored overnight, covered, in the refrigerator. Undercook by 10 minutes, and do not add the final 3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice until just before serving.

Browning and Cooking the Chicken: Rinse and thoroughly dry the chicken pieces. Heat the oil in a heavy 12-inch saute pan over medium-high heat. Slip in the chicken pieces, skin side down, arranging them so they do not touch. Brown over medium heat or lower, adjusting the heat so the chicken colors slowly, taking about 15 minutes to reach a rich amber color. Sprinkle the pieces with a little salt and pepper as they cook, turning them with two wooden spatulas. Remove the browned chicken to a platter. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Set the pan over medium heat and saute the carrot, onion, parsley, and sage, 8 minutes, or until the onion starts to color. Stir in the lemon zest and continue sauteing, stirring often, 3 minutes, or until the onion is deep gold. Take care not to burn the brown glaze on the bottom of the pan. Blend in the garlic, cloves, tomatoes, and water, scraping up the glaze. Add the chicken and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Bring to a gentle bubble. Cover the pan. Cook 15 minutes. Uncover and cook about 10 minutes, turning the chicken pieces to moisten them. The sauce should thicken and cling to the chicken.

Serving: Have a platter warming in a low oven. Sprinkle the remaining 3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice over the chicken, and taste for salt and pepper. Pile the chicken on the platter, moistening the meat with the pan juices. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

Wine suggestions: From Piacenza, a local red Bonarda or Gutturnio. From other parts of Italy, have the Veneto's young red Merlot del Piave, a Chianti Classico of Tuscany, or a Santa Maddalena Classico from the Trentino-Alto Adige region.

 
Categories: 
Main Dishes
Yield: 
Serves 4 to 6

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