The Way Back Machine…


Once upon a time, when I was a catering director and the catering world was moving beyond sliced roast beef and canned green beans ( blech!) and mashed potatoes scooped with an ice cream scoop, I lived and died in these 3 cookbooks! Silver Palate in NYC was a new breed of food shops where you could get take out meals and order party services and explore things. One Christmas I got the idea to cook the famous Raspberry Chicken for Christmas Day brunch for my family and my godmothers. Of course I had to work Christmas Eve, so my father spent a day running all over the south shore of Boston looking for raspberry vinegar, no so ubiquitous, but then, as rare as a rainbow.


I used these books so much that when inspired this week to produce Chicken Positano, the “New Basics” cookbook opened to that exact page, the binding is completely shot! I started down the Positano path because I had seen a recipe for the 21 Club’s chicken pillared in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago and thought it would make a nice one plate dish. This would be similar but it would not be necessary to shape the chicken like the plate. In the heady days of the late 80’s and early 90’s I probably served this dish once a week to someone on campus!

The recipe is simple enough, although in the spirit of full disclosure I will tell you that I used canned diced tomatoes and it was just as good. Mix 3 finely diced garlic cloves with one finely slivered onion and 8 cups of chopped tomatoes and then add 2 cups of olive oil ( I only added one, let’s be reasonable here), salt and pepper, and seasoning of choice, I added red pepper and smoked paprika, a little celery salt and done. Then you just let it sit in a non reactive bowl for a while. Trust me, it won’t go bad, there’s too much acid in it with the tomatoes.


Pound 3 full chicken breasts out to within an inch of their young lives and trim an excess fat/skin. Season some yellow stone ground corn meal with salt and pepper and red pepper other spices like chili powder. Beat 2 eggs with some water and then dip chicken breasts in cornmeal mix, then egg, then cornmeal mix again. img_1442img_1444

Pan sauce them in some olive oil, they will cook fairly quick because they are thin. Set aside in a warm oven until they are all cooked. Meanwhile toss about 4 oz of arugula with the tomato mixture. I added a can of cannelini beans that I rinsed to get some additional fiber and in lieu of potatoes or bread. I think mine needed a little more salt, which I never need, but this needed a little oomph, not a lot.

I only used 2 whole chicken breasts and have 2 portions left over. The tomato sauce makes a great soup starter so it’s like 4 meals in one!

I wonder what I will find in the way back machine next time? And someday I’ll cut a chicken pillared to be the same shape as the plate, but not now….

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