Baked chicken with potatoes and onions was another of my mother’s simple Italian one pot week night suppers – quickly put together and then left to cook quietly by itself in the oven until time to serve.
So imagine my shock at finding this favourite of my New York childhood appearing (with variations) in cookbooks by celebrity food writers Antonio Carluccio and Diana Henry right here in London!
As Carluccio says, this homely dish is known in all the regions of Italy (so not strictly Southern Italian then). In his “An Invitation to Italian Cooking” published in 1986 and revised in 2002, he uses chicken pieces, yellow waxy potatoes, an onion, lots of garlic (20 cloves), and fresh rosemary.
In her wonderfully useful ”Cook Simple” published in 2007, Diana Henry acknowledges Carluccio as inspiration, then dresses her chicken baked with red onions, potatoes and rosemary with a shot of rich balsamic vinegar - and recommends using those little baby waxy potatoes, unpeeled, a clever time saver.
Those delicious tiny potatoes were not around when I was a child in suburban New York, nor balsamic vinegar nor probably red onions. At least I don’t remember them. So my mother’s version was quite basic – rather like Carluccio’s, (and probably handed down from her own Italian mother) but with fewer cloves of garlic.
As this is such a flexible recipe - or not really a recipe at all, simply a suggested group of ingredients - my own version varies by the day, by my mood and by what’s on hand at the market.
For a recent weeknight extended family supper (celebrating a niece’s London graduation ceremony as a newly qualified GP) I bought luscious big banana shallots instead of onions, along with washed baby potatoes, but played it easy with the garlic (one small bulb, separated – or about 8 cloves). Instead of chicken pieces, I chose chicken breasts cut into 4 parts each (as they were large) – easily available at my local South London butcher.
But here is the dish I grew up with, simple, uncomplicated and delicious.
Baked Chicken with Potatoes & Onions (as my mother made it)
ALL YOU NEED: serves 4 -5
3 lb (1.5k) roasting chicken, cut into pieces.
1.5 lbs (.75k) waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces.
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme
3 or 4 large cloves of garlic, peeled
8 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to high – 200c or 400F
Put the chicken pieces, cut up potatoes, sliced onion, garlic and rosemary leaves into a shallow casserole, season with salt and pepper and mix together. Pour the olive oil over the top and put into the oven.
After 15 or 20 minutes, turn the heat down to 190c or 375F. Occasionally, turn the pieces over to make sure they cook on all sides. You may want to cover the casserole after about 45-50 minutes to make sure the chicken stays moist (especially if using breasts). The dish is done when the potatoes and onions are soft – about an hour. Cover until served.