A last minute Easter lunch recipe that is quick, easy and super seasonal.
Italian roast chicken with artichokes is a little vague. This recipe actually a really rich one-pot braised dish that you start on the stove and finish in the oven while you’re taking care of all the endless little jobs that seem to pop up whenever you have the family over for lunch.
Giulio and I won’t actually be home for Easter lunch this year. We have been putting off a holiday for the better part of 3 months. Every week since February, we’ve turned to each other and said, this weekend we should go somewhere and then the weekend rolls around and we can’t be stuffed leaving our living room.
We’re like bears, when the cold weather arrives, we hibernate watching History Channel documentaries and getting into arguments about whether or not WWII would have happened if more people had listened to Winston Churchill earlier.
Just typing that makes me all the more glad we’re not going to be home this weekend. Especially since it suggests that in summer, we are constantly taking weekend trips, when in reality, we’re watching the History Channel outside with the router dangling from the window to get better wi-fi reception and arguing about who really won WWII.
This Easter, we’re heading up north to my father’s hometown in Belluno in the Veneto region. I’m really excited because I’ve never been there before. My grandmother used to tell us it was a tiny town sandwiched in the middle of the Alps. She was scarce on the details and all she’d ever say was that she grew up with no water or electricity and everyone had the same surname, Scarton. That included, as it turned out, my grandfather, her husband (and probably first cousin), which is a little genetic fun fact I wish I had never found out. No one wants to admit their grandparents we’re doing more than just Kissing Cousins.
A while back, I wrote to the town council to get my grandparents’ birth certificates and I’m really looking forward to trawling the local graveyard to see if I can find my great-grandparents. In Italy, the deceased are only laid to rest for 50 years before they’re dug up and moved to make space for the more recent dead, so I don’t think I’ll find anything, but a girl can dream a macabre dream.
In the meantime, I’m celebrating my northern roots with a traditional Italian roast chicken. Roast chicken is such an Easter dish, isn’t it? It’s quick to prepare, but glamorous enough to impress, not to mention, a real crowd pleaser. Is there anyone who doesn’t like chicken? It’s the chicken of meats!
This Italian roast chicken is really simple and delicately spiced. Northern Italians always insist on letting the protein speak for itself. Well that and using a ton of butter. The only really strong flavour with my chicken is bay leaf and garlic. My grandmother used to have a bay leaf bush and when we were kids, my sister and I would pick off all the leaves to put in our mud soups. She’d get so angry, she’d threaten us with a stick.
This Italian roast chicken is a true one-pot wonder, which are the three words everyone wants to hear when they’re making Easter lunch. Once you’ve browned the chicken, leeks and garlic, all you need to do is toss in the artichokes, drown the whole lot in white wine and stock and roast! Forty minutes later, lunch is served.
While we’re on the topic of artichokes. These seasonal bad boys are a little tricky to prepare. Back in Australia, I never ate them. They were too expensive and fancy for us. But over here, they are a dime a dozen when in season. If you can find these little artichokes, grab them. They’re really easy because you don’t need to worry about spooning out the furry inside or soaking them in lemon juice. All you have to do is click off the tough outer leaves and slice in half.
I’m serving my Italian roast chicken with a quick creamy semolina because you can’t just eat roast chicken for Easter lunch… or can you? My Southern Italian mother used to feed polenta to the pigs when she was growing up in Calabria. It’s one of the reasons why she still refuses to eat it at 60. But I love it. My Northern grandmother used to make it for us all the time, but hers was so thick, you could slice it like a loaf of bread.
My version is semolina cooked for a few minutes in milk and butter, with some heavy cream stirred through at the end and plenty of pepper. It’s the perfect base for your Italian roast chicken. Think mashed potatoes, but silky, creamier and a thousand times fancier!
Italian roast chicken with creamy semolina
4 chicken marylands
2 sprigs bay leaves
1 clove garlic, peeled and left whole
1 leek, finely sliced
6 baby artichokes, tough outer leaves peeled and sliced in half
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup organic chicken stock
for the creamy semolina
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup semolina
1/2 cup double cream
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, ovenproof frying pan (that has a lid) over high heat. Season the chicken and cook until browned on all sides. Remove and set aside.
Add the garlic, leeks and artichokes and cook until the vegetables are soft (about 8 minutes). Then return the chicken to the pan with the bay leaves and pour over the white wine. Cook until the alcohol has evaporated and you can no longer smell the booze. Pour over the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make your creamy semolina by bringing the milk and butter to boil in a small saucepan. Scatter over the semolina and stir until it begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. Stir through the heavy cream and keep warm.
Uncover the chicken in the oven and cook for a further 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper and serve with creamy semolina. Serves 6