3 October, 2015
Grilled Chicken alla Diavola Roman Style
Way WAY back in 1959 I was in the Coast Guard and stationed in Libya. We would get supplies flown in from Naples every week. The old C-123 would land and take off at an old landing strip left over from WWII about 12 miles East of our station. For the Christmas liberty they divided the crew into 4 seperate groups and flew each group up to Naples for 7 days liberty during the weeks before and after Christmas. Well 2 of my buddies and I decided when we got to Naples that we would spend a few days up in Rome. My buddies didn’t know a word of Italian. I was from North Jersey and had picked up a teeny bit of Italian from my friends and neighbors, but, we were 19 years old, crazy and fearless. We bought a little English to Italian translation book, found the train station and caught the next train to Rome, learning bits of Italian all along the way. We didn’t have any idea about where we were going to stay and didn’t even consider it until we were done drinking and partying about 2 am. We staggered around and found the “Pensione Ricci”. It was locked up for the night. We knocked on the door and rang the bell. After a little while it was opened by a short but big old guy, like maybe in his forties. He was in a bathrobe and just looked at us like we were crazy. He turned out to be Signore Ricci. We were in uniform so he figured it out pretty quick and waved us in. Mamma Ricci was in a robe waiting in the shadows and took over assigning us rooms, gave us the keys and pointed to the old elevator. Then made it as plain as she could to us young Americans that even though the sign said Pensione, which meant boarding house, that there were no meals provided. We crashed and in the morning went down to ask where there might be a ristorante nearby where we could get some colazione (breakfast). There was no one at the desk so we followed our senses and found Mama Ricci in the kitchen and WOW! There were three girls, obviously in their late teens, chatting with each other and Mama. Mamma Ricci looked at the girls, who were looking and grinning at us and then glared at us looking and grinning back at the girls. We stumbled through asking about a ristorante. All three girls started talking to Mama a mile a minute and we got the idea that they wanted us to have breakfast right there with them. Mama shook her head and said no. The girls all at once pleaded and whined. Mama looked us over, smiled, shrugged her shoulders and said “Si”. The oldest girl, Angelina, knew a little English and sat us down. We ate Sfogliatella and Pizzelle with Cappuccino. It was all molto bene (very good). My buddies had never had anything like it and were blown away. Then Signore Ricci came in and asked Mama what the hell was going on. She told him and he looked us over, smiled at his daughters, shrugged his shoulders and sat down. Through Angelina we got directions to the Colosseum and advice about some other things right in the area we might like. AND we got invited to cena (dinner) at 7pm.
We did our sightseeing and showed up a in the cucina (kitchen) at 7pm as directed. Signore Ricci was sitting at the table where there was a big platter full of all kinds of cold cuts and bread. The girls chattered “Ciao” to us with big smiles. Boy, they were cute. They were helping Mama with the cooking and we couldn’t stop looking at them moving around. Papa very loudly cleared his throat, poured us some wine and gestured for us to sit down and dig in. The prosciutto, salami and the mortadella were the best I had ever had. I watched Mama and the girls putting the pollo (chicken) together for cena (dinner). Today’s blog/recipe is the Grilled Chicken alla Diavola Roman Style that the ladies made for us that night. It was fantastic and I will never forget it.,
You can go with all thighs or if you have a big enough sauté pan you could go with a whole chicken. For a whole chicken you would ask the butcher to remove the backbone and split the breastbone. If he wouldn’t you could do it yourself, it’s not at all daunting. Then you would spread the bird out and cook it in the same way that we’ll be doing the thighs.
Put the pan on at medium high with about 1 tbsp. of olive oil and 1 tbsp. butter. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken. Now here is where the Diavola (devil) comes in. Use a lot more black pepper than you normally would, like 3-4 times as much.
Angelina told me that when Mama had the time she would marinate the chicken in lemon juice and a lot of black pepper for an hour or two before sautéing.
Put the thighs in the pan skin side down.
When the skin gets crispy turn them over and get the other side crispy too.
Squeeze the juice from a whole lemon over the chicken and add the lemon rinds to the pan..
Add the red wine and the sage. Reduce to a simmer and cover the pan. cook for 30-45 minutes turning a few times. When you can pull the meat away from the bone with a fork and there is no pink color to the meat or bone it is done.
Serve it with the juices from the pan topping it so you can dip some of your homemade bread in it. It’s simple and it’s real good.