Christmas for me is not just cooking for Christmas eve (as is more traditional in my household) or Christmas day. It is more to do about having a range of simple ingredients on hand so that I can prepare the odd meal quickly, just in case I end up feeding some one. It is the festive season after all but whatever happens during this very silly season in the year, I like to be in control.
In my first book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking, I have written:
Every cook and professional chef has a way of doing things.
It is said that you don’t leave your life behind, you take it with you.
My mother’s surname is Leone. Often daughters acquire some of their
knowledge and skills in the kitchen from watching their mothers and, like the
Sicilian proverb, I am a leone (a lion) in control of my kitchen.
In this post I want to revisit an easy chicken dish that is Vitello Tonnato but not made with vitello (veal) but chicken. The word tonnato comes from the word tonno (tuna).
This recipe could keep you sane and will gain you many compliments.
Chicken fillets, capers and a tin of good tuna in oil are easy to get and these are likely to be ingredients that you have in your pantry. Mayonnaise can be made in no time with eggs and extra virgin olive oil. Anchovies taste good in this dish but not everyone likes anchovies so I did not use them on this occasion.
This dish is so simple to make, but it will be very much appreciated and enjoyed. Great for summer (as in Australia) or any season. It can be – but it also makes an impressive antipasto at any time.
Your guest could be familiar with Vitello Tonnato, but they are not likely to be familiar with Pollo alla Messinese – the word pollo or gallina is chicken and alla Messinese is as prepared by the Sicilians from Messina.
I have written this recipe before so I will just include some photos as I have made this many times (for recipe see link below).
On this occasion I wanted to make some chicken broth (another staple in my fridge) so I used a whole chicken and two chicken breasts. Then removed the breast from the whole chicken and used it with the two other breasts to make Pollo alla Messinese for six people. I cooked the chicken and when it was nearly cooked I added the chicken breasts whole. I then cooked it for an extra five minutes and then switched off the heat. The residual heat will cook the fillets.
Photo: tuna, capers and mayonnaise.
Photo: breasts are sliced, tuna sauce has been blended but because it was too thick I added more mayonnaise.
One layer of mayonnaise on the bottom, one layer of breasts. Three layers in all, topped with the sauce last and a sprinkling of capers. Pink peppercorns also have visual impact.
And by the way, Insalata Russa, made with Mayonnaise is also good…and festive.
BUONE FESTE to everyone! (Seasons Greetings)
This plate is one of my mother’s. She painted it in 1994 and her name was Elena (nee Leone).
And she really was a lion in her kitchen.