My love affair with cooking started later on in life, not in my own mother’s kitchen, but someone else’s.
At 19 I fell in love. HARD. Not just with Jason, but with his entire family. At the same time my parent’s marriage was falling apart. HARD. My own home was not a happy one to spend time in then, and more and more I found myself spending time at Jason’s house with his family.
I can remember the first time I entered their house; my mouth dropped to the floor in disbelief. Their pumpkin orange kitchen, the same kitchen Jason’s mother Andrea herself had grown up in, was covered floor to ceiling in signatures of those who had entered, laughed, eaten, and stopped by for a drink. She handed me a sharpie and pointed to a small opening on one signature crammed painted wall.
“Go ahead, Jule, sign away.”
Years later when Peter and Andrea did a large renovation of the house I sat in my car and wept on the day of the demolition of that kitchen. But as a sentimental nod to her childhood and all of the memories made in that house bringing up her own children, another more current shade of orange was chosen for the new kitchen.
Andrea continued to cook even through the messiest of construction sites. Her cooking was simple, warm, inviting, delicious. She could make an entire meal out of two ingredients, spinning magic into every dish she created.
Being in Jason’s house was like being in a sitcom. His family laughed hard, fought hard, cursed with gusto, and they ALWAYS had dinner together. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was taking mental notes for my own future family as I sat in that kitchen and sipped Cabernet with Andrea while I watched her cook. This is how I wanted my own family to be. Imperfectly perfect. This is the kind of mother I wanted to be. Beautifully crazy.
One of my favorite dishes that Andrea made was something she called “Portuguese Pasta.” A layered, fragrant sauce of onion, mellowed garlic, white wine and chicken broth; it is incredible over pasta or really any pasta substitute. My favorite being cauliflower rice. The tomato paste gives body and depth to this brothy, soupy sauce and the salty addition of Locatelli Romano is a welcome departure from the usual parmesan, and was always a staple in Andrea’s kitchen.
Years later I married Jason, and while the marriage only lasted a brief four years, the memories from my time spent in that kitchen will last a lifetime. Watching Andrea cook, then later cooking side by side at the stove with her, learning, laughing, marveling quietly, inwardly, at what a happy, crazy family life could actually look like. It took shape in that house, in that little orange kitchen filled with laughter and love.
I've cooked this dish for years now in my own little yellow kitchen. And at some point it became known in my home as “Drunken Chicken.” It’s one of my favorites. I hope when you make it you’ll even consider serving it over real pasta and twirling your spaghetti with delight while thinking of Andrea’s orange kitchen covered in signatures of love and good times.
Shredded chicken from 1 whole roasted chicken
1 medium sized yellow onion
2-4 crushed fresh garlic cloves
Best quality olive oil, a few glugs
Tomato paste (2-3 Tablespoons)
Good quality white wine for cooking and drinking
*Optional but you should know life changing, the rind from a Parmesan Reggiano wedge to add to sauce*
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Locatelli Romano for sprinkling generously over pasta
1 pound of any pasta that you can twirl and slurp with glee (spaghetti and linguine highly recommended)
Feel free to spoon this sauce over cauliflower rice, regular rice, or any low carb pasta substitute
What you’ll need:
A heavy bottomed pot to cook in. My favorite is Le Creuset in Bee yellow, of course!
A simple wooden spoon
1 “don’t f*ck with me” chef’s knife
Shred the chicken removing skin and set aside on plate. Save 2 pieces of chicken skin to cook with.
Chop onion finely.
Smash garlic cloves removing the skin and leaving whole, but smashed.
Heat a few glugs of olive oil on low-medium heat in a heavy bottomed pot. My favorite pot to use for anything that requires the rendering of fat, deglazing, and anything that will simmer for 30 minutes or more is this Le Creuset pot). You can use any heavy bottomed pot! This is not a good ReciBEE for a non stick pan.
Sauté onion until translucent, adding a few large pieces of chicken skin and continue stirring.
Add garlic cloves.
Add a few tablespoons of tomato paste and continue to stir.
Remove the chicken skin and add chicken meat to tomato paste, onion, and garlic mixture.
See that brown color on the bottom of your pan? That’s flavor! Quick! Grab your white wine and deglaze your pan continuing to stir scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan using your wooden spoon. How much white wine? Approximately a cup, and you might even reach for a little bit more.
Your sauce should be gently bubbling. Allow the wine to evaporate a bit and the sauce to cook down.
Add the Parmesan rind.
Begin adding your chicken broth, approximately 3/4 of a container or 24 fl oz.
Gently simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
If your sauce needs more broth continue to add as you cook. Your sauce should be brothy, but will also have some body and depth.
Remove the rind before spooning your sauce and chicken liberally over pasta or pasta substitute.
Generously sprinkle Locatelli Romano over pasta.
Pour a glass of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, raise your glass to Andrea, eat, drink, and twirl your pasta with delight.