Pollo Cilentano is a hearty recipe of fried chicken and potatoes.
I came upon this recipe when I was doing some family history research. My interest was the food that my paternal ancestors would have known. So, I went online to explore. My great-grandfather came from the area of Italy just below Naples called the“Cilento.” (Chee-LEN-toh). He arrived in America aboard the S.S. India on May 1st, 1885.
I will say that the internet was not my only source. Over the past forty years, I have gone back to the Cilento on several occasions. I wanted to
see the home land of my paternal ancestry. I have visited the very villages from which my father's family came. Each visit was a moment of discovery. The Cilento sits between mountain and sea. The views are stunning. Behind you are the green gray hills whose dusty olive groves lull the senses, in the distance before you is blue Mediterranean. stinging your eyes with darts of silver reflections.
When you drive the twisting roads through the valleys that link the many
hill top towns it is not unusual to see mule or horse drawn plows. Most
of the towns and villages of the Cilento are nestled on hill tops along the
coast. From these elevated locations, the townsfolk could protect themselves from the pirate and Saracen raids that terrified the Italian peninsula after the fall of the Roman Empire.
The houses of the towns are nestled one against another. Many of them are no longer inhabited by the locals but have become vacation homes to city folk from Salerno, Naples and places north. But if you manage to see the interior of a non-modernized tradition home you will note that almost no house has an indoor fireplace and almost none has anything like an oven.
Foods that required an oven were taken to the local baker for cooking. Driving a car through the narrow streets of these villages is not to be considered. The best you can do is to leave your car where you arrive from the main road. If you drive in with a rental that you picked up in Naples, it’s an easy guarantee that you will attract a great number of village folk who are astonished by your car. Town squares are little bigger than a basketball court. In the town square is usually a bar inhabited by old men. There is a church whose bell tower points the skyline upward. But there is little else.
Since it has been some time since my last visit, I thought I would Google the Cilento. You know, there are still those that dismiss the internet and also those that use it for mindless entertainment. But, when used productively, it is a wonder that the world has never before seen. When the men of the enlightenment created the first encyclopedia in the 1700’s, they envisioned making information available to all people. What would they have thought if they could have foreseen a worldwide connection that gives instant access to all kinds of information in many, many languages from all over the world with the touch of a button? So, when I Googled this regions of Italy, I found not only its history but a series of recipes: recipes that exist in our family to this day, but that I have never seen elsewhere. The two most striking were the green beans with tomato and the green beans with potatoes and onions. But there was also this recipe for a simple roast chicken.This is “Pollo Cilentano” (Chee-len-TAN-oh), a very simple one pot meal that is most satisfying and best enjoyed from Fall to Winter and early Spring.
What you need
The Mise-en-place: Getting it all together. Prepare all the elements below.
The Mise-en-place. With all of the above items prepared, you should have everything you need together.
Now, we go to the cooking.
Now, we go to the cooking.