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Graziella's Chicken

This is the best chicken dish I know and who doesn't like oven cooked chicken on a winter day. The recipe is in Antonio Carluccio's cookbook Sothern Italian Feast and for me, it comes with a mystery. Who was Graziella and where is she now?

In the introduction to this recipe, Antonio acknowledges her at the time as one of the few self-taught female chefs working in a 5-star restaurant kitchen in Italy, but he neglects to give us her last name. There must be a million Graziellas in Puglia, let alone in Italy and I have trawled the internet with every combination of search words to try and find her, to no avail.

I even sent an email in Italian to the resort she was working at when Antonio tasted her chicken dish. I haven't had a reply yet, maybe I never will. She was the chef at Masseria San Domenico in around 1997. If you happen to know her name or where she is now, I would love to know.

Masseria San Domenico is a beautiful and luxurious resort on the Puglian coast near Monopoli and east of Ostuni where the land is covered with ancient olive trees and sweeps from the hilltop of the white city to the Adriatic Sea. A Masseria is an historic walled stone farmhouse. They are dotted all over the heel that is Puglia. They were built this way for protection as living on a skinny peninsular that pokes out into the Mediterranean was always risky. Many are now organic farms and wineries, agritourism venues, Airbnbs, luxury resorts, and spas. Others sit deserted and crumbling in fields and on rocky limestone rises or overgrown with foliage in the middle of olive groves.

Graziella's chicken recipe takes some time but is not complicated at all. It epitomises a connection with the earth which is the essence of Puglian cooking. Is uses simple, local, available good quality ingredients- chicken, wine, olive oil, herbs, potatoes, and sheep's cheese. It is cooked in a terracotta pot in the oven (or traditionally in the fire).

Pollo Di Graziella

1 organic chicken (about 2kg) cut into chunks and including the giblets (optional) or organic chicken chops

3 garlic cloves

2 tablespoons of chopped parsley

5 bay leaves

2 sprigs of rosemary

2 glasses of dry white wine

1 glass of extra virgin olive oil

1 kg potatoes, peeled and quartered

3 tablespoons of pecorino cheese

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees.

Mix all the ingredients together in a terracotta pot (or any heavy, oven pot with a lid)

Let everything sit and marinate for 1 hour.

Put it in the oven and cook for at least an hour and a half, or until everything is tender and succulent.

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