I have spent the last six days cavorting with cartoon characters, flying on elephants, and watching countless movies that require oversized 3D glasses. That’s right, I went to Disney World. Fantastic as the experience was –the look on your kids’ faces will knock the cynic right out of you— we are wiped out. Tonight I need a dinner that requires minimal brain power and no grocery shopping. I need a go-to meal.
Given the copious amounts of fast food we consumed at Disney, playing the Amalfi’s card was not an option. Yet when I rifled through Mom’s recipe box in search of an answer, I discovered something far better than take-out. Marie Corina’s Italian Chicken.
Our neighbors in Ithaca during the 1970s, the Corinas had eight –eight!— teenage kids. Legend has it that Mom first met them when two of the Corina boys climbed on our roof to rescue a cat. She shouted at them from her window, they thought she was a bitch, and somehow a friendship was formed. In my opinion, Mom leaned out her window that day with a plan. She had probably seen the Corina kids around the neighborhood, hence sizing them up for the gold mine they were –eight potential babysitters—and yelled at them to stake her claim.
The Corina house was the coziest place in the world. My brother and I could perch on their plaid sofa for hours, watching TV and enjoying the constant foot traffic of people and pets. The Corina kids made everything fun. In the dead of winter, they played a game known as “Hot Buns Burn-Off,” in which you competed to see who could sit on the radiator longest. Last man sitting won.
Dinner took place around a huge dining room table, bodies crammed onto benches and shouts for more potatoes echoing throughout the room. After the first five minutes of chaos, a quiet would usually settle over the table as people focused on their food. At this point, Marie Corina would sigh, “The sound of happy mouths.”
Clearly, Marie knew how to feed a crowd.
I figured if Marie’s chicken could transform eight hungry kids into “happy mouths,” surely it would soothe my little family’s frayed nerves. Besides, this simple chicken dish was also my mom’s go-to weeknight dinner. As I cooked it this evening, my house began to smell the way I remember weeknight dinners. It was the scent of a predictable, serene night at home. The perfect antidote to a post-Disney malaise.
Marie Corina’s Italian Chicken
• 1 package of chicken parts, remove all skin and wash well
• 1 ½ cup bread crumbs
• ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
• 1 tsp garlic salt
• ¼ cup parsley (I skip this lest my daughter whines “I don’t want the green stuff!” It’s just not worth hassle.)
• 2 Tbsp olive oil
• Mix together bread crumbs, cheese, garlic salt, pepper and parsley in large bowl or dipping tray.
• Dip chicken in crumb mixture, place on foil-lined baking sheet
• Drizzle oil over chicken
• Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until crispy.
NOTE: This is the official recipe. However, I usually just sprinkle the bread crumbs, cheese and seasoning directly on chicken in baking sheet, drizzle the oil, and bake. The other way probably blends the flavors more evenly. My way requires no thinking. Your call.