by Max Brantley
A friend gave me The Sopranos cookbook, a hoked-up takeoff on the HBO series that happens to have a solid collection of some of the best old-school Italian recipes anywhere.
For the umpteenth time tonight, I made chicken cacciatore. I blistered the green peppers to take the skin off. I sauteed strips of pepper with onion, garlic and mushrooms. I tossed in some Italian canned tomatoes. I poured that over a whole chicken, cut up, that had been roasted in olive oil. Then I dumped the whole mess on a pile of spaghetti. It DOES NOT get any better than this.
It's kind of a Father's Day recipe. This kind of chicken was my dad's favorite dish, as cooked by my Grandmother Lilly in Lake Charles, La., back in the days before air conditioning. He swore that Lilly's profuse sweating -- some probably hit the pot -- was part of the attraction of this rich Sicilian-flavored dish. My hometown, a port city, had a huge Italian population that kept to its customs and shared its culinary treasures with the rest of us. My dad became an honorary member of the Amicus Club, the local Italian affinity group, for his love of them, their cooking and their good times.
Happy Pop's Day.