Salt-Crispy Chicken Vesuvio, a Chicago Classic

May 17, 2024
Dining & Wine
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Good morning. Chicken Vesuvio (above) is a Chicago dish, a taste of broad-shouldered Italian America, salt-crispy with a zing of lemon, meltingly tender, with wine-kissed peas and roasted potato wedges gone soft in the sauce. You can knock it out in an hour and should do so this evening, to welcome the weekend in true Midwestern style.


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But don’t let it be your only project for the weekend. Summer’s coming. You’ll be avoiding the stove soon, sticking to cold zucchini salads, sliced tomatoes, grilled corn. Embrace the oven for a few more weeks, and thrill to its possibilities.

For instance, pizza. I’ve been freestyling on this recipe for a while now, taking it in the direction of a no-recipe recipe: a clam pie of distinction, as far from the New Haven original as it’s possible for a kid from Brooklyn to take it.

Use whatever dough recipe you like — here’s mine. Steam open some clams and chop them roughly. Make a sauce: leeks sautéed in butter or bacon fat, deglazed with wine, deglazed again with the liquid left over from your clams, left to reduce to a glaze and then thickened with cream. Shred some mozzarella. Stretch out a round of dough, spread some of that clam sauce over it and then top with the cheese and chopped clams. Bake until golden, then sprinkle some red pepper flakes over the top, add a spray of lemon juice and serve. Oh, wow.

For dessert, a rhubarb pie, off Edna Lewis’s recipe, adapted for The Times by Molly O’Neill in 1991. It’s one of the season’s great sweets, though not so sweet as to lose the tartness of the rhubarb.

You could roast a chicken this weekend. You won’t be doing that in July. You could make the pork braciole they used to serve at Frankies Spuntino in Brooklyn. You could make a strawberry and cream layer cake.

Or you could make like me, and double down on the clams. Dan Pelosi just brought us a new recipe for a classic clams casino that rewards a bunch of dicing with an appetizer that, if you make enough of them, can be a lovely springtime dinner in itself: a mess of bacon, bell peppers, onions and clams combined with bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, oregano, garlic and plenty of butter. They taste of coastal Rhode Island, something Danny Ryan might order in a Don Winslow novel.

Or, if you’d like to make your own decisions, you can head over to the archives at New York Times Cooking to see what tickles your fancy. You need a subscription to read what’s there, of course. Subscriptions make this whole endeavor possible. Please, if you haven’t done so already, would you consider subscribing today? Thank you.

Meanwhile, if you find yourself jammed up by our technology, please reach out for help. We’re at cookingcare@nytimes.com. Someone will get back to you, I promise. Or if you’d like to bark or banter, you can reach out to me at foodeditor@nytimes.com. I cannot respond to every letter. (I get a lot of mail!) But I do read every one I receive.

Now, it’s nothing to do with Chicago cooking or Narragansett clams, but I’m still compelled to recommend you spend some time reading my colleague J Wortham’s profile of the actress Jean Smart, in The New York Times Magazine.

Here’s Nick Paumgarten in The New Yorker, on the animal trainer Bill Berloni, who prepared a Great Dane for his film debut in an adaptation of Sigrid Nunez’s “The Friend.”

There’s a cool exhibition up at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.: “Brilliant Exiles: American Women in Paris, 1900-1939.” Explore that on your computer screen if you can’t make it to the district.

Finally, Post Malone goes country in his latest, “I Had Some Help,” featuring Morgan Wallen. “It’s jovial on the surface,” our Jon Pareles wrote in his review, “but it’s deeply surly at heart.” Listen to that and I’ll see you on Sunday.

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