Gramma's Drunken Chicken
Meet the Drunken Chicken

Gramma Lena never called this dish “Drunken Chicken”. It was just chicken, and it was the only way she served it, usually on a Sunday. She made a fairly large amount, as she looked forward to stocking the fridge with leftovers for her upcoming weekly entertainment calendar and menu.

She would tick off who was coming when the her crooked little arthritic fingers during typical dinner conversation; “Norma and Ella are coming for lunch on Tuesday, Brooklyn Joe and Butchie are coming to visit Wednesday Night, and Babe and Steve are coming up for the weekend....”

She was a master of inventory management, and projecting the future allocation and recycling of  left-over resources, a learned skill quite evidently on display in Primo’s kitchen to this day. He runs it like NASA, with plenty of backup, and systems of redundancy in case things go awry. Of which, of course, they often do. Whenever I question his sometimes confusingly unorthodox kitchen methods he exclaims whilst downing another glass of wine, “Life is an improvisation, Secondo...ya gotta go with the flow!”

Through the decades, the preparation techniques evolved in our own family home, and eventually ended up with the monikker of “Drunken Chicken”. This was due to my Mother and Father’s peculiar habit of anthropomorphizing food ingredients; assigning names and personalities to the food items was part of the fun, and as this dish involves dousing the chicken in white wine, of course the chicken got “drunk”.

A new type of "Fish Bottle".
The white wine that Mom and Pops used to cook with was an imported Italian Wine called “Verdicchio”, in a dark green nubby bottle shaped like a fish. Stored by the case in the basement, it had a little multi-colored tag (also cut into the shape of a fish)  tied around the neck of the bottle with red string. As a five year old Secondo, I found this tag hypnotically fascinating, and would cut all of them off all twelve bottles, and squirrel the tags along with the cut red threads under my pillow in the hopes that the fish fairy would leave me some mad money for the morning. It never happened. How I came up with the concept of a fish fairy, I will never know, other than the fact that it worked with teeth.

This is the current version of the dish, as learned from The Lovely Linda and Primo, as they learned it from Gramma Pasqualina.

I recently prepared this dish for my friends Laura and Julie who lived in adjacent houses on Bellevue Avenue in Syracuse, NY. I made so much that both ovens in both houses had to be deployed to accommodate a volume of chicken and potatoes, that in Gramma Lena’s house, was normal. On that night I was furiously running back and forth across the connecting driveway comically tossing four total pans of chicken and potatoes in two separate locales like Lucille Ball on the assembly line.

I know no other way of scaling it back to human amounts. When you cook, you cook for the army that will traipse through your house for the coming week.

When dinner was finally served, my friend Laura erupted in between silent mastications, “You really do cook like a little old Italian lady!” as she tore  voraciously through several pieces of fowl drenched in both wine and the family history of yummiosity.

Whether that was in reference to the amount of food prepared, or how it actually tasted will be a mystery to this day. She was too busy eating to elaborate.

She was right. I do cook like a little old Italian lady. Thank You, Gramma.

“All the History Of The Family, and All The Love We Share...IT’S IN THE FOOD!” ~Poppa Primo


ingredientsTwo Chickens, sectioned in Legs, Thighs, Wings and Breasts... the Breasts halved, with the rib sections removed.

Plenty of Plain Old Idaho White Baking Potatoes; when prepped enough to fill one pan!

Medium Grade Olive Oil

One Bunch Of Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, Finely Chopped

A massive amount of fresh garlic, minced. 10-15 cloves.

Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Dry White Imported Italian Wine. 1-2 cups. What you don’t use, you drink!

Two Large Roasting Pans.

The Steps

The Prep Stage

chicken cut upPREP MR. CHICKEN

I know... the gender assignment isn’t correct. Evidently, only transvestite chickens will do in Primo World. When purchasing your chicken, just make sure there is as much skin intact as possible if getting the pieces prepared by your grocer or local butcher.

Brine The Chicken: Clean the chicken pieces, remove rib sections from breasts, halve them, and then throw them in a pot of heavily salted cold, water. Put the pot in the fridge.

The more you brine, the more tender and succulent the finished product. Poppa likes to do this before he goes to bed the night before he whips this one up, but no less than a twelve hour dunk-a-roo and submerged salt water bath is recommended.

Prep your potatoesPREP DA SPUD-DAYDIES

Peel your potatoes, quarter them lengthwise, and then cut them in what Primo calls “cubies”. You want nice healthy 1.5 -2 inch cubic inch potato chunklettes


The “Slurry” is a wet rub of olive oil, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. It will be used to not only coat each chicken piece, but will be pushed under the skin in available pockets, and also be used to coat all of your spud-daydie cubies.

  1. Squeeze the garlic in the oilChoppa Da Parsley finely as always, and by hand with a sharp knife. Clean and towel dry the leaves first, because you don’t want any water in your slurry. NO STEMS! Set aside.
  2. Peel at least 15 cloves of garlic, and use your garlic press to mince ‘em up. Set aside.
  3. In a very large bowl, pour at least two cups of olive oil or more.
  4. SlurryToss the garlic in da bowl
  5. Toss the parsley in da bowl
  6. As Primo always says, “Don’t Fear The Pepper!” GRIND a copious amount of the spice of life into the bowl
  7. Salt the Slurry to taste. It should be salty without being too confrontational.
  8. Mix Thoroughly


  1. Pat chicken dry With Paper Towels, Dry all the chicken from your brining pot with paper towels. Toss a single piece in the swimming pool of slurry, and with your fingers, create pockets between the skin and the meat, and push a good amount of slurry underneath the skin. Make sure to get at all that good garlic that lurks at the bottom of the slurry bowl. Place the chicken piece in your roasting pan.

    As Primo says during this process, “Any little hole you can find....FILL IT!” A life lesson learned in the kitchen of my father that I’m afraid I may have taken a little too literally during my misspent youth.

    Pops and I like to sing songs from “Oklahoma” during this phase. I like the jaunty bounce of “Surrey WIth The Fringe On Top”, replacing “Slurry” for “Surrey”. Pops likes to sing the Ado Annie classic show stopper “I’m Just A Girl Who Can’t Say No” as he violates each chicken piece, stuffing the mixture under its skin with his nimble fingers.

    As mentioned, in Poppa Primo’s World, Mr. Chicken has some gender identity problems. I stopped trying to figure that one out long ago, and just enjoy his brand of nonsensical surrealism.

    Fill every holeMake sure your chicken isn’t crowded in the pan.

    Dust the chicken with a little more freshly ground pepper and a little more salt with a lighter still touch, and it’s ready to be thrown into the furnace.
  2. Jettison the Spud-daydie Cubies into your slurry bowl, and toss them by hand until thoroughly coated; Remember, “Ya Gotta CONNECT with the food!” Put them in the other roasting pan, and discard any remaining slurry. The reason that we don’t put the potatoes and the chicken in the same pan is that they cook at different coefficients. We’re aiming for crispy browned potatoes.


  1. In an oven preheated to 375 degrees set on “BAKE”, place the chicken pan on the top rack, and the spud-daydie pan on the bottom for forty minutes.
  2. After you crack open a bottle of Prosecco and hang for forty minutes, toss the potatoes. They should be just starting to brown, and you want even crispness on all of the cubies.
  3. After 40 minutes of cooking time, switch your oven to “BROIL”. Depending on what kind of oven you have, you may have to remove the chicken pan from the oven and put it in your broiler section, but the idea here is to blast that chicken skin with some hot fire from above and crisp it up.

    This should take 5-8 minutes. Watch it closely though... it can easily burn if you get neglectful.
  4. Pull the chicken pan out of the furnace. Mr. Chicken has had a rough day, and now its time to get drunk.
  5. Drain a good amount  (about ⅔ rds) of the juice and fat in the chicken pan. Leave a little in there for flavor and dunking purposes.
  6. Pour a copious amount of dry white wine over the chicken. Don’t be shy, let Mr. Chicken have a nice relaxing swim in the wine. At least a cup or more.
  7. Switch your oven back to “BAKE”, and now re-set the temperature to 400-425 degrees. Put the chicken pan back in the oven for approximately 15 minutes.

This last finishing blast of baking heat will burn off the alcohol in the wine, and leave you with that heady wine flavor that will inspire any inner Bacchus.


  1. Pull both pans out of the oven. Your spud-daydies should be nice and crispy now, but if you prefer them crispier, pull the chicken out and cover the pan with foil, and let the taters crisp up more. That’s a personal preference thing.
  2. Plate the dishWhen everything’s done, toss the spuds into the chicken pan, and let them soak up some of that juice for a minute or two, and then serve it up on a plate with a freshly dressed garden salad, spooning the remaining juice in the roasting pan over the chicken and spud-daydies.

The best part of serving this garlicy chicken dish is the silence it inspires when you place a plate of it in front of someone. Within seconds, the usual cacophony of slightly tipsy dinner conversation ceases, replaced with sounds of chewing and the odd deep groan of pure rapturous delight.

When that happens, Primo feels the same feeling his Mama Pasqualina did when she served it on Sundays to us. I feel it too.

Everything connects to everything else, eventually.

Mangia Bene!!!

[Watch the Video Tutorial for "Rossi's Gramma's Drunken Chicken"]

Gramma's Drunken Chicken
“Don't forget - you're gonna eat what I cook ya!”~ Poppa Primo