A cheeky Italian skillet chicken recipe for quick weeknight meals

Quintilian chicken

Active time:15 minutes

Total time:25 minutes


Active time:15 minutes

Total time:25 minutes


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For over 80 years, Colu Henry’s family has been making Quintilian Chicken, a spicy one-pot dish that is lightly sweetened with caramelized garlic and deeply spicy from balsamic and red wine vinegars. Although it is full of strong, punchy flavors, the final dish ends up mildly pungent, or what Italians call agrodolce – sweet and sour. It’s a wonderful recipe from Henry’s new book, Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food.

Henry, a longtime cookbook author and foodie, grew up in Nanuet, a village about an hour north of New York City. She remembers the dinners on hot summer nights on the screened-in porch and all the weekends she’d help her grandmother make Sunday sauce for big family parties. But the dish she remembers most is this chicken.

“Chicken Quintilian wasn’t a weekend dish, it wasn’t a holiday dish,” Henry tells me over the phone from Hudson, NY “But my grandmother treated it like her signature.” Her grandmother, Immaculata (Molly) Ferrara Goodman, who lived with the family, made it a few times a month. It wasn’t until Henry got older that she thought to ask about the story behind the recipe’s name.

Here’s how this story goes, as far as Henry knows: Luigi Quintiliano and Molly were both organizers of the International Union of Women’s Garment Workers in New York and anti-fascist activists. After union meetings, they often cooked together, and that’s when, one day, Luigi presented Molly with his chicken recipe. Molly loved it so much that it became a part of her routine whenever she cooked for the family. Eventually, probably after retirement, she named the dish after her dear old friend.

“It was a weekday dinner, and it was over,” says Henry, noting that his grandmother always spoke fondly of his old friend Luigi.

Ferrara Goodman lived to be 102 years old. Her younger years were filled with activism and union organizing, as she spent much of her later years cooking for her family – and teaching a young Henry how to make his favorite dishes, including Quintilian chicken. “Growing up, I knew I loved her food, and this chicken dish — even though no one else seemed to do it except my nonni,” says Henry.

Today, Henry still does it a few times a month. Below is your simplified recipe. First, you will sauté a handful of garlic cloves in olive oil. Catch them, set them aside, and cook the seasoned chicken in the flavored oil until golden brown throughout. (You should probably do this in batches if you have a skillet that is less than 12 inches wide.)

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Then add all the chicken back into the pan, along with the garlic, and pour in a full cup of vinegar. Henry calls for 1/2 cup red wine vinegar and 1/2 cup balsamic, but if you only have one type, you can use that. This is not a place to bust out the fancy, aged, syrupy balsamic, however. You want to be able to let the sauce reduce while the chicken boils, so you always end up with a moist, tender chicken.

Henry says his grandmother always served this chicken on top of a bed of rice pilaf, but she also paired it with polenta or mashed potatoes to help soak up the sauce.

The sauce is easy to adapt. You can improve it with anchovies or olives or caramelized onions. I once added a tablespoon of honey to bring out the sweetness of the garlic, and I would probably do it again.

  • If you don’t eat chicken >> try this with fish (you won’t need to boil it for that long) or forest chicken mushrooms.
  • Boneless, skinless thighs cook quickly in the sauce >> but you can also use bone-in, skinned thighs.
  • Chicken thighs tend to be very tender in vinegary sauce >> although you can also use chicken breasts. Be careful not to boil them all the time, as they cook faster.
  • Garlic helps to cut through the strong vinegar flavor >> but try this same recipe with halved onions or sliced ​​onions for a sweeter twist.

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  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (4 to 6)
  • fine salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 sprigs of fresh oregano
  • 1/2 cup (3/4 ounce) finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Flaked sea salt, such as Maldon, for serving (optional)
  • Polenta, rice or mashed potatoes, to serve

Pat the chicken dry and season it lightly with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until golden. Add the garlic cloves and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and starting to brown, about 2 minutes. Remove the garlic from the pan and set aside.

Using tongs, add 2 to 3 pieces of chicken to the pan. Cook until the chicken is lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Cut into the thickest part of a thigh to check that it is no longer raw in the center. Transfer the browned chicken to a large plate and repeat with the remaining chicken. (The chicken may not be fully cooked at this point, and that’s okay.)

Return all the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan. Add balsamic and red wine vinegars and bring to a boil. Add the oregano and garlic, cover the pan, and cook the chicken in the sauce until cooked through, about 8 minutes.

Uncover the pan, drop the chicken into the sauce and continue cooking until the sauce has reduced by half, another 2 to 3 minutes. Serve to the family, sprinkled with parsley and chopped parsley, accompanied by polenta, rice or mashed potatoes.

Per serving (1 1/2 chicken thighs and 1/4 cup sauce), based on 4

Calories: 453; Total Fat: 28 g; Saturated Fat: 7g; Cholesterol: 199 mg; Sodium: 346 mg; Carbohydrates: 7g; Dietary fiber: 0 g; Sugar: 5 g; Protein: 42g.

This analysis is an estimate based on the ingredients available and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a nutritionist or nutritionist.

Adapted from “Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food” by Colu Henry (Abrams, 2022).

Tested by G. Daniela Galarza; email inquiries to voraciously@washpost.com.

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Follow this week’s Eat Voraciously recipes:

Monday: Fried chicken pretzel

Tuesday: Citrus marinated fish tacos

Wednesday: Big Little Summer Tomato Pizza

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