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The Alleged Chicago Origins of "Chicken Vesuvio"

The Alleged Chicago Origins of "Chicken Vesuvio"
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  • The Alleged Chicago Origins of "Chicken Vesuvio"

    Post #1 - April 11th, 2005, 2:09 pm
    Post #1 - April 11th, 2005, 2:09 pm Post #1 - April 11th, 2005, 2:09 pm
    The Alleged Chicago Origins of Chicken Vesuvio

    Chicago Tribune's Phil Vettel review of The Grotto wrote:Aguirre also re-creates his chicken Vesuvio at The Grotto, and if Harry Caray's has the No. 1 chicken Vesuvio in town (and it does), Grotto has No. 1-A. The dish features a roasted, disjointed half-chicken (none of that wimpy Vesuvio-style skinless breast here) along with sweet peas and nuclear-hot roasted potatoes, virtually swimming in a garlic-lemon sauce. People who dismiss chicken Vesuvio for its lack of Italian pedigree (the dish was invented in Chicago) forget how good it tastes when you do it right.


    Cathy2 wrote:I am not baiting. I am reporting...

    And yes, I cannot totally ignore the latest reiteration to the claim of Vesuvio's origins. The line in the sand was drawn long ago and neither side is budging. :roll:


    I am not baiting. I am debunking...

    And so it’s nice to have such a succinct statement of this widespread but clearly very silly claim about the origins of “chicken Vesuvio” which can serve nicely as justification for the resurrection of an old and apparently difficult to retrieve little post of mine in Lefflandia. Parenthetically one notes that the fact that a foolish folk-belief is repeated in print by a journalist who in fact has no expertise in either of the relevant fields –– Mr. Vettel is a food critic and a very fine one at that, but he is not an historian and, so far as I can tell, has no especially deep knowledge of Southern Italian cuisine –– is not in itself very convincing support of a misguided notion.

    Just over a year ago I wrote on the alleged Chicago origins of “chicken Vesuvio” over on Mr. Leff's board. Ecce pollo:

    _____________________
    Subject: Re(1): Chicken Vesuvio: A dissenting opinion
    Name: Antonius
    Posted: April 08, 2004 at 13:47:44

    In Reply To: More Chicken Vesuvio History (also Erie Café)
    Posted by Rene G on April 06, 2004 at 21:26:02

    Message:

    At risk of being attacked for a lack of appreciation of Chicago’s place in culinary history, I must say that I continue to fail to grasp what the basis of the claim is that ‘Vesuvio’ style chicken is in any meaningful sense a dish invented in Chicago, and this I say after some reflection and anecdotally-oriented research since the discussion on this board of 18 February. As I understand it, there are a number of variants of the dish which can be legitimately called ‘Chicken Vesuvio’ and the kinds of variation allowed place the dish squarely amidst a continuum of southern Italian roasted chicken preparations. What I refer to here is the following: chicken, cut in pieces, roasted in the oven at fairly high heat, dressed with olive oil, garlic, white wine and/or lemon juice, one or more herbs (parsley, oregano, rosemary, thyme) and sometimes red chili pepper flakes, very often accompanied in the pan by potatoes and sometimes by other items, most especially peas but also cipolline or lampascioni. On Sunday mornings in the Italian neighbourhoods of my youth in Jersey City and Hoboken, the streets and alleys were filled with the mixed aroma of such chicken a-roasting along with the smell of Sunday tomato sauces. This self-same mixture of odours, together with a certain smell that comes from damp stones and bricks in the narrow spaces protected from the sun, I also encountered in the streets of the ancestral hometown in northern Campania when I started visiting my relatives in Italy. I also remember distinctly encountering the two food aromas and seeing the actual meal in preparation (pasta, roasted chicken and potatoes, salad) in the galley of the Italian warship ‘Garibaldi’ when it visited New York some time in the 1960’s. And this meal, centred around the roasted chicken with potatoes and peas, was the Sunday midday meal in my family on probably one Sunday out of three for all the years I lived with my folks.

    To sum up, unless someone can indicate that Chicago’s Chicken Vesuvio necessarily entails some specific and more or less distinct method and/or combination of ingredients, I must continue to believe that the only thing that possibly can be said to have been an innovation in Chicago is the pairing of the term ‘Vesuvio’ with the very humble, wide-spread, homey style of roasting chicken pieces in southern Italy. Once such a pairing was made, the possibility of selection or restriction of variants is possible, but it is striking to me that a fairly wide range of variation in the ingredients for the dish continues to exist among Chicagoans.

    Could it be, as ReneG suggests, that the aforementioned pairing of the name with the dish comes from the restaurant Vesuvio (most likely owned by a Campanian if not specifically a Partenopean)? That certainly seems to be an attractive, if still rather speculative, explanation. One could easily imagine that among non-Italians, who felt a need to be able to refer to this style of making chicken, the ‘house’ chicken specialty of that restaurant perhaps offered a convenient moniker. For (Amer-)Italians of the ilk I am and grew up with and am related to, when you say ‘roasted chicken’, the assumption is that one is speaking of a dish as I described above (which, by Chicagoans, could probably 9 times out of ten be referred to as ‘Chicken Vesuvio). Other roasted chicken dishes in our tradition are uncommon and if one is intending to talk about roasting a chicken whole, one had best be specific. But for many non-southern Italians, roasted chicken probably calls to mind first and foremost a roasted whole-bird and certainly for northern Europeans, something very different from the Terroni’s preparations.

    The Chicago Vesuvio moniker is perhaps as handy as the underlying dish (in all its sundry variants) is tasty but there seems to be little else about ‘Chicken Vesuvio’ that really has its specific origins in Chicago.


    _____________________________

    Let us be explicit in the argumentation. That “chicken Vesuvio” is said to be a uniquely Chicagoense invention is the basic claim. But what exactly is unique about this dish is not something which Chicago boosters can say with any certainty. Among those features of the dish which I have heard people claim are the distinctively Chicagoense invention are:
    1) the addition of potatoes to the roasted chicken
    2) the addition of peas to the roasted chicken
    3) the addition of potatoes and peas to the roasted chicken
    4) the use of some combination of flavourings which is in fact very variable across recipes touted as being Chicagoense Vesuvio-style chicken. Among herbs used are rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage, basil and parsley! Hot red pepper flakes appear in most but not all recipes. Lemon is usual but not universal, as is white wine; given that, the two coöccur in many recipes. It seems only garlic can be considered (a hardly very distinctive) essential element of the dish, though even here opinion seems to be split between using fresh garlic and using powdered garlic.
    5) cooking method: first in pan, then in oven is an approach that one sees in many recipes but there are those who do all the cooking in the oven. I cannot recall any recipes for the Chicagoense dish that call for all the cooking to be done on top of the stove but I bet there are some out there. Note that some recipes that begin in the pan call for the pieces of chicken to be coated with flour before browning, while many do not.

    So then, what do we have? Clearly there is virtually nothing aside from the use of chicken, potatoes, olive oil and garlic (if powdered garlic is really garlic) which can be said to be universally accepted as elements of “chicken Vesuvio” by Scicaghitani. Peas turn up in many or most recipes and one can legitimately claim that they are an essential part of the mainstream family of recipes but one cannot in similar fashion set aside the variation between the use of lemon or white wine or both or the extreme variation one sees in the choice of herbs and combinations of herbs. So, what we do have then is a family of recipes for roasted chicken pieces with potatoes, often with peas as well, cooked with olive oil, garlic, wine and/or lemon juice and herbs. Now, who with any real knowledge of Italian cuisine would want to claim that that is a distinctively Chicago invention?

    The evidence for the dish not having been invented in Chicago is hardly limited to the personal observations noted above (which actually are in and of themselves quite sufficient to debunk this “theory”) but extends to recipes that one can find in publications on Italian cookery both on paper and on the internet. But the fact is that just as the Chicagoense preparations which can bear the name “Vesuvio” are quite variable within broad parameters, so too are Southern Italian and Southern-Italian-in-diaspora recipes for roasted chicken. Indeed, what has come to be called “chicken Vesuvio” is a family of dishes which themselves represent a subset of a broader family of Southern Italian chicken dishes. Consequently, what we are dealing with here from a traditional Italian standpoint is something more akin to the family of dishes that can all be called “pasta e fagioli”, rather than a very specific dish with only a small amount of variation in method and ingredients allowed by tradition, such as bucatini alla Matriciana, pizza Margherita, or saltimbocca alla romana. Just as “pasta e fagioli” is a broad class of dishes which has some basic regional variants but along with those all manner of spur of the moment variations within even the selfsame cook’s repertoire, so too is “pollo arrosto (con le patate)” a class of dishes which varies along many parameters, including what the individual cook has on a given Sunday in the kitchen or what the family is in the mood for.

    So then, how can we describe this class of dishes? Pieces of chicken roasted (in pan, in oven, or first on stove top and then in oven) with olive oil, herbs and lemon or wine. Vegetables are very often added to the dish, the most common of which is the potato. But potatoes can also coöccur with another vegetable, such as artichoke hearts, cipolline, lampascioni, tomatoes (not in sauce form but halved or thickly sliced), peas and surely others. Which herbs are commonly used? Rosemary is surely the most common one (as is the case with the so-called Chicago invention) but others such as oregano are employed; the profligate use of multiple dried herbs is, however, not something that belongs to the Italian tradition and is clearly an American development, though not one peculiar to Chicago. As noted above, lemon is very commonly used for further flavouring, so too white wine, sometimes both. Red pepper flakes are popular, especially in families that don’t have little children.

    ***

    Let me then state one more time what I am asserting: Southern Italians commonly roast chicken pieces with lemon or wine and herbs. To make the dish more substantial, potatoes are very often roasted along with the chicken pieces. In addition, another vegetable is often added at some point in the roasting. Seen from this perspective, “chicken Vesuvio” is simply a label that can be applied to a fairly variable subset of preparations included within the range of pollo arrosto (con le patate).

    What then do we make of the following statement from a certain Chef Don, clearly one of those who unreflectively believe in the myth of “chicken Vesuvio” ((link to Epicurious))?:
    “Chicken vesuvio is a lemon herb roasted chicken served with peas & roasted potatoes. The lemon wedges are stuffed into the cavity of the bird, it is then rubbed in garlic & herbs s & p and roasted with the potato spears along with it. There isn't any mention of this recipe anywhere because it was made up in Chicago in some obscure restaurant. Places like Harry Carry's and Momma’s style Italian restaurants have been running this chicken dish for years. If you ask someone in Italy, you’ll probably get a odd stare and if you ask someone who has never been to Chicago or isn’t familiar with it they probably wont have any idea what you’re talking about.”


    If only it had occurred to this poor chap that the source of the puzzlement was not the dish of roasted chicken and potatoes itself but the name, which is without doubt an invention which can be attributed to some person or persons in Chicago and is for the most part quite unknown in this application outside of Chicagoland.

    In conclusion, proponents of the notion that “chicken Vesuvio” was in any meaningful sense invented in Chicago are surely not very knowledgeable with regard to Southern Italian cookery. That is of course hardly a serious shortcoming in and of itself. But in light of the abundant and unassailable evidence that such chicken preparations are and long have been enjoyed in Southern Italy and elsewhere where Southern Italians have settled, one hopes that this rather silly example of local boosterism will cease to be propagated in serious culinary fora. Of course, as a myth the tale of the Chicago invention of “chicken Vesuvio” is taken on faith by some and no amount of reasoning and evidence that show that myth to be false will avail.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #2 - April 11th, 2005, 2:41 pm
    Post #2 - April 11th, 2005, 2:41 pm Post #2 - April 11th, 2005, 2:41 pm
    Antonius wrote: <snip>

    ... the name, which is without doubt an invention which can be attributed to some person or persons in Chicago and is for the most part quite unknown in this application outside of Chicagoland.


    Antonius, I can't tell you how much I appreciate your fascinating and well-informed posts. But I think the fact that Boston-based Cooks Illustrated featured an article on Chicken Vesuvio (Jan/Feb 2002) suggests that there's been at least some awareness of this name for this specific preparation of chicken outside of Chicagoland. [The writer states she's a Chicago native, but obviously the editor-in-chief who okayed it isn't].
  • Post #3 - April 11th, 2005, 2:44 pm
    Post #3 - April 11th, 2005, 2:44 pm Post #3 - April 11th, 2005, 2:44 pm
    I'm certainly no expert but I think it's quite possible that people roast chickens with and without various herbs and vegetables in places other than Chicago and Southern Italy, too. :D

    I would page back a bit into your post and think perhaps that it is the notion you mention of labeling the dish "Vesuvio" that may be the Chicago connection. And in my mind "Chicken Vesuvio" is roasted chicken with lots of garlic (real garlic, not powdered or whatnot), potatoes and peas with some white wine (both in the roasting pan and in my glass).
    Objects in mirror appear to be losing.
  • Post #4 - April 11th, 2005, 3:25 pm
    Post #4 - April 11th, 2005, 3:25 pm Post #4 - April 11th, 2005, 3:25 pm
    nr706 wrote:
    Antonius wrote: ... the name, which is without doubt an invention which can be attributed to some person or persons in Chicago and is for the most part quite unknown in this application outside of Chicagoland.


    Antonius, I can't tell you how much I appreciate your fascinating and well-informed posts. But I think the fact that Boston-based Cooks Illustrated featured an article on Chicken Vesuvio (Jan/Feb 2002) suggests that there's been at least some awareness of this name for this specific preparation of chicken outside of Chicagoland. [The writer states she's a Chicago native, but obviously the editor-in-chief who okayed it isn't].


    nr706:

    Thanks for the kind words. In response to your comment I would agree that the term is now increasingly known in this country (searches on the web show restaurant menus in various far-flung states which serve "(Chicago-style) chicken Vesuvio." In foodie and food professional circles, the term is of course more widely known. But in the specific connexion to Chef Don's experience, the question of whether the name is known in Italy came up; it is not, except perhaps to those with personal connexions to Chicago. But I would suggest to you with some confidence that not only my Italian relatives in Italy, but also my Italian relatives in New Jersey, Montreal, Glasgow and (I hear tell) Argentina (quite the diaspora) probably all eat roasted chicken with potatoes and peas and have never heard of the term "Vesuvio" to describe it. One would hope that the people at Cooks' Illustrated would be aware of the popularity of the dish (better: class of dishes) in Chicago and the fact there are some who claim it was invented here, but if they repeat the silly myth of its invention here as true, shame on them for not raising the level of food discourse.

    ***

    Kman wrote:I'm certainly no expert but I think it's quite possible that people roast chickens with and without various herbs and vegetables in places other than Chicago and Southern Italy, too. :D


    Kman:

    Well, in a way, that's my point, though clearly there is a Southern Italian approach which differs from other approaches (e.g., Northern Italian, Provençal, etc.) and which lies behind the set of variants that took on the name "Vesuvio" here in Chicago. In passing though I'll add that in parts of Greece there are preparations similar to the Southern Italian ones.

    I would page back a bit into your post and think perhaps that it is the notion you mention of labeling the dish "Vesuvio" that may be the Chicago connection. And in my mind "Chicken Vesuvio" is roasted chicken with lots of garlic (real garlic, not powdered or whatnot), potatoes and peas with some white wine (both in the roasting pan and in my glass).


    The pairing of the name with the variable class of dishes is the only clear local innovation. The term "alla Vesuviana" (or related terms) does occur in Campania but I have never seen it used there in connexion to pollo arrosto con le patate.

    Concerning what exactly "chicken Vesuvio" is, the version you describe is definitely a very mainstream and nice one but having read dozens and dozens of recipes from restaurants and homecooks alike, I maintain that considerable variation exists with regard to almost all aspects of the preparation and ingredients.

    A
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #5 - April 11th, 2005, 4:12 pm
    Post #5 - April 11th, 2005, 4:12 pm Post #5 - April 11th, 2005, 4:12 pm
    The funny thing is, when I was in Vesuvio, they made the same dish, but called it Chicken Chicago.
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  • Post #6 - April 11th, 2005, 4:19 pm
    Post #6 - April 11th, 2005, 4:19 pm Post #6 - April 11th, 2005, 4:19 pm
    Mike G wrote:The funny thing is, when I was in Vesuvio, they made the same dish, but called it Chicken Chicago.


    Uh, sorry Mike. Vesuvio is an active volcano and if you were in it, you weren't eating chicken.
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #7 - April 11th, 2005, 4:37 pm
    Post #7 - April 11th, 2005, 4:37 pm Post #7 - April 11th, 2005, 4:37 pm
    I was cooking it per the instructions from the other day, only I forgot my shovel!

    In all seriousness I wouldn't be surprised if something like this happens with MOST famous dishes that are supposedly invented somewhere-- the hamburger for one. A home cooking tradition gets a name and the claim of invention, when the truth is somewhere between mere introduction on the restaurant scene or at most a modest alteration with a new ingredient or the like. (For instance, we ate pie deconstructed in laboratory pipettes all through my childhood.)

    The interesting deduction I make from Antonius' claims is, if it was so well known in Jersey as well as in the Italian Navy, how did such a dish come to be uncommon enough in Chicago that someone could get away with naming it themselves and passing it off as a new dish? I mean, if I invented the idea of putting, say, chili and cheese on a hot dog and called it Wiener a la Herculaneum, people would point out that it already had the perfectly good name of "chili cheese dog." Yet somehow chicken Vesuvio seemed novel enough that someone could claim it as new-- or at least, it had never had a name before, so that the name chicken Vesuvio could catch on locally. We will probably never know the full story....

    P.S. And what about that other ubiquitous Chicago chicken and lemon dish, "Athenian style" chicken? (I've never seen it described that way outside the Chicago area.)
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  • Post #8 - April 11th, 2005, 4:46 pm
    Post #8 - April 11th, 2005, 4:46 pm Post #8 - April 11th, 2005, 4:46 pm
    Mike G wrote:P.S. And what about that other ubiquitous Chicago chicken and lemon dish, "Athenian style" chicken? (I've never seen it described that way outside the Chicago area.)


    Yet it exists in every Greek cookbook in my house in one form or another. No two recepies are named alike.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #9 - April 11th, 2005, 8:12 pm
    Post #9 - April 11th, 2005, 8:12 pm Post #9 - April 11th, 2005, 8:12 pm
    I concur that both garlic and potatoes are essential to Vesuvio. And I'd go so far as to say that the potatoes must be cut in wedges. While there's some room for interpretation in technique and seasoning, the dish is instantly recognizable as such to anyone who has eaten it.

    I don't doubt that the unknown chef who cooked the first chicken Vesuvio in Chicago drew upon an Italian culinary heritage, just as Rocco Palese did to create stuffed pizza. That the Vesuvio translation doesn't differ as markedly from its inspiration as stuffed pizza does from scarciedda doesn't invalidate the codification as an American interpretation. Nor do later reinterpretations by other cooks.

    Louis Diat was hardly the first Frenchman to combine potatoes, cream and leeks. He was, however, the first to serve it cold and call it vichyssoise; and he's universally credited as the soup's "inventor" and New York the dish's birthplace. Doubtless others had thinly sliced potatoes and fried them before George Crum, but he's still acknowledged as the creator of Saratoga chips. Likewise, when it comes to Vesuvio, the combination of a set of ingredients, a technique and, perhaps most importantly, a unique name, happened in Chicago and the place, if not a specific person receives the credit.

    The Italians can content themselves with Guglielmo Marconi, who received the 1909 Nobel Prize for wireless telegraphy and is generally remembered as the inventor of radio. It matters not that Nikola Tesla had documented and registered the invention years before and was ultimately declared the device's official inventor by the U.S. Supreme Court. Not to mention Mahlon Loomis, whose successful telegraphy experiments date back to before Marconi was even born.

    As for Athenian chicken (broiled chicken with lemon and oregano), and its cousin Athenian skirt steak, however, they occur wherever there are Grecian diners, a route that seem tied to the Rust Belt. I have eaten it (so labeled) in both Detroit and Boston and seen it on menus in Milwaukee and New York. Somewhere, I speculate, there's a central repository of Greek restaurant knowledge, which facilitated the spread across the country of such things as loaf-style gyros and flaming saganaki, as well as those revolving cake displays for beautiful but tasteless desserts.
  • Post #10 - April 11th, 2005, 8:39 pm
    Post #10 - April 11th, 2005, 8:39 pm Post #10 - April 11th, 2005, 8:39 pm
    I'm not ready to form an opinion on this topic (yet), but I will say that the East coast equivilant to chicken vesuvio, "chicken scarpella*" or chicken alla scarpiello, surely tastes different. It is not just the addition of sausage in the scarpiello. It is mostly the sauce. To me, the sauce is the defining feature of chicken vesuvio. It is bright, winey, fresh. It is not a gravy or a pan sauce. Also, as Leah sez, the potatoes in chicken vesuvio are typically wedges not chunks or such. As wedges, the potatoes are often more fluffy than Wiv-crisp.

    Rob

    *I s'pose some American also "invented" chicken scarpiello too...
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #11 - April 12th, 2005, 6:37 am
    Post #11 - April 12th, 2005, 6:37 am Post #11 - April 12th, 2005, 6:37 am
    "an often unsupported notion, story, or saying that is widely circulated"

    "folklore." Merriam Webster Dictionary. 2005. Merriam Webster Online 12 Apr. 2005 <http://m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=folklore&x=15&y=15>.

    "Every society, from the earliest civilizations, developed its own unwritten literature. This... literature, carried from one generation to the next by word of mouth, consisted of poems, prose narratives, myths and legends, dramas, proverbs, riddles, and other forms, all of which are called folklore."

    "Many stories that began as folklore have become so well known that most people no longer think of them as folklore."

    "folklore." Britannica Student Encyclopedia. 2005. Encyclopædia Britannica Online School Edition 12 Apr. 2005 <http://www.school.eb.com/ebi/article?tocId=9274367>.


    I like to believe that folklore is behind the "Vesuvio" issue. All societies have it, and it has little negative consequence. Folklore plays a variety of roles in societies, and humor certainly is a huge part in it.

    Smile, Antonius, that's entertainment.

    You know why they call this the "Windy City" right?

    :D
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  • Post #12 - April 12th, 2005, 7:03 am
    Post #12 - April 12th, 2005, 7:03 am Post #12 - April 12th, 2005, 7:03 am
    Vital Information wrote: chicken alla scarpiello, surely tastes different. It is not just the addition of sausage in the scarpiello. It is mostly the sauce.


    Garlic and a red wine vinegar reduction are the defining taste characteristics of chicken scarpariello ('shoemakers chicken' I think it translates), as it is commonly prepared in NYC centric Italian restaurant kitchens. I've not seen it with sausage, although come to think of it, why not?

    Its most often not so good, although prepared well its terrific--and a great dish to make at home.

    Eighth the chicken and liberally salt. Heavily brown the chicken and reserve. In the same pan saute some pork product (like pancetta or other) and brown tons of whole garlic cloves (at least a whole head per chicken) and then a small quantity of quartered onions until translucent. Add ample good quality red wine vinegar and reduce. Add back the chicken skin side up, enough chicken/veal stock blend and maybe one hand crushed canned plum tomato to bring liquid halfway up the chicken, loosely cover (cover ajar) and simmer about ten minutes or until the chicken no longer runs pink. Some pepperoncino during the garlic saute and at the end wouldn't hurt. Remove the solids and plate, while over high heat reducing the pan juice as necessary, pour over chicken and garnish liberally with fresh parsely.

    Maybe serve it with some fresh peas or braised radicchio or fennel.

    And some wedged potatoes previously fried brown in olive oil or chicken fat added when adding back the browned chicken couldn't hurt either.

    Have we morphed back to near 'vesuvio' yet?
    Chicago is my spiritual chow home
  • Post #13 - April 12th, 2005, 7:22 am
    Post #13 - April 12th, 2005, 7:22 am Post #13 - April 12th, 2005, 7:22 am
    LAZ wrote:I concur that both garlic and potatoes are essential to Vesuvio. And I'd go so far as to say that the potatoes must be cut in wedges.

    LAZ,

    Based on my informal Chicken Vesuvio survey I would agree with wedge cut potatoes and garlic, though I'd suggest, on a qualified basis, peas. I say qualified as of the 7-places I've had Chicken V in the last 6-8 months 5, of the 7, have included peas.

    To date I've I've kept brief notes on Chicken V at Harry Caray, Gennaro's, Hole in the Wall, La Scarola, Bacchanalia, Bruna's and Sabitino's. I still have a few more to try including Leesh, and Phil V's, pick of the Grotto.

    Not that it needs to be pointed out, but Vesuvio, at least in Chicago, is a style. Gennaro's has a mean pork chop Vesuvio, if you can get them to cook it med, and one of the best Vesuvio dishes I've had was Frog Leg's Vesuvio at Bacchanalia. To quote RevrendAndy. "The legs were so good, they didn't even taste like chicken."

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #14 - April 12th, 2005, 9:15 am
    Post #14 - April 12th, 2005, 9:15 am Post #14 - April 12th, 2005, 9:15 am
    When I first came to Chicago some 30 years ago, whenever I ordered Chicken Vesuvio (usually in the Oakley/Western section of the city), the kitchen made it a point to stack the potato wedges in the form of an inverted cone (to simulate, I then supposed, a volcano, altho to me it looked more like a tepee). Because these potatoes were usually heavily seasoned with garlic and red pepper (volcanic?) and perhaps because the originator was Neapolitan, he/she decided to label it "Chicken Vesuvio" (If he she had been Sicilian would it have come down to posterity as "Chicken Etna"?)

    So, since (as it seems clear from above) the derivation of this dish is not a matter of ingredients or cooking technique, perhaps it's merely a matter (as has also been suggested above) of nomenclature and (as I suggest here) architecture.
    "The fork with two prongs is in use in northern Europe. In England, they’re armed with a steel trident, a fork with three prongs. In France we have a fork with four prongs; it’s the height of civilization." Eugene Briffault (1846)
  • Post #15 - April 12th, 2005, 9:42 am
    Post #15 - April 12th, 2005, 9:42 am Post #15 - April 12th, 2005, 9:42 am
    Rob, scarpiello means "chisel" or maybe "scalpel" in Neapolitan (scalpello in Italian), so I'm guessing it means the chicken was boned in the original recipe. Antonius' and my ancestors were not only good with a scalpel, they were proficient with their chicken, too.
  • Post #16 - April 13th, 2005, 12:54 am
    Post #16 - April 13th, 2005, 12:54 am Post #16 - April 13th, 2005, 12:54 am
    Here is an interesting take on Chicken Vesuvio, from Giada di Laurentiis, of all people. Instead of peas, she adds artichoke hearts (or Lima beans, but we won't speak about that), and cooks them after the cooking of the chicken and potatoes has been completed. I'm usually a no-peas purist about Vesuvio, but this approach is novel and intriguing:


    Chicken Vesuvio, Courtesy of Little Big Head and Food TV


    :twisted:
    Last edited by sundevilpeg on April 13th, 2005, 7:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #17 - April 13th, 2005, 6:29 am
    Post #17 - April 13th, 2005, 6:29 am Post #17 - April 13th, 2005, 6:29 am
    sundevilpeg wrote:Here is an interesting take on Chicken Vesuvio, from Giada di Laurentiis,

    Peg,

    Excellent, at long last the final word on Chicken V

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #18 - April 13th, 2005, 7:39 am
    Post #18 - April 13th, 2005, 7:39 am Post #18 - April 13th, 2005, 7:39 am
    Fortuitously, I am intellectually prepared for "a Giada" this morning, having just read in the Tribune that the SAT, like the amplifier in Spinal Tap, now goes to 11.
  • Post #19 - April 15th, 2005, 3:12 am
    Post #19 - April 15th, 2005, 3:12 am Post #19 - April 15th, 2005, 3:12 am
    G Wiv wrote:Based on my informal Chicken Vesuvio survey I would agree with wedge cut potatoes and garlic, though I'd suggest, on a qualified basis, peas. I say qualified as of the 7-places I've had Chicken V in the last 6-8 months 5, of the 7, have included peas.

    Rene G's excellent research suggests that peas are a relatively recent addition.

    I have talked to several elderly Chicagoans who remember The Vesuvio restaurant, which operated at 15 E. Wacker Drive in the 1930s, but none of my informants can recall whether chicken Vesuvio was on the menu. The Capitanini family, owners of Italian Village, Chicago's oldest extant Italian restaurant, founded in 1927, say it was on their menu very early on, but they were unable to give me a precise date, and I haven't actually talked to the oldest family members nor seen any menus.

    It seems like a good guess that the dish was served at The Vesuvio restaurant and took its name from there. That would certainly account for its association with Chicago, and it's consistent with Chicago's most venerable dish, shrimp de Jonghe, which pretty certainly came from de Jonghe's Hotel and Restaurant, 12 E. Monroe St. (1899-1923).

    Actually, I wish chefs would go back to naming their food after their restaurants or their favorite customers instead of "Duck Egg Poached over Seafood Brandade, Smoked Caviar Cream, Parsley and Sweet Onion Coulis" or "Squab Breasts Cooked in Mace Cream, Spicebread Crusted, Cabbage Bundles, Sweet Potato Crescents, Honey Gastrique"....
  • Post #20 - April 16th, 2005, 7:40 am
    Post #20 - April 16th, 2005, 7:40 am Post #20 - April 16th, 2005, 7:40 am
    As a general comment, let me say that by inclination and training I try to be maximally precise in my claims and to present them only if, after a reasonable review of the available evidence, the claims seem to be borne out by facts. In the context of an internet chat site, I think this sort of approach leads to posts of a volume which some readers have neither the time nor the desire to read fully and carefully. That’s part of the medium and that’s fine; I accept the blame for being too long-winded, on occasion absurdly so. But at times quick readings of my long posts seem to give rise to misinterpretations of what my actual claim is. In the current thread, it seems possible some are taking my claim to be far broader than it really is. I’ll try again to state the claim precisely and then explicitly state what I am not claiming.

    It has been claimed that the various preparations served in Chicagoland which are known as “chicken Vesuvio” constitute a unique dish that was “invented” in Chicago and further that this manner of preparing chicken is not known in Italy. The short passage from Mr. Vettel’s review of the Grotto cited by Cathy2 expresses this view very succinctly: “People who dismiss chicken Vesuvio for its lack of Italian pedigree (the dish was invented in Chicago) forget how good it tastes when you do it right” [emphasis added]. This naïve view is supported by one of the posters above, who seems to think the combination of chicken with garlic and potatoes constitutes something uniquely Chicagoan and is an invention beyond the intellectual capacity of native Italians. Now, my response to this view is the following:

    The above assertion regarding the dish commonly known as “chicken Vesuvio” is as a piece of (pseudo-)food history unequivocally wrong for the following reasons:

    1) the alleged uniquely local (to Chicago) innovations, of which the most usually cited elements are the presence of potatoes and to a lesser degree peas, are commonly used in virtually identical chicken preparations in (Southern) Italian communities outside of Chicago; these other Italian communities cannot be reasonably considered to have imported the dish from Chicago.

    2) the dish in Chicago still allows for a relatively wide range of variation with regard to almost all aspects of the preparation of the dish. Given that, what is known as “chicken Vesuvio” fits neatly under an overarching category of Southern Italian chicken preparations which involve the roasting of chicken pieces, dressed with olive oil, garlic, white wine and/or lemon juice and herbs which are often cooked together with vegetables, most especially potatoes.

    That’s the claim; it is an historical argument and the Chicago theory can only be maintained by those who resolutely refuse to accept the reality of the fact that the Chicago dish is a non-unique subset of a range of Southern Italian chicken dishes eaten by people who have no knowledge direct or indirect of the existence of “chicken Vesuvio.”

    Now, let me also state clearly what I am not claiming:

    1) I am not claiming that “chicken Vesuvio” is not an established part of the culinary repertoire and cultural identity of Chicago.

    2) I am not claiming the dish is bad.

    3) I am not claiming Chicagoans are bad-cooks, dishonest people, or people incapable of developing new and tasty dishes (well, there are of course exceptions).

    4) I am not claiming that it is not the case that there is a tendency for dishes bearing this name to conform to an increasingly fixed recipe and this likely especially in restaurant kitchens. In this manner the Vesuvio preparations are perhaps on the way to being established as a dish more or less distinct from its Southern Italian forebears (especially given the development of ‘Vesuvio’ style which no longer necessarily involves chicken – see below). But this secondary development in no way alters the indisputable fact that the dish is in all ways a direct outgrowth and in essence a continuation of the Southern Italian tradition of roasting chicken pieces.

    Let me further state that I believe there is a related development that can be called a Chicago innovation and that is something that GWiv called attention to in his post above: namely, that in restaurants of the area, “Vesuvio” has developed as a basic style of preparation for virtually any manner of meat. For me then, a properly precise formulation would be the following:
    “Chicken Vesuvio” is the name applied in Chicago to a dish comprised of chicken and potatoes (and commonly also peas) which itself is one of a number of closely related traditional Southern Italian dishes which involve similarly seasoned pieces of chicken which are roasted and often accompanied by vegetables, most commonly potatoes, in the roasting pan. Noteworthy is the fact that the name appears to be an innovation in Chicago and that in that city, the general Southern Italian method of cooking chicken in question here has been extended in its application to the preparation of other meats.”

    *******

    Some notes in response to specific posts in the thread [written a couple of days ago, before a link to ReneG’s CH post was provided]:

    MikeG wrote:The interesting deduction I make from Antonius' claims is, if it was so well known in Jersey as well as in the Italian Navy, how did such a dish come to be uncommon enough in Chicago that someone could get away with naming it themselves and passing it off as a new dish?


    Mike, you make an eminently reasonable point but I think a reasonable (if not detailed and specific) answer can be proffered in response to the question raised.

    I wish I could find ReneG’s post on the name of the dish but I believe he had evidence that tied the name to a restaurant in the Loop and, not surprisingly, a Neapolitan run restaurant, if I remember well. In any event, it seems hardly difficult to imagine that a restaurateur might have given this dish a nice, poetic sort of a name for his menu and that the name stuck. Especially if the restaurant were in an area where lots of non-Italians would come across it (such as the Loop), the name could quite naturally have become productive and taken up by competitors of the original restaurant, as well as finding its way into the vocabulary of the original restaurant’s patrons and ultimately those of the restaurants who borrowed the name. Let’s face it, it’s a great name. And I don’t think the naming was a conscious attempt to pass off the dish as an new invention; it was probably just the owner or cook having a little poetic fun, though one must wonder if the heat element of red pepper in the original was not the impetus to give it a special name, as suggested by jbw above. (In this last regard, one does occasionally see the term “alla Vesuviana” in connexion with various dishes, some with a spicy element but some not.)

    With regard to why the dish doesn’t have a special name in places like New Jersey or Italy, the reason is, as I alluded to above, because it is just a variant of the basic, overarching treatment of roasted pieces of chicken. We call it just that: “roast chicken”. In Italy, it’s “pollo arrosto” or “pollo al forno.” Often it’s made with potatoes, sometimes not; sometimes there are peas as well, sometimes not, etc. etc..

    Here’s an imaginary dialogue which closely resembles many I’ve actually heard over the years:
    “What would you like for dinner Sunday?”
    - “How ‘bout some roast chicken?”
    “Fine. How should I make it? Do you want me to roast a whole chicken?”
    - “No, you know, cut up, Italian style. ”
    “Alright, you want it with the potatoes? And peas?”
    - “Yeah, yeah, or maybe with cipolline, if you got them.”
    “Nope.”
    - “Okay, with potatoes and peas, and some maccheroni with a simple sauce for the primo.”


    ***

    LAZ wrote:I concur that both garlic and potatoes are essential to Vesuvio. And I'd go so far as to say that the potatoes must be cut in wedges. While there's some room for interpretation in technique and seasoning, the dish is instantly recognizable as such to anyone who has eaten it.


    A fine illustration of the religious approach to this issue, with the invocation of the elle ne sait quoi. As I said: “Of course, as a myth the tale of the Chicago invention of “chicken Vesuvio” is taken on faith by some and no amount of reasoning and evidence that show that myth to be false will avail.”

    LAZ wrote:The Italians can content themselves with Guglielmo Marconi, who received the 1909 Nobel Prize for wireless telegraphy and is generally remembered as the inventor of radio. It matters not that Nikola Tesla had documented and registered the invention years before and was ultimately declared the device's official inventor by the U.S. Supreme Court. Not to mention Mahlon Loomis, whose successful telegraphy experiments date back to before Marconi was even born.


    Leah:

    This sort of comment that addresses an ethnic group as a whole but contains no content about food is a little troubling. Perhaps you should say explicitly what you mean to add to the discussion with this seemingly condescending remark, lest we misunderstand your intention – as it is, the only reasonable way to interpret it is that you think that with regard to inventiveness, Italians have nought to be proud of but something for which an Italian wrongly received credit. Or was the writing just sloppy?

    On second thought though, perhaps you should save any further comment and simply refrain from such ethnically oriented remarks altogether. Surely, you have enough to say just sticking to the food-related issues.

    By the way, yesterday was Leonardo Da Vinci’s birthday.

    ***

    Food Nut wrote:I like to believe that folklore is behind the "Vesuvio" issue. All societies have it, and it has little negative consequence. Folklore plays a variety of roles in societies, and humor certainly is a huge part in it.
    Smile, Antonius, that's entertainment.
    You know why they call this the "Windy City" right?


    Food Nut:

    Thank you for your support with regard to my claim about the mythical side of all this, but as you likely know from my posts, I have no sense of humour whatsoever! (:D)

    ***

    G Wiv wrote:Not that it needs to be pointed out, but Vesuvio, at least in Chicago, is a style.


    G Wiv:

    As mentioned briefly above, this does warrant being pointed out and is a point of innovation here. Perhaps the existence of the name allows for or encourages that sort of development. But let me also say that as noteworthy as I think this point is, it is in a real sense a separate issue from the focussed historical argument I have presented here.

    Again, there is a precedent in the Southern Italian tradition out of which the Chicagoan eruption of Vesuvian majesty grows: In Southern Italy, from Lazio and Campania on to furthermost Puglia, there is a long-standing tradition of treating roasted lamb and chicken in precisely the same ways, i.e., with the same flavourings and same vegetable accompaniments (esp. potatoes). There is furthermore an awareness of this similarity of treatment which finds expression in the use of the same name in some places for both lamb and chicken dishes (e.g., the Pugliese assutte-assutte). In the tradition of Campania (and thus my own family), agnello al forno (con patate etc. etc.) is virtually identical in seasoning and method of preparation to the previously discussed chicken dishes.

    But it remains, as you say, that Chicago has developed the old loosely defined chicken(/lamb) approach to an increasingly narrowly defined and very broadly applicable “Vesuvio-style”; this does, I believe, constitute a genuine local innovation.

    ***

    Sundevilpeg:

    I prefer to think of Giada De Laurentiis as a cyborg rather than a fool, though she may well be both. Be that as it may, artichoke hearts, as noted in a couple of places above, are a traditional option for addition to “pollo arrosto (con le patate)”, filling a place analogous to that of peas (though I could see one using both alongside the potatoes, if there were an abundance of the two on hand).

    I think the lima beans in this dish might be an expression of the cyborgian tastes of “Little Big Head.”

    ***

    ReneG wrote:In another book from 1955, Francois Pope’s Gourmet Dining Guide: Chicagoland’s Top Restaurants, there are also numerous listings but the dish is explained in the review of The Quadrille at the Belden Stratford Hotel: “A tasty Italian creation of disjointed spring chicken and French cut potatoes. Sauteed in finest olive oil properly seasoned with garlic, chopped parsley and oregano.”* No mention of the peas. Perhaps that was Nick Giannotti’s innovation?


    * This is clearly not an actual recipe for the dish but just a brief and surely incomplete description.

    peg wrote:[a response to ReneG’s post on CH, linked above in LAZ’ second post]
    Anyway, the Carlucci recipe contains no peas and no wine; it is comprised of chicken pieces and quartered red potatoes, seasoned with only EV olive oil, fresh rosemary, chopped garlic, and fresh lemon juice (and S&FGP, of course). Mix all those good ingredients together, marinate in the fridge for at least half an hour, then bake at 425 til the chicken is done (45 minutes or so). Heaven. Simple as a mud pie, too.


    The appearance of these two descriptions of restaurant versions of “chicken Vesuvio” side by side in the thread on Leff’s board really illustrates my point as well as can be done. Variation with regard to cooking method, with regard to herb, with regard to the use of wine or lemon juice. Both recipes fall squarely within the range of recipes for “pollo arrosto (con le patate)” known to Southern Italians all over the world.

    As I said above: What is called “chicken Vesuvio” is a family of recipes for roasted chicken pieces with potatoes, often with peas as well, cooked with olive oil, garlic, wine and/or lemon juice and herbs. And who with any direct or deep knowledge of Italian cuisine would possibly want to claim that that is a distinctively Chicago invention?


    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #21 - April 16th, 2005, 8:19 am
    Post #21 - April 16th, 2005, 8:19 am Post #21 - April 16th, 2005, 8:19 am
    I don't see any proof that it was known in Italy before the 1830s, however. I am inclined, therefore, to the opinion that it was invented by one of the early settlers, such as DuSable or Kinzie, and then taken back to Italy.

    Of course, under the circumstances it was probably Woodchuck a la Vesuvio or something....
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  • Post #22 - April 16th, 2005, 8:44 am
    Post #22 - April 16th, 2005, 8:44 am Post #22 - April 16th, 2005, 8:44 am
    Of course, they most certainly added some wild onion. :lol:

    Thanks for making me laugh this Saturday morning.

    I'm munching on the Cook's Illustrated French toast recipe made with day old wheat from Bittersweet bakery--custardy and crunchy. Yum.

    I'll also be making croque monsieur and croutons with the remaining bread.

    Any French experts out there?
    Last edited by Food Nut on April 16th, 2005, 9:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
    Reading is a right. Censorship is not.
  • Post #23 - April 16th, 2005, 9:32 am
    Post #23 - April 16th, 2005, 9:32 am Post #23 - April 16th, 2005, 9:32 am
    Antonius wrote:I wish I could find ReneG’s post on the name of the dish but I believe he had evidence that tied the name to a restaurant in the Loop and, not surprisingly, a Neapolitan run restaurant, if I remember well.

    ==xx==xx

    Chicken Vesuvio History
    Rene G
     
    I, too, always thought of Chicken Vesuvio as a Chicago dish, much like Shrimp de Jonghe. When you mention the Giannotti’s claim to inventing the dish in the 1960s, are you basing it on Leah Zeldes excellent essay on Chicago food? Here’s some additional information that may be relevant.

    In a neat little book from 1955, Dining in Chicago by The Restauarateurs, many of the reproduced menus from Italian restaurants list Chicken Vesuvio. A couple examples are Gene & Georgetti (it was $3.00!) and Erie Café ($2.50). Unfortunately the dish isn’t described on the menus or in the accompanying text. Seemingly it was too common to require explanation.

    In another book from 1955, Francois Pope’s Gourmet Dining Guide: Chicagoland’s Top Restaurants, there are also numerous listings but the dish is explained in the review of The Quadrille at the Belden Stratford Hotel: “A tasty Italian creation of disjointed spring chicken and French cut potatoes. Sauteed in finest olive oil properly seasoned with garlic, chopped parsley and oregano.” No mention of the peas. Perhaps that was Nick Giannotti’s innovation?

    I’m not able to find any earlier listings of Chicken Vesuvio. It’s probably not relevant but in the 1930s there was a restaurant by the name of The Vesuvio at 15 E Wacker. It might be interesting to know what their specialties were.
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #24 - April 16th, 2005, 9:47 am
    Post #24 - April 16th, 2005, 9:47 am Post #24 - April 16th, 2005, 9:47 am
    I have to say I'm surprised, reading that, that he dismisses the idea that a restaurant called the Vesuvio could be where the dish came from. To me, that would explain a whole hell of a lot, if a popular Loop restaurant took a common dish and slapped their own name on it as their signature dish. (That seems somewhat less presumptuous to me, saying that we call our standard roast chicken Chicken Mike G, as opposed to giving roast chicken a totally made-up name as if it were a totally new dish.) Then other places started making it and calling it by the name of the popular Loop restaurant, and so, that style of roast chicken became Chicken Vesuvio. That to me would be the most satisfying explanation for how a perfectly familiar dish acquired a proprietary name; time to see if we can find out more about this restaurant.
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  • Post #25 - April 16th, 2005, 11:12 am
    Post #25 - April 16th, 2005, 11:12 am Post #25 - April 16th, 2005, 11:12 am
    Mike G wrote:(That seems somewhat less presumptuous to me, saying that we call our standard roast chicken Chicken Mike G, as opposed to giving roast chicken a totally made-up name as if it were a totally new dish.)


    On a slight, but humorous tangent, I stopped in to GWiv's beloved Kow Kow the other day to pick up an egg roll to go (it was snack time). While I was waiting, I looked over the menu. Upon seeing not one, but two versions of one of my favorite old school cantonese dishes asked the curt, no nonsense hostess, "What's the difference between the pressed duck and the Kow Kow pressed duck?" Her explaination, "We don't serve Kow Kow pressed duck." :roll:
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #26 - April 16th, 2005, 12:34 pm
    Post #26 - April 16th, 2005, 12:34 pm Post #26 - April 16th, 2005, 12:34 pm
    stevez wrote:Upon seeing not one, but two versions of one of my favorite old school cantonese dishes asked the curt, no nonsense hostess, "What's the difference between the pressed duck and the Kow Kow pressed duck?" Her explaination, "We don't serve Kow Kow pressed duck." :roll:

    Steve,

    I've asked the same question and gotten a few different answers, it's quite humorous. :)

    What is not humorous is my admonition to never order pressed duck at Kow Kow, in any form. Yes, I love Old School American/Suburban/Chinese, yes, Kow Kow is one of my favorites for this type of food, but, as Evil Ronnie has pointed out, and field work by YourPalWill and myself has proven, pressed duck is a lost art form.

    To wit:
    Take-out Pressed Duck, Egg Roll and Moo Shu (topped with my home-made chili oil) from Kow Kow.
    Image

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #27 - April 16th, 2005, 3:38 pm
    Post #27 - April 16th, 2005, 3:38 pm Post #27 - April 16th, 2005, 3:38 pm
    Antonius, I have respect both for your scholarship and for your passion, but as this debate brews, I find myself less swayed by your position.

    I have next to me on my desk, a circa 1993 menu from Spring Deer, a quite famous Beijing style restaurant in Hong Kong. Number 83 on this menu is...chop suey in casserole. Conclusive proof, no, that chop suey is not an American dish. Really?

    No. I think we have two things going on here. First, yes, Chicago chicken vesuvio is based on numerous dishes of its ilk from Southern Italy. As you demonstrated, the antecendants are clear. But likewise, chop suey is based on traditional Southern Chinese cooking methods and ingredients. Yet, it is commonly acknowledged that chop suey is an American invention (or an invention made in America). Chicken Vesuvio is an original dish, the proportions of things and the timing of things make it taste different. Different than plain ol' roast chicken and different from related dishes like chicken scarpiello.

    Second, it has become nomenclature. Just as a Chinese restaurnt in China would use the words chop suey to now describe something, restaurants now use vesuivio to describe something. Something winey, oily, garlicy and served with potatoes. The problem (I think) is that a lot of (more?) places have glommed on to the vesuvio name than the "actual" recipe. But on the other hand, I doubt very much that much of the chop suey these days tastes like the original either.

    Rob
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #28 - April 16th, 2005, 4:30 pm
    Post #28 - April 16th, 2005, 4:30 pm Post #28 - April 16th, 2005, 4:30 pm
    It seems clear that whatever the Chicago connection may be to Chicken Vesuvio (and that may just be one of nomenclature), the definition of "Chicken Vesuvio" in general has become quite expansive. I am reminded of the evolution of Wittgenstein's theory of language from the essentialist-structuralist-positivist position of the Logische-Philosophische Abhandlung (L.: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus) to the radically anti-logical position of language as word-game, and definition through family resemblance, espoused in his later great work, the Philosophical Investigations. That is to say, as the name "Chicken Vesuvio" comes by usage to refer to an ever-growing range of chicken dishes, it becomes more and more clear that there is no single referrant for those words.

    For example, here is a recipe from New Orleans that attributes Chicken Vesuvio to a vague geographical region called "the Northeast," no mention of Chicago, and adds sausage to the mix: http://foodfest.neworleans.com/rec_inv.php?RESID=120.

    In another example, despite the insistence of many that potatoes are an essential ingredient of Chicken Vesuvio, here is a recipe from a Chicagoland restaurant that substitutes pasta for potatoes and is made entirely in the pan -- no roasting: http://www.wttw.com/checkplease/supperclub/chicken_vesuvio.html

    I would like to advance the proposition that, following the example of Prof. Wittgenstein, we loose ourselves from the bonds of the essentialist doctrine and stop the fruitless searching for an elusive (actually chimerical) essence of the ideal Chicken Vesuvio. Instead, I propose we look for a moment at what we are actually doing when we are using the words "Chicken Vesuvio" and "Vesuvio," recognizing that there is a very large family of Vesuvios in the world, but no unique quiddity of Vesuvioness shared by them all. It is no shame for one word to mean or refer to many things; in fact, it is one of the more charming features of language -- and a great efficiency -- that we don't need 57 different words for 57 variations on Chicken Vesuvio. It's easy to fool ourselves into thinking we actually believe various academic distinctions that in reality as language users don't fool us for a second. If we were talking about a prescription drug, then we would care for that level of precision. But we are not; this is a roasted chicken dish and if there is a disconnect between your ideal and the chef's ("Horreur -- no peas?!?"), it's not a matter of life and death if there is a misunderstanding here.

    So, maybe Harry's version of Chicken Vesuvio and Grotto's are first cousins of each other, second cousins to Sabatino's and third cousins to the roasted chickens of Antonius' Italian kin. All of these are something like second cousins once removed to Veal Vesuvio, Elk Vesuvio, Rocky Mountain Oyster Vesuvio, et al.. But if you put them all in a family photo, you'd know in an instant it was the Vesuvio Family you were looking at. While it is an interesting scholarly question to pin down the origins of the name and the history of the dish (and I don't deny I'd be the first one to want to know exactly when and where the name "Chicken Vesuvio" was first used and/or applied to the dish we all know and love by that name today), I think a better focus of energy is on comparing the quality and tastiness of the many examples of the dish currently being prepared in kitchens here and elsewhere. With that, Gary, I think I am not alone in anxiously imploring you to publish your findings and opinions on the matter.

    JiLS
  • Post #29 - April 16th, 2005, 5:59 pm
    Post #29 - April 16th, 2005, 5:59 pm Post #29 - April 16th, 2005, 5:59 pm
    Wait a minute, Jim, I think I see where this is going:

    Ich sitze mit eimen Philosphen im Garten; er sagt zu wiederholten Malen "Ich weiß, daß das ein Baum ist", wobei er auf einen Baum in unserer Nähe zeigt. Ein Dritter kommt daher und hört das, und ich sage ihm: "Dieser Mensch ist nicht verrückt: Wir philosophieren nur."
    Wittgenstein On Certainty 467

    (I am sitting with a philosopher in the garden. He says again and again, "I know that that's a tree," pointing to a tree near us. Someone else arrives and hears this, and I tell him: "This fellow isn't crazy: We're just doing philosophy.")

    So, we're just doing food exegesis here?

    I knew there would come a day I could put all that undergrad philosophy to use, plus talk about food at the same time. Time to feed my inner Logical Positivist.
  • Post #30 - April 16th, 2005, 7:38 pm
    Post #30 - April 16th, 2005, 7:38 pm Post #30 - April 16th, 2005, 7:38 pm
    And I knew that somehow, somewhere, that graduate degree in philosophy (M.A. Indiana University 1991) would pay off for me. Just never could've predicted this.

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