The origins of this dish are uncertain, but it is most likely Italian-American, not Italian, and was invented by a Southern Italian chef in New York, where it is standard fare in every neighborhood. As far as I can tell, the dish is unknown in Italy, although dishes called “scarpariello,” which means shoemaker style, are made in Southern Italy. The “iello” ending is definitely a Southern language ending. Saying shoemaker-style in Naples or Bari either means that the dish is so meager it could even be made by the family of a poor shoemaker, or it contains such prosaic ingredients that it can easily be cobbled together. In its most Italian version, such as the following, it is no more than fried chicken chunks on the bone, lightly glazed with a lemon-wine sauce. Often, chunks of pork sausage, sweet pepper strips, even mushrooms are added to the dish, which makes it anything but humble. Sometimes the dish is saucy, which makes it more American than Italian. Without question, chicken cooked on the bone this way is significantly more succulent than chicken cooked off the bone. Some restaurants serve it boneless and dry anyway. I’d say this is not a dish for you if you don’t like to pick at chicken on the bone.
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons dry white wine or vermouth
- 4 tablespoons chicken broth
- Vegetable oil for frying, about 3/4 cup (I use canola, but any generic vegetable oil will do, or corn oil, or safflower oil)
- 1 2 1/2- to 3-pound chicken, hacked into 18-22 pieces
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 large cloves garlic, lightly smashed but left whole
- 1 5-inch sprig fresh rosemary
- Chopped parsley for garnish, if desire
- Before starting to cook the chicken, in a small bowl or cup, mix together the lemon juice, white wine, and chicken broth. Set aside. It is the liquid for a pan sauce
- Pour enough oil into a heavy, 10 to 12-inch skillet to cover the bottom by about 1/8-inch. Place pan over medium heat.
- While oil is heating to the point where the chicken sizzles briskly the second it hits the oil, season the chicken with salt and pepper. Then flour half the pieces by sprinkling both sides with flour or shaking them in a bag with flour. The chicken should be lightly coated. Shake off excess flour if necessary.
- Add chicken pieces to hot oil and keep turning the pieces until they are almost cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes. Start removing the breast pieces first, then the thighs and drumstick pieces, then finally the wing joints. They generally get done in that order. Set aside on a platter.
- As you remove pieces, dust remaining chicken with flour and add to the pan.
- Now add the smashed garlic and the sprig of rosemary. Turn the heat to high, add the reserved cooked chicken, and continue to fry. turning the pieces regularly, until the outside of the chicken is well-browned and crisp, about another 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Remove it as it gets golden.
- When the chicken is crisp outside, carefully drain off all the oil from the pan. Add the reserved juice-wine-broth mixture and continue cooking a few minutes, tossing the chicken in it, until the liquid has reduced to a glaze on the chicken
- Serve immediately, sprinkled with chopped parsley if desired, and with lemon wedges for those who want extra tang.