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Mario Batali’s Pollo Agrodolce or Sweet and Sour Chicken a l’Italiano

         I was recently involved in a Television program.  Every time I used a phrase that was French, (as in the expression “A certain je ne sais quoi”), the director would stop me and ask me to translate whatever I was saying into English.  He claimed that no one in America would understand a word I was saying. So I spoke English.  But even there I got into trouble using certain words.  Apparently, no one in America knows what a ‘cynosure’ is.  Or ‘grommets’.  Or ‘clerestory’.  I once read that the New York Times is written for an 8th grade reading level.  So why should I have been the least bit surprised that in Food and Wine magazine’s February issue, they’d renamed Mario Batali’s classic recipe for Pollo Agrodolce “Sweet and Sour Chicken”.
       In fairness, the word means “sour” (agro) and “sweet” (dolce) so it certainly can be translated to  “Sweet and Sour” chicken.  But to me, all the Italian has been stripped away in the translation.  Sweet and Sour Chicken sounds like something you’d get at a Chinese Take- Out.  It has nothing to do with this wonderfully delicious dish with its flavor mix of orange juice, capers and vinegar. 
The Italianissimo Chef Batali
         Devotees of the peninsula will tell you that of all Italy, the most over the top expression of Italian culture is the island of Sicily.  And “Agrodolce” is a Sicilian staple dating back to its days as an Arab outpost.  Who better to bring us this wonderful meeting of the sweetness of sugar and the tang of red wine vinegar than Chef Mario Batali.  Quintessentially Italian, Mario has never strayed from his roots or his early training in Italy.  Every one of his restaurants from “Babbo” to “Il Posto” or, my personal favorite, his Pizza Parlor called “Otto” (for its address at the corner of 8th St. and 5th Avenue), has an full-on Italian name.  His cookbooks, which he seems to pop out annually, are an entire library of “Molto’s”–“Molto Italiano”, “Molto Gusto” and the lastest “Molto Batali”.  I couldn’t help but wonder what he thought of Food & Wine’s translation of Agrodolce.  In all likelihood, he just tell me just to shut up and eat.  Not a bad suggestion considering how good this dish is and how easy it is to prepare. 
         Mario used a whole chicken for his dish.  I opted for my favorite part of the chicken, the thigh.  Much more forgiving than white meat in terms of cooking times, the thigh has much more flavor than the bland breast.  But other than that I stuck to the Master’s Recipe completely.  It’s one of those one dish wonders that takes all of 30 minutes to put together and then cooks another half hour. I served the dish on a bed of Pappardelle noodles. Coucous would bring the Arab roots of the dish to your table.  The recipe is for four people and here it is:

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