The first time I was served Agrodolce it was with rabbit. Now I am not a big fan of rabbit, but being polite I ate it and although the meat wasn't what I would have chosen the sauce was delicious. Since that day I have eaten Agrodolce several times and it has always been different.
Agrodolce is a Sicilian dish and it translates to sweet and sour. Agro meaning sour and dolce meaning sweet. I love language like that 😉
Like most Italian food, it varies from town to town and from family to family. I have eaten it when it has been heavy with sultanas (hehe I miss typed this and my spellchecker changed it to Sultans, made me giggle 😉 ) and pine nuts, I have had it when it has been very heavily scented with thyme and also with a rich sauce that I think had some coco in it. But my favourite way to enjoy it, is the lighter version that I am sharing today. The heavier richer sauces are great when the weather is cold and you want big bowls of delicious warming meals. But this version is perfect for spring and summer.
I got my original recipe from a lovely Italian waitress that I worked with. It was her Nonna's recipe and she gave it away with strict instructions that I should never try black olives in the dish as her Nonna said black olives in an Agrodolce would bring misfortune. Whilst I am not superstitious I have never tried it with black olives as no one wants to mess with an Italian Nonna!
This however left me with a small problem as my boys love olives, but Mr 4 will only eat black ones. He occasionally tries the green ones, but as a rule he spits them out or finishes it but declares the whole bowl as "yuck", or worse still (in his eyes at least) "only for grown ups!" So when serving this to my children I have to pick out the olives out of Mr 4's plate before I serve it! I know I know, don't judge me 😳 but it is easier than having the whole plate of food rejected. Although currently his latest food fad is a dislike of chicken! And pasta!!! Which is not going down well with me! I keep telling myself that I know all kids go through this. Mr 7 went through a stage of only eating smoked fish, mashed potatoes and peas. And then he went through the garlic phase, where if you couldn't see the garlic in the dish he didn't want it! I have to say that was easier to deal with than the "I don't like pasta today". Kids!
Anyway, back to my chicken! Like I say I have never dared substitute the olives, but please feel free to experiment. The only change I have made is to substitute the original white sugar with honey. I have made it both ways and I love them both, but I am happier using honey as I feel I can justify a pud if there is no sugar in the main. A little tip for measuring honey. If you use your measuring spoon to measure the olive oil, the coating left on the spoon means the honey will slide straight off!
I like to serve this with buttered and oregano flecked pappardelle. I have no idea if that is the traditional way of eating it, but it was how I first enjoyed it and I love pasta so I think why change it! But potatoes, rice or bread would all be suitable accompaniments.
I hope you enjoy this dish and once the weather is cold and rainy and I have the fire roaring I will share the richer version of this dish. Then you can see which you prefer 🙂
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- 3 tablespoon plain flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 2 tbsp olive oil (divided)
- 2 red onions
- 3 garlic cloves
- 125ml white wine
- 375ml chicken stock
- 1 ½ tablespoon dried oregano leaves
- 4 dried bay leaves
- 3 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1 ½ tablespoon honey
- 85g pitted green olives
- Fresh oregano (for garnish)
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan forced 180°C/gas mark 6.
- Using a zip lock bag combine the flour, salt and pepper.
- Add the chicken thighs and shake and move them about until they have a light dusting of seasoned flour.
- Place a large frying pan on a high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cook the chicken over a high heat for 3 minutes a side, until golden. Cook the chicken in batches as you don't want to over crowd the pan. Make sure you keep the heat high as this will make sure your chicken has a nice crisp golden crust.
- Transfer the chicken to a large baking dish.
- Slice the red onions into thin moon shapes and crush the garlic cloves
- Add the remaining oil to the frying pan and heat over a medium heat.
- Cook the onion for 2 minutes and then add the garlic. Stir well and cook for a further minute.
- Turn up the heat and add the wine. Allow it to bubble and splutter for 2 minutes. Then add the chicken stock.
- Bring back to the boil and add the oregano, bay leaves, vinegar and honey.
- Stir well.
- Pour the mixture into the baking dish and cook for 15 minutes.
- Add the olives and cook for a further 5 minutes.
- Serve garnished with fresh oregano.