join our Italian holiday table + a giveaway!

Twinkling lights are beginning to dot the city’s streets, quietly marking the start of the holiday season, and with it the promise of festive gatherings and celebrations. It’s a busy time of a year, but also a joyous one — a time to remind ourselves of what really matters, to relish in the joy of giving, and to cherish moments with the ones we love.

To me, the holiday celebrations are defined by their meals — humble, comforting dishes that serve to gather my loved ones around the table. So, when Colavita Olive Oils and Perugina Chocolates asked me to create a holiday inspired meal, I knew I had to make something that would do just that.

This meal is a holiday classic at its best. Everyone’s favorite — roast chicken — is browned in olive oil in a cast iron skillet until its skin is crisp and crackling. It then roasts on a bed of onions until succulent and juicy. The pan drippings are used to make a sauce, to which a reduced balsamic vinegar is added for depth of flavor and a welcomed sweetness. Add to that a creamy, herbed polenta, caramelized, roasted carrots, and a festive dessert of almond cookies dipped in chocolate, and you have yourself a meal that is worthy of a holiday celebration. It’s simple, yet special. Delicious, yet unassuming. It’s a meal that is sure to bring your loved ones around the table.

Let’s not forget about the giveaway! This post was sponsored by Colavita Olive Oils and Perugina Chocolates, and they have generously offered to give away the basket of their products that you see below to one of you! The basket includes a wide array of olive oils, vinegars, pastas, chocolates and more. Click here to enter


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roasted chicken with herbed polenta + rainbow carrots

 

prep time: 45 minutes

inactive time: 2 hours

cook time: 2 hours, 5 minutes

 

for the chicken + balsamic glaze:

1 [5 – 6] pound chicken

kosher salt

5 tablespoons Colavita Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 sprigs of fresh thyme

4 sprigs of fresh rosemary

1 sprig of fresh sage

2 large yellow onions, peeled and cut into large wedges

2 cups low sodium chicken stock [preferably homemade]

1/2 cup Colavita Aged Balsamic Vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon unsalted cold butter

 

for the carrots:

1 bunch of rainbow carrots [about 12 – 14], peeled, greens trimmed, and split in half lengthwise [if you can’t find rainbow, orange carrots work perfectly here too]

2 tablespoons Colavita Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil

kosher salt

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds, for garnish

Parmesan cheese shavings, for garnish

 

for the polenta:

4 cups water

1 cup Colavita Polenta

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

salt + freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

First, prepare the chicken: remove the giblets and trim the wing tips. Rinse the body cavity and pat dry all over with paper towels. Season liberally with salt all over, including inside the body cavity. Place on a sheet pan, uncovered, in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours [better if overnight]. 

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking, and allow to sit at room temperature. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of the olive oil all over the chicken and massage into the skin. Fill the cavity with the sprigs of thyme, rosemary, and sage. Using butchers twine, tie the legs together. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 

Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot, and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chicken, breast side down. Sear the chicken over high heat until the skin on the breast is golden brown, about 4 – 5 minutes. [Try not to move the chicken during this step, unless to quickly peek at the color, as it will not brown nicely]. Once golden brown, turn off the heat and flip the chicken onto its back. Arrange the onion wedges around the chicken and transfer the skillet to the preheated oven. Roast, making sure to flip the onions every 30 minutes so they don’t burn. The chicken is done when a thermometer reads 165 degrees F when inserted into the meaty part of the thigh, away from the bone [this should take about an hour and a half]. If the onions are browning too quickly, you can remove them and set aside while the chicken finishes roasting.

Once the chicken has been roasting for about an hour, prepare the carrots: spread the carrots evenly over a sheet pan, so that they lay in one layer. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Transfer to the oven with the chicken, and roast until tender and slightly browned, about 35 – 40 minutes, shaking the pan once halfway through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before transferring to a serving platter and tossing with the pomegranate seeds and shavings of Parmesan cheese. 

Once the chicken is done, use tongs to lift it out of the pan, and allow the juices to drain from its cavity back into the skillet. Set aside on a carving board, cover in aluminum foil, and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. If you haven’t already, remove the onions from the skillet and set those aside as well. Using a spoon, skim the clear layer of fat from the top of the skillet, making sure not to discard any of the brown juices. Place the skillet back over the stovetop and heat over high heat. Once the juices start to bubble, add the chicken stock and use a wooden spoon to scrape all of the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Bring the stock to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until reduced and thickened, about 20 minutes. 

While stock is simmering, add the balsamic vinegar to a small sauté pan over high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until vinegar thickens and becomes a glaze-like consistency, about 10 minutes. Whisk the balsamic glaze into the simmering chicken stock. 

Once the stock and balsamic mixture is reduced and thickened [it should coat the back of a spoon], remove it from the heat and add the chopped thyme and cold butter. Swirl until the butter has melted completely. Transfer to a small sauce pitcher, and cover to keep warm. 

Lastly, prepare the polenta: bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a stock pot or large sauce pan. Once boiling, slowly pour in the polenta while whisking. Reduce the heat and cook the polenta, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the Parmesan cheese, heavy cream, thyme, and rosemary. Stir to combine and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Spoon the polenta onto plates immediately [see note below] and arrange the chicken over top. Drizzle with the balsamic sauce and serve the carrots on the side. 

 

Note: if the polenta is too thick, or starts to solidify as it cools, whisk in a drizzle of heavy cream or milk [a little at a time] until the desired consistency is reached. 

 

Yield: 6 servings


chocolate dipped almond cookies

 

prep time: 20 minutes

inactive time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

cook time: 20 minutes

 

ingredients:

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons almond paste

3/4 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 cup slivered almonds

3 1/2 ounces [1 bar] Perugina Bittersweet Chocolate, coarsely chopped

3 1/2 ounces [1 bar] Perugina White Chocolate, coarsely chopped

 

Add the butter, almond paste, and sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed, scraping down the bowl as needed, until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour and salt. Stop the mixer just when the dough comes together.

Remove the dough from the bowl of the mixer and wrap in plastic wrap. Form into a fat log and place in the refrigerator. Chill until firm; at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 half sheet pans with parchment paper.

Once log of dough has chilled, remove from the refrigerator, unwrap, and cut in half. On a clean work surface, roll each half into a log about 2-inches in diameter. Slice each log into 1/4-inch-thick medallions and arrange the cookies on the lined sheet pans, making sure to leave some space between each cookie. Transfer to the oven and bake until cookies are just barely golden around the edges, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.

While cookies cool, add the slivered almonds to a dry pan over medium heat. Toast, shaking the pan frequently, until lightly browned, about 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle almonds into a bowl, and set aside.

Add the two types of chopped chocolate into two separate small bowls and melt in 30 second intervals in the microwave, making sure to stir the chocolate at the end of every interval [should take about 1 1/2 minutes per bowl in total]. Set aside.

To finish the cookies: once completely cool, dip each cookie halfway into the melted chocolate and shake off the excess. Place onto a parchment-lined sheet pan to cool. Repeat until all the cookies have been dipped, half in the bittersweet chocolate, and half in the white chocolate. While the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle the toasted almonds over the cookies, pressing them gently into the chocolate. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator and chill until chocolate is completely hardened. Cookies can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Yield: approximately 24 cookies


shortbread cookies, two ways


shortbread cookies, two ways

These cookies both start with the same shortbread base — a blank canvas for vibrant, creative flavors. One version is warm, spicy, and sweet, almost like a buttery graham cracker with a peppery bite, covered in looping drizzles of melted chocolate. The other is flecked with orange zest, both throughout the dough and its icing, adding an acidic brightness in contrast to the rich, buttery cookie. Initially, I was planning on making both, and sharing whichever one I preferred. But, after tasting them, I really can’t say which I like more. So, here you have it: shortbread cookies, two ways.

 

for the shortbread base: 

2 cups all purpose flour

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon coarse salt

 

for the spiced shortbread with chocolate drizzle:

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper [I find this amount to give a nice kick without being overpowering. If you are really sensitive to heat though, you may want to use a bit less].

1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

coarse salt, to taste

 

for the iced orange shortbread:

1 1/4 teaspoons orange zest

3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice

 

First, make the plain shortbread dough: sift [or whisk] the flour and salt in a medium-sized bowl. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium high for about 2-3 minutes. With the mixer on low, gradually add the sugar. Increase the mixer’s speed to medium high and beat, scraping down the sides as needed, until mixture is pale in color, about 3-4 additional minutes. Lower the mixer’s speed to low, and gradually add flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Remove dough from bowl and divide it into two equal portions.

To make the spiced shortbread dough: add one portion of the dough back to the mixer and sprinkle in cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Mix on low until incorporated. Remove dough from bowl and roll into a fat log. Wrap in plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator. Chill for at least 30 minutes before baking. [it will be easier to roll into a skinnier log once the dough is chilled]

To make the orange shortbread dough: add one portion of dough to the mixer and sprinkle in 1 teaspoon of the orange zest. Mix on low until incorporated. Remove dough from bowl and roll into a fat log. Wrap in plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator. Chill for at least 30 minutes before baking. [it will be easier to roll into a skinnier log once the dough is chilled]

*Make sure to clean the mixer bowl in between making the two versions!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Once chilled, remove the logs of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and roll them both until they are about 1 1/2 – 2-inches in diameter. Slice into 1/4-inch medallions and place on a large, parchment lined baking sheet. Make sure to leave a little bit of space around each cookie.

Bake, on the center rack, until cookies are lightly golden brown around the edges, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

While cookies are cooling, make the glazes. 

To make the chocolate glaze: combine both kinds of chocolate chips in a small bowl. Microwave in 30 second intervals [stirring in between each interval], being careful not to burn. [If you prefer, you can also use a double boiler]. Mix until completely melted and smooth. 

To make orange glaze: Add sugar, heavy cream, orange juice, and orange zest to a small bowl. Whisk until completely combined and smooth. 

Next, decorate the cookies. Once they have completely cooled, drizzle the melted chocolate over the spiced shortbread cookies, and sprinkle with salt [I actually used a cinnamon, chipotle salt that I happened to have on hand, which was delicious — you could even make your own mixture of cinnamon, cayenne, and salt for garnish — don’t be afraid to experiment!] Dip the top of the orange shortbread cookies in the orange glaze and allow excess to drip off. Allow all cookies to sit at room temperature until the chocolate and glaze is hardened, then transfer to an airtight container to store. [You can refrigerate the cookies to speed the drying process, but they do not need to be stored in the refrigerator].

Enjoy! 

 

Makes about 24 cookies [12 of each flavor]