James Beard’s Chicken Calandria Recipe

This poultry recipe from his classic cookbook, Beard on Birds, is what's for dinner.


If there’s anyone who can spice up the humdrum drumstick, it’s master chef James Beard. In his classic culinary cookbook, Beard on Birds, poultry takes center plate, is dressed with a dash of nostalgia, then garnished with an intro by The French Chef herself, Julia Child.


Sure, there’s something so comforting (and lazy) about hitting “order” on your smartphone. But the familiar sizzle as oil hits a hot pan and the kitchen’s aroma that smells of pride beat out anything that comes in a sack. And, though nothing compares to your nonna’s picatta, back in the old country, even she would be reaching for seconds of this tasty dish.

Chicken Calandria
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 5?6
This buffet dish comes from an old Mexican cook, Calandria, who made many pilgrimages to California to prepare and teach her national dishes. She would arrive complete with aprons, metate, and all the mysterious ingredients that go into Mexican foods.
  • 1 roasting chicken, 5 pounds, cut up, or an equivalent amount of chicken breasts and legs
  • ½ cup white water-ground cornmeal
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3 medium white onions, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup dry red wine, heated
  • Pinch each of mace and dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • ½ teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup whole blanched almonds
  • 1 cup pitted green olives
  • ¼ cup sweet chili powder
  1. Dredge the pieces of chicken in the cornmeal. Save any corn-meal left behind. Heat the olive oil in a large casserole. When hot but not smoking, sear the chicken slightly on all sides. Lower the heat, add the onions and garlic, and mix well with the chicken. Add the wine, mace, marjoram, sesame seeds, caraway seeds, boiling water, and salt. Cover and allow it to simmer gently for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the almonds, olives, and chili powder and simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix a little of the reserved cornmeal with water and add to thicken the sauce to the desired consistency, stirring continuously to keep the corneal from forming lumps or sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  3. Put aside until ready to serve, for this dish is much better reheated.


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