The Tuscan-Jewish Variation Of Fried Chicken You Should Know

While it is certainly not an objective fact that fried chicken is delicious, there seems to be something to the fact that so many styles of fried chicken developed around the globe — often independent of each other — in the culinary traditions of cultures around the world. Japanese karaage features morsels of flavorful chicken thigh marinated in soy sauce and mirin, then dusted with potato starch. Ukrainian Chicken Kiev is a more composed dish of thinly-pounded chicken breast rolled around cold butter, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs, then fried. 

The most ubiquitous variety of fried chicken in the U.S. is from the South, peddled by chains such as KFC and Popeyes. Stateside, fried chicken is experiencing a renaissance fueled by new concepts and takes entering the market, says QSR Magazine. In fact, the popularity of fried chicken is such that it fueled a shortage of poultry in the U.S. during the pandemic, reports Bloomberg.

For those looking for fried chicken that is a little outside-the-box, a deep dive reveals that there are myriad tasty options for crispy yardbird. Take, for instance, a less-known recipe that comes from Italy's vibrant Jewish diaspora.

Not just for Hanukkah

Chef and food writer Daniel Gritzer began making this specific variant of fried chicken when he was a sous chef at New York City's Beppe in the early aughts. Gritzer explains to  Serious Eats that the chef of the restaurant, Cesare Casella, was famous for many things, not least among them a chicken that was marinated in lemon juice, garlic, cinnamon, and nutmeg, then coated in egg and flour and fried. The result was tangy, pungent, and crispy and was a frequent feature on "best-of" lists.

Tasked with digging a little deeper into the recipes of Casella's home of Tuscany, Gritzer found the recipe is more specifically attributable to the area's Jewish community. The crispy, fried chicken dish is associated with Hanukkah, called pollo fritto per Chanukkà in Italian.

It should be of little surprise that fried chicken is a staple of Tuscan Hanukkah celebrations. As NPR explains, the holiday is centered on the miracle of light provided by a temple lamp that burned for eight days on a single day's supply of olive oil. Thus, cooking in oil is a form of remembrance. Staples of Hanukkah table can include traditional latkes, Roman-Jewish fried artichokes, schnitzel, fritters, donuts like the Israili sufganiyot and Amermenian ponchiks (or pączki in Poland), and yes, fried chicken.