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Pollo Tonnato, a Hamptons Italian Dish straight from Ireland.

There’s a very famous Take-Out store in the Hamptons called “Loaves and Fishes” that turns out superb food for the rich.  I say this because, first, the place is in a village out here with the highest median house price in the entire country: Sagaponack NY comes in at a staggering $8,500,000.   And second, I once saw a woman there pay $108.00 for 8 servings of Pollo Tonnato.  Lord knows what she would have paid for the far more expensive Vitello Tonnato, the Piedmontese dish of cold, sliced veal in a creamy, mayonnaise-y sauce flavored with tuna.  As odd as the combination may be, it’s a wonderful combination of flavors which brings a salty tang to the otherwise bland taste of the veal.   Invented in the late 19th century, Tonnato sauce was created at a time when Piedmonte was closely aligned to Liguria. The tuna was fished for in Liguria, the lemons and capers were grown there too.   Pollo Tonnato is its very worthy and far less expensive cousin. It uses boneless chicken breasts covered with the Tonnato sauce, a rich and flavorful concoction of capers, lemon, anchovies and tuna, preferably the Italian variety in glass jars. The Italian tuna will not only up the price of the dish a bit, it will improve its flavor immeasurably.

         So what about this classic Italian preparation is remotely Irish? Well, when casting about for its recipe, I came upon the version that Darina Allen included in her “Ballymaloe Cookery Course” (Kyle Cathie Limited 2009).  This immense collection of 1100 recipes is peppered with instructions of every possible kind. It truly is a Cookery Course in one book.  So why this particular recipe from this particular writer? Mostly because it was so much simpler to prepare than virtually any other, particularly the classic Italian takes on it from the late lamented Marcella Hazan.  By grilling the chicken instead of poaching it,

the prep work is cut back to salt and peppering the breasts.  The sauce is one that goes into the food processor to emerge fully made. And I confess that I did not make my own Mayonnaise.  Instead, I used Hellman’s Mayonaisse with Olive Oil with no apparent ill effects.  The haricots verts bring color and texture to the salad.  All that’s left to do is to assemble the salad on plates and serve.  The only expenditure of time here is the chilling time for both chicken and tonnato sauce. Here is the recipe which you can serve all summer at lunch or dinner.

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