The Tale of the Grilled Rooster

Last summer, while at my house in Piemonte, Italy, along the rolling hills of vineyards, my parents and I went through a phase of intense outdoor grilling. We had just boughten a Weber (see my post on that: “Whiff” of a Weber in the Vineyards) and the excitement of having one kept us grilling lamb chops and

spiedini (Italian shish kabobs).  My mom was especially into the grilling scene, and insisted we grill every meat in the household. She didn’t stop at rooster either.

A weber in our vineyards.

A weber in our vineyards.

A wild rooster we spotted near our house.

A wild rooster we spotted near our house.

My Nonna is an exceptionally good cook, as many of you know by now. She makes homemade marmalade, gnocchi, lasagne, fiori di zucchini  (zucchini flower), pesto, tomato sauce, and any thing else you can think of that is Italian (although, she doesn’t bake). Little did you know that she is also a butcher.

Nonna outside working on a batch of red sauce.

Nonna outside working on a batch of red sauce.

Anna is a little old Italian lady that lives next door to my Nonni in their small village on the Italian Riviera, near Cinque Terre. She has never flown overseas, rarely gone out of the country, and probably never steps foot out of her little village of old Italian folk. Anna represents the last of a generation that married only within their village or town, and stuck to the traditions and culture of only their region. Back in her days, if you were to marry another Italian outside your village, even only 20 miles outside, you could be banished by your own people from your hometown.

A misty view from Nonna and Anna's village.

A misty view from Nonna and Anna’s village.

Anna owns a coop of chickens. She raises them for their fresh eggs, and, of course, tender meat. Anna can’t bring herself to kill her chickens after raising them herself, so she calls the great Nonna Italia to do the honors. When it comes to food Nonna Italia is all business, and if an animal can be eaten, she’ll kill it herself, and cook it for cena. 

Anna's chickens in their coop.

Anna’s chickens in their coop.

Anna's Chickens

My Nonna, of course, does not own a gun. Guns are a wimp’s tool; Nonna Italia uses her hands to snap the neck of the chicken. In return, Nonna gets to keep some meat, and Anna brings her fresh eggs from time to time. The eggs are to die for, as well as the meat. A real good, fresh Italian egg has a beautiful orange yolk that provides for some spectacular flavor. Now that’s a Ben Gusto.

Take a look at the orange of that yolk.

Take a look at the orange of that yolk.

Italian Egg

Blah Blah Blah. Ok, now that you understand the background story, let me get back to the rooster. When Nonna Italia and Nonno Carlo come to visit us at our vineyard in Piemonte, which is only 1 hour and a half from their place on the Riviera, Nonna brings us trays of food to keep in the freezer. She normally brings us canned marmalade, sauces, or lasagne. Well, long after the last visit they made, we discovered a rooster in our freezer. Now remember, this was during our grilling phase, so any meat goes.

So we fired up the Weber, filled up with chopped wood. We cut the rooster into separate parts and placed it on the grill, with a rock over it to keep it down. My dad was feeling so-so about having rooster, and he should have explained why. It turns out that rooster is not buono da mangiare (good to eat). It was so hard and chewy that you couldn’t even  eat a slice without working it in your mouth for five minutes! I don’t know about you, but I’m not crazy about the idea of getting a jaw workout in place of dinner. My Pop should have told us before that rooster was not meant to be grilled, but I guess he got too wound up in the idea that the meat looked so good as well! Nonna had a big laugh later when she heard we tried to eat the old rooster grilled, she had meant for my mom to make it into a broth for risotto.

Rocks were placed atop the rooster.

Rocks were placed atop the rooster.

Grilled RoosterGrilled RoosterGrilled Rooster

The rooster after grilling. It looks like it could be good...

The rooster after grilling. It looks like it could be good…

Grilled Rooster

My mother joked that the rooster looked like a rubber chicken, and tasted like one too!

Rubber Chicken

4 responses on “The Tale of the Grilled Rooster

  1. great experience Ben! your Grannma should have told you the old italian say: ” gallina vecchia fa buon brodo “. Old rooster makes a good broth.

    • Grazie Riccardo! My father never told me that one, but he has told some pretty funny ones! Gli Italiani sono molto creativi con i frasi. Most of the ones he taught me I can’t repeat on here…

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