This simple chicken recipe is inspired from Arni Stamnas, baked in an unglazed clay jar called stamna, which was used by women to bring water from the village fountain. The story goes that some women secretly fed their sons or husbands who were guerrillas in the mountains, during the war of independence from the Ottomans in the 19th cen. by leaving water jars filled with food near the fountain. In the night, the men came secretly and collected it.
Since the water jar has a small opening, small pieces of meat and vegetables were inserted in the jar, which was then sealed with dough and slow-roasted in the wood-fired oven.
On the other hand, ‘Arni Kleftiko’ (Guerillas’ Lamb) is a variation of the previous recipe. It was a simpler dish the guerillas prepared and baked in holes in the ground, where just a few charcoals warmed the stones keeping a slow, smokeless fire that didn’t betray their position, as they roasted pieces of lamb or goat wrapped in leaves and goat or lamb skin. ‘Kleftiko’ included small pieces of aged, spicy cheese, and is flavored with lemon and herbs. Unfortunately the Kleftiko most taverns make today, has lots of mostly melted cheese and it is far from the original recipe, I feel.
The version of ‘Arni Stamnas’ I puiblished in my first book was given to me by Electra Kalamboka from Kavalla in northern Greece, and it is obviously a more contemporary recipe with tomatoes, which came to be a common ingredient in Greek cooking around the end of the 19th cen. after Greece became an independent country.
Somehow merging the two previous recipes, to cook chicken wrapped in parchment paper. Placing the wrapped food in a clay pot enhances the flavors, as it slows the roasting even further.
Serve with bulgur pilaf, or with plain olive-oil-and- pepper spaghetti or orzo, dousing the pasta with the delicious Kleftiko juices.
Serves 4-5 (more…)