Grief Recipe Stories: Pollo Agrodolce (Sweet & Sour Italian Chicken)

by Laurie Burrows Grad

After losing Peter, her husband of forty-seven years, Laurie Burrows Grad began blogging about grief, widowhood, and survival. She has published over 130 blogs about grief as a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and Thrive Global.  Her website has helped widows all over the globe. Grad is a cookbook author and television chef by profession as well as the author of THE JOKE’S OVER, YOU CAN COME BACK NOW: How This Widow Plowed Through Grief and Survived. Ms. Grad also serves on the board of OUR HOUSE Grief Support Center, a Los Angeles grief center.

After my husband of forty-seven years died, I lost my desire to be innovative in the kitchen.  I dined out a lot, but just didn’t have the chops (insert cringe at pun here) to cook dinner for myself.

As a food writer, who concentrated on healthful cooking, it took quite a while for me to enjoy being creative in my kitchen.  Before my husband Peter died, I used to love to visit the Farmers’ Markets and create meals based on what was seasonably available.  I missed the impetus to get my creative culinary juices flowing.  For about eight months, I drowned my sorrows with chocolate, more chocolate, and popcorn.  This was definitely not healthy fare!

I started to enjoy cooking again when I began to entertain.  I had to repay people for their kindnesses in treating me to wonderful restaurant dinners.  I started with my old standbys, like butterflied roast chicken, rack of lamb, turkey chili, and coq au vin.  I bought pieces of salmon and tried to roast them in new ways, especially with cilantro (Peter’s nemesis). 

When a widow or widower is entertaining alone, you no longer have a partner to help you in the kitchen.  You have to be clever and prepare a lot in advance so that you are not hassled.  Braised dishes and stews are the perfect items to prepare since they can be cooked well in advance and frozen. 

The first time I set the table for a dinner party, I put out six placemats instead of five.  I fell to the floor in a puddle of tears.  I picked myself up, dusted myself off, managed to get through the evening, cooked a fantastic and fun dinner, and received tons of kudos from my guests. 

Here is my recipe for my chicken agrodolce which is guaranteed to make you a successful entertainer with ease.


Pollo Agrodolce (Sweet & Sour Italian Chicken)

Agrodolce is a sweet and sour Italian sauce that is prevalent in Sicily and Southern Italy.

  • Author: Laurie Burrows Grad
  • Yield: Serves 6 1x


  • 16 boneless chicken thights
  • Salt and freshlt ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large ribs of celery, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup good quality white wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 cups defatted low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cupe pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • Accompaniments: spaetzle, couscous, rice, or quinoa.
  • Garnish: Fresh sprigs of mint


1. Preheat an outdoor grill or indoor broiler to high. Lightly coat a roasting pan with olive oil nonstick cooking spray.

2. Place the chicken thighs in the pan, season with the salt and pepper, lightly coat with the olive oil spray, and grill or broil for 5 minutes, or until golden. Remove the excess fat from the pan, turn, season with the salt and pepper, lightly coat the chicken with spray, and continue to grill for an additional 4-5 minutes, or until golden on both sides.  Remove the chicken from the pan to a plate and set aside; keep warm. (If you have a fat separator, you can put any extra juices in the pitcher and pour off all the good juices while discarding excess fat).

3. In a large non-stick Dutch oven or deep saucepan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions, celery, and carrots over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until just softened, stirring often. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds to combine.

4. Add the flour and stir over medium heat until smooth.

5. Increase the heat to high and add the wine, vinegar, and sugar and allow the mixture to boil for a minute or two until almost evaporated. Add the broth and the bay leaf and then the reserved chicken pieces.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer slowly for 30 to 40 minutes, until tender.

6. Add the remaining ingredients, stir well, bring to a boil, and simmer slowly for an additional 5 minutes.

7. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Place the chicken over spaetzle, couscous, rice or quinoa. Garnish with mint sprigs and serve hot.


Prepare in advance: This dish is best prepared a day in advance and chilled. The next day, the fat can easily be removed.

January 30, 2020

2 responses on "Grief Recipe Stories: Pollo Agrodolce (Sweet & Sour Italian Chicken)"

  1. This sounds delicious. Since I live in Montréal, I think I’d sub a tablespoon of maple syrup for the white sugar (there is very little white sugar chez moi, just a few packets I swipe from cafés if I need a bit for working with yeast). I think a friend nearby, widowed less than a year ago, would love some of this braise. I don’t feel guilty about swiping a sugar packet because I don’t sugar coffee or tea.

    By the way, thighs, not thights. I was imagining chicken legs in tights, but they’d have to be bone-in!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, and your recipe. The part where you described setting 6 places instead of 5 really touched me. So many of us have those moments when by habit or reflex (or in my case, momentary forgetting – instantly followed by devastating remembering) we do something that we always used to do, to include our connect to our loved one. Thanks for sharing your moment like that with us.

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