Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Chicken Pizzaiola - Cathy

I learned this very easy, very delicious recipe many years ago from Andrea Caselli: a restaurateur from Italy and handyman at the time who helped to build our beautiful kitchen.  He was also kind enough to teach us some of his recipes that are deceptively simple in the number of ingredients and ease of preparation, but not in their flavor!  

This chicken recipe is so, so good with the flavors of chicken, tomatoes and olive oil merging with a hint of mellow garlic and a few bright notes from the capers. There is a temptation to say, "Well, I think this needs some parsley at the end, or some fresh basil, or some olives (okay olives maybe, but only if you don't like capers...)", because it seems so simple--plain, really.  But honestly, try it this way at least once with some really good quality ingredients and you'll see that sometimes less is what you need to let the flavors of your food shine through.

Makes 4-6 servings.

One year ago: Egyptian Kosheri
Two years ago: Spanish Tortilla with Chorizo  

what you'll need:

2 14-oz. cans chopped tomatoes
2-3 Tbsp. good quality olive oil
8 bone-in chicken thighs (skin optional)
 salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 oz. capers
1 cup beef broth 
(the world will not end I'm sure, if you use
chicken broth or even just water)


Pour tomatoes and juice into a medium-sized saucepan and boil to cook juices down while you prepare the chicken.  

Over medium heat, preheat a very large saucepan (or do in two batches in a smaller pan to avoid crowding).  Drizzle bottom of the pan with a bit of olive oil to just barely cover pan.  When hot, put in chicken, skin side down with plenty of room on each side to allow for even browning.  Salt and pepper to taste and patiently wait for chicken to brown before turning.  It will stick like crazy if you try to turn it too soon!  When beginning to look golden-brown, flip to other side.  Admire gorgeous color and wonderful smell.  When brown on both sides, remove to a plate, and repeat with remaining chicken. 

In the last minute or so of cooking, add in the chopped garlic and give it a few stirs.  Look at all that nice brown stuff on the bottom of your pan.  It's called fond, and contributes a lot of flavor to your sauce when it cooks into it.  Work that into a conversation and impress your friends...  Also, try to never waste all those browned bits of goodness.

Now snuggle all of your chicken together into the pan, adding back any juices that may have accumulated on the plate with your partially cooked chicken.  Pour the tomatoes over the chicken.  Add in the capers, beef broth and additional pepper if you like.  Cook for an additional 15 minutes or so, until the chicken is cooked through.  The sauce will gradually cook down and thicken as it cooks, clinging nicely to the chicken when it's served.  Taste to check seasoning, adding additional salt and pepper as needed. 

This is great to prepare ahead as it reheats beautifully.  It's wonderful over any kind of polenta (though I am partial to the soft kind), but last night I served it with some whole-wheat spaghetti and some of Erin's fast and delicious Chorizo and Smoked Paprika Brussel Sprouts, (I subbed in thickly sliced salami for the chorizo since that's what I had in my fridge--delish!) Mangia! 

One year ago: Egyptian Kosheri
Two years ago: Spanish Tortilla with Chorizo 

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