When I saw this chicken recipe on Diane Darrow’s Another Year in Recipes blog last week, I knew I had to make it. Diane is among the most intelligent and eloquent food writers I know. Along with her wine-maven husband Tom Maresca, she’s authored two cookbooks on Italian cooking and can always be relied on for expert advice on the subject of authentic Italian cuisine.
Diane found the recipe in Wilma Pezzini’s The Tuscan Cookbook, published in 1978 and has been writing a series of three posts from it that cover three standard courses of an Italian meal (primo, secondo, dolce). Her description of the book, along with the posted recipes, motivated me to purchase a used copy of it, which I’ve found to be an unsung gem, both instructive and engaging to read.
Although, since cooking for two, I prepared only two thighs and drumsticks, as opposed to the recipe’s whole fryer, and used one onion rather than two. For all the other ingredients, I adhered to the recipe’s measurements to ensure having sufficient sauce for our tastes.
I’ve also modified the steps of the original recipe, giving approximate cooking times and temperatures. In addition, I incorporated Diane’s suggested occasional turning of the chicken pieces.
The end result was a truly delicious braised chicken dish, napped in a velvety sauce, with deep sweet-yet-savory flavors from the onions and tomatoes along with a hint of heat from the peperoncino. All this, with a minimum of preparation, a modicum of ingredients, and not an herb or garlic clove in sight.
Chicken & Onion Stew (adapted from The Tuscan Cookbook by Wilma Pezzini)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 frying chicken, cut into 8 or 10 pieces
Salt and pepper
1 peperoncino, or ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste dissolved in ½ cup hot water
1. Cut the onion in 1/4-inch slices.
2. Put olive oil and butter into a large sauté pan, add onions, salt, and simmer over medium heat for a few minutes until opaque. (About 5 minutes.) Set the onions aside.
3. Dry and season the chicken with salt and pepper; place the pieces in the pan starting skin-side down, and brown on over medium-high heat on all sides. (About 8 to 10 minutes.)
4. Return the onions to the pan and add the peperoncino. Pour in the wine, scraping up any brown bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Lower the flame, and allow to cook for 10 minutes.
5 Cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes over low heat. Turn the chicken pieces once during this time.
6. Add the dissolved tomato paste, turn the chicken pieces, cover the pan, and cook for another 15 minutes or until tender. Turn the chicken pieces once during this time.
7. Check the sauce; if too thin, raise the flame and allow to cook uncovered for a few minutes (approximately 3 minutes) to reduce the sauce to a jam-like or creamy consistency.
8. Serve at once, with polenta, steamed rice, or mashed potatoes.
Wine Pairing: Dolcetto d’Alba