Say “chicken cacciatore” to most people and, more than likely, it will conjure up an image of sautéed chicken pieces simmered in tomato sauce along with vegetables like peppers, onions, mushrooms, etc. Until the other day I was among those people. In fact, I’ve posted several recipes for the dish on this blog.
Yesterday, however, I came across a recipe in Italian Country Cooking by Loukie Werle for an Umbrian-style version of the dish that has neither tomatoes nor peppers but in their place uses olives, capers, and pea-sized cubes of lemon. Its sauce starts with a savory and aromatic soffritto of minced pancetta, onion, rosemary, and garlic and then finishes with white wine, vinegar, capers, lemon and chili flakes.
I love it when friends and family pass along recipes that they’ve read about and think of me. Sometimes, however, they may over estimate my culinary capabilities and propose dishes that are far beyond my skills and sometimes even my budget.
But recently a close friend from back home sent me a link to a New York Timesrecipe for sheet-pan chicken thighs with shallots and grapes. When I first saw the recipe’s photo, I thought I had already made it, but soon realized that I had only made a similar sheet-pan supper but with sausages.
This is an easy recipe and perfect for a mid-week dinner. The flavors of the shallots and grapes blend beautifully and provide the perfect complement to the crispy chicken.
Unfortunately, I was unable to find the za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice mix, which I think would have added more complexity to the dish. I also found the recipe’s cooking time a tad too short to render the chicken as brown and crispy as I like it. I cooked mine for about 40 to 45 minutes, followed by two to three additional minutes under the broiler.
Finally, don’t forget the recommended flaked salt for serving. It adds a lot to the final dish.
2 ½ to 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, patted dry
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon za’atar (optional)
Kosher salt and black pepper
6 medium to large shallots, peeled and quartered root to stem
8 ounces seedless red or green grapes, or a combination of both, broken into small clusters on the vine
4 to 5 sprigs thyme, plus 2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme
Flaky salt, for serving
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss together the chicken with 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic and za’atar, if using. Season well with salt and pepper.
Place the shallots and the grapes on the sheet pan and gently toss with the remaining olive oil and season well with salt.
Nestle the chicken skin side up in between the shallots and grapes and lay the thyme sprigs on top of the mixture.
Roast for 25 to 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the shallots and grapes begin to soften and caramelize around the edges of the pan.
Turn the oven to broil and move the oven rack to sit right below it. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs and broil the chicken for 1 to 2 minutes until the skin of the chicken is crispy and golden. Scatter with chopped thyme and season with flaky salt.
Sometimes a recipe doesn’t turn out the way you had hoped, and I guess that’s OK—especially if the final dish is, despite its faults, delicious.
Such was the case last night when I prepared a recipe from Marcella Hazan’s second cookbook More Classic Italian Cooking. This is the same volume that introduced us to one of her most famous recipes, Pollo al Limone, Roast Chicken with Lemon, which uses only two ingredients, a young chicken and two lemons, along with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to yields one of the best roast chickens I’ve ever made.
Perhaps because of my success with this dish, I chose the recipe for today’s post: Pollo in Tegame al Limone, Pan Roasted Chicken with Lemon Juice. It’s a little more involved than her roast chicken recipe and uses a few more ingredients. But what immediately caught my eye and led me to make it was that it called for browning the chicken without using any fat. After being washed under cold running water but not dried, the chicken pieces are placed in a skillet without any oil to brown. “The moisture clinging to the washed chicken pieces and their own fat,” says Marcella, “will suffice.” I simply had to see if this would work.
She does warn you to watch the chicken pieces and “turn them before they stick.” Yet even though I followed these directions and hovered over the pan like a mother hen, my chicken only attained just a tinge of brown. And maybe this is what was called for, since even if the chicken had browned normally, the skin would never have been crisp as the dish is cooked covered for 40 to 45 minutes. In fact, the recipe does specifically call for “lightly browning” the chicken.
Moreover, both in appearance and in flavor, this dish reminded me of one of my favorite dishes from the Roman trattoria Da Gino, coniglio al vino bianco, rabbit in white wine. The meat was wonderfully moist, tender, and flavorsome. But alas the skin was disappointingly slimy or rubbery. Perhaps I should have served the chicken without the skin.
Eventually I’ll make this dish again, but with a few tweaks, the first of which will be drying the chicken and browning it with some fat.
Pan-Roasted Chicken with Lemon Juice
2 ½ to 3 pound chicken (I used thighs.)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 sprig rosemary
3 whole garlic cloves peeled
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 or 6 thin julienne strips of lemon peel
1- Cut up the chicken into 6 or 8 pieces, and wash these under cold running water. Do not dry them.
Put the chicken pieces skin side down in a sauté pan in which they will fit without overlapping.
Turn the heat on to medium high, drying and lightly browning the chicken on all sides. No cooking fat is required at this point. The moisture clinging to the moist chicken pieces and their own fat will suffice. You must watch them, however, and turn them before they stick to the pan.
2-When this chicken is lightly browned on all sides, add the oil, butter, rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, turning the chicken pieces over once or twice.
3-Add the wine, turn the heat up a bit, and let the wine bubble for half a minute or so. Then turn the heat down to medium low, and cover the pan.
Cook until the chicken is tender, testing one of the thighs with a fork. It should take about 40 to 45 minutes.
4-Turn off the heat, and transfer just the chicken pieces to a warm serving platter.
5-Tip the pan, and with a spoon remove all but 2 tablespoons of fat. Add the lemon juice and lemon peel, turn the heat on to medium low, and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping loose any cooking juices that have stuck to the pan.
Pour this light sauce over the chicken, and serve at once.
My family was pretty traditional when it came to Italian cooking. Both my mother and my aunt prepared recipes passed down to them by their mothers and took pride in preserving their traditions.
Perhaps because of this adherence to the past, I never had had the ever popular Italian-American Chicken Parm until I was in high school. I remember my first time with it. My friends raved about the dish so much that I simply had to try it. I thought it would be similar to the only other “parm” I knew, namely my aunt’s eggplant parmigiana, with perfectly fried slices of eggplant baked in layers with a light tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and Parmigiano Reggiano.
However, when my order of chicken parm appeared, my disappointment with the dish hit me before I even tasted it. The sight and smell of an overly fried and similarly over breaded skinless chicken cutlet drowning in a thick, sweetened tomato sauce and topped with a rubbery piece of “mozz” were, to put it mildly, less than appealing. The taste was not much better. Nevertheless, to fit in with the crowd, I ate most of it and said “Wow, the best chicken parm I ever had.” It was also my last.
Back to the present. Intrigued by a tempting picture of what was called “Chicken Pizza” in a NY Times “What to Cook Now” newsletter, I clicked my way to the recipe by Melissa Clark. My intrigue lessened, however, when I read in her introduction that the dish was “reminiscent of Chicken Parmesan.” Yuck! But that picture was so still tempting.
Well last night, I finally made the dish and am happy to report it was a huge success, or as my better half proclaimed “a keeper!” The sauce had layers of flavor from the anchovies and pancetta; the bocconcini, perfectly melted, complemented the sauce; and the chicken thighs were moist and juicy. A far cry from that first chicken parm.
I followed the recipe pretty closely, only adding one extra anchovy, upping the amount of olive oil to 2 tablespoons, and using chopped rather than whole imported Italian tomatoes. I also chose to deglaze the pan with a little white wine after browning the chicken and frying the garlic, anchovies, and red pepper flakes.
Skillet Chicken With Tomatoes, Pancetta and Mozzarella Ingredients
3 ½ pounds bone-in chicken pieces (or use a 31/2 pound chicken cut into 8 pieces)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (I used 2 tablespoons.)
5 ounces pancetta, diced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 anchovy fillets (I used 3 anchovies.)
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1½ ounces dry white wine for deglazing (My addition to the recipe.)
1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes (I used chopped imported Italian tomatoes.)
1 large basil sprig, plus more chopped basil for serving
8 ounces bocconcini, halved (or use mozzarella cut into 3/4-inch pieces)
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.
In a large oven-proof skillet, warm oil over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until browned.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer pancetta to a paper-towel-lined plate.
Add chicken to skillet. Sear, turning only occasionally, until well browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. (My chicken took almost 20 minutes to brown.) Transfer to a large plate. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon oil.
Add garlic, anchovy and red pepper flakes to skillet; fry 1 minute.
I chose here to deglaze the pan with wine.
Stir in tomatoes and basil. Cook, breaking up tomatoes with a spatula, until sauce thickens somewhat, about 10 minutes.
Return chicken to skillet. (Turn the pieces in the sauce to coat the chicken. My addition,)
Transfer skillet to oven and cook, uncovered, until chicken is no longer pink, about 30 minutes.
Scatter bocconcini or mozzarella pieces over skillet.
Adjust oven temperature to broil. Return skillet to oven and broil until cheese is melted and bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes (watch carefully to see that it does not burn). Garnish with pancetta and chopped basil before serving.
Our markets in downtown San Diego frequently seem to have extraordinary sales on chicken; for example, today I found bone-in skin-on chicken thighs for 77 cents a pound. Consequently, my plans for a pasta dinner were put on hold and replaced with a dish that caught my eye on the New York Times “Cooking” site: Garlicky Chicken Thighs with Scallion and Lime.
It’s a relatively simple dish to prepare and requires a minimum of ingredients. My only substitution was 2 tablespoons of olive oil for the 1 tablespoon of canola oil. And while the recipe gave the choice of using “a large Dutch oven or a high-sided skillet” for cooking the dish, I opted for my trusty 12″ cast-iron skillet. Sure, it made a mess of my stove, but I think the skillet was a better choice as it allowed for a better reduction of the sauce.
I was also tempted to substitute white wine for the water, but went with the latter to let the flavors of the garlic and scallions to stand on their own. And although the recipe calls for discarding the halved garlic head at the end, I served it with the chicken because it was packed with sweet roasted flavor. Finally, to absorb the sauce, I served steamed Basmati rice.
1 ½ pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil (I substituted 2 tablespoons of olive oil.)
1 bunch scallions
1 head garlic, unpeeled and halved crosswise
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus 1 lime
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1. – Season chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
2. – Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or large, high-sided skillet over medium heat. (I think the skillet is the better choice.)
3. – Add chicken, skin-side down and cook, undisturbed, until chicken is crisped and the fat has begun to render, 8 to 10 minutes. Using tongs, carefully flip chicken skin-side up. Cook until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes.
4. – Meanwhile, thinly slice two scallions; set aside.
5. – Add both halves of the head of garlic, cut side down, and remaining whole scallions to the pot and season with salt and pepper, tossing to coat in the chicken fat.
6. – Cook until scallions are lightly blistered and browned, about 3 minutes. Add grated garlic and stir a minute or two, but do not brown.
6. – Add lime juice, soy sauce and 1 cup of water. Bring to a simmer and partly cover. Cook until chicken is completely tender and nearly falling apart on the underside and liquid is reduced by three-quarters, 15 to 20 minutes. Discard the halved head of garlic. (I think this step might be tricky for some. Be sure to partially cover the skillet to keep the chicken from drying out; but also allow enough time for the sauce to reduce properly.)
7. – Scatter sliced scallion over chicken and using a Microplane or zester, zest lime over. Cut lime into quarters and serve alongside.
What does it say about your marriage when you opt for celebrating at home over dining out? After four years together, I think it says we don’t need anymore than we already have to be happy and that most of all we treasure our time together alone.
Our menu was simple. After Champagne with smoked salmon on pumpernickel (OK, maybe a bit of a spurge), we sat down to one of our go-to meals: roast chicken, stuffed with lemon and herbs accompanied by roasted potatoes with rosemary, a mushroom gratin, and roasted cherry tomatoes.
As you can see, I opted to add some herbs and lemon wedges.
The sides were family classics, all of which went into the oven along with the chicken at different intervals. The potatoes went in at the start and the tomatoes and mushrooms about 15 minutes later.
The potatoes are cubed, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and chopped rosemary. About midway through, turn the potatoes.
For the mushrooms, I combine dry bread crumbs with minced garlic, finely chopped Italian parsley, grated Romano cheese, sat and pepper and moisten the mixture with some olive oil. I the sprinkle the crumbs over sliced button mushrooms and roast for about 35 minutes.
For the tomatoes, I take a pint of grape tomatoes, several cloves of peeled and smashed garlic and a generous pinch of crushed red-pepper flakes and drizzle with olive oil. Toss the tomatoes to make sure they’re coated with the oil and roast for about 30 minutes.
Our wine choice was a simple Chianti Classico.
In my youth, I would have probably gone for a far more elaborate meal to celebrate an anniversary, but now nearing seventy, I’ve begun to take a more relaxed approach to cooking and dining but nonetheless still insist on warmed plates, polished flatware, and most important candle light.
Almost every week I roast bone-in skin-on chicken thighs on a sheet pan the same way, with a mix of fresh thyme and rosemary, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and olive oil. It’s a staple of my comfort-food repertoire. But yesterday, I opted out of my comfort zone and went for a spicier dish: Mark Bittman’s Spicy Roasted Chicken Thighs posted on the New York Times Cooking website. Having all the ingredients for the spice rub in my pantry, except for a small jalapeño, also contributed to my choosing this dish.
After reading some of the reader comments on the site, I made a few changes to the recipe. I halved the amount of lemon juice and upped the amount of tomato paste, cumin, and coriander. Unfortunately, I did not increase the amount of salt. I also let the thighs marinate in the fridge for almost 3 hours and then lightly drizzled them with olive oil before putting them into the oven.
The result was delicious, but benefited from some additional salt and a drizzle of fresh lemon juice at the table.
This is a recipe you can play with (as I plan to do in the future).
A camera malfunction (really user error) resulted in my not having any prep photos, but with such an easy recipe I don’t their absence matters.
Spicy Roasted Chicken Thighs (adapted from Mark Bittman on the New York Times Cooking website.)
8 chicken thighs, with skin, pierced all over with a small knife and trimmed of any excess skin and fat.
5 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded
Zest of 1 whole lemon and juice of half
3-4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1.5 teaspoons cumin powder
1.5 teaspoons ground coriander.
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put trimmed chicken thighs in a bowl. Finely mince garlic, ginger and pepper. Toss with all remaining ingredients or put in a small food processor, and grind to a paste. (It is O.K. if the coriander seeds are not fully pulverized. They will add a little crunch.) (I recommend the small food-processor option.)
2. Rub mixture thoroughly into chicken. At this point, you can cover, and refrigerate for up to a day.
3. Put thighs, skin side up, in a roasting pan (I prefer a rimmed sheet pan). Roast for 35 to 45 minutes or until done.
A few weeks ago, I was reminiscing with some friends about our days as graduate students at Columbia in the early 70s. After talking about friends, teachers, and seminars, it didn’t take us long before we started to recall some of our favorite bars and restaurants near campus: the West End for drinks and burgers, The Symposium for Greek food, V & T’s for Italian and pizza, and The Green Tree for Hungarian.
The last of these was perhaps my favorite, for it served large portions at reasonable prices. At The Green Tree, I always ordered the same thing: chicken paprikash, which was served with a generous side of small Hungarian dumplings called nokedli. This was pure comfort food, especially during the winter.
Since our get-together, I’ve had a hankering for chicken paprikash and have made it a couple of times following recipes I’ve found on the Internet. (My copy of George Lang’s The Cuisine of Hungary having been lost to a flood after hurricane Sandy.)
My most recent attempt at this dish combined several recipes and came close to recreating the dish I enjoyed more than 40 years ago.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 bone-in, skin-on (preferably Kosher) dark-meat chicken quarters (about 3 pounds)
Freshly ground back pepper
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 green cubanelle pepper, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 heaping tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups chicken stock
1 large beefsteak tomato, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
Thick egg noodles
Trim any excess skin and fat from the chicken, pat dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper.
In an enameled cast iron Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, heat the oil and the butter.
When hot, add the chicken skin-side down and cook each side until nicely browned, about 6 minutes a side.
Remove the chicken from the pot and remove some of the excess fat from the pan.
Add onions scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and over medium heat cook the onions covered for 5 to 7 minutes. Make sure that the onions do not brown.
Then add the chopped pepper, cover and cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring once to avoid browning. Finally add the garlic and cook covered for another 2 minutes, again making sure not to brown the vegetables.
Add the paprika and the flour and cook stirring for 1 minute until the spice becomes fragrant.
Add the broth, whisking until smooth, and then add the chopped tomato. Bring to a boil over high heat.
Return the chicken skin side up in a single layer, along with any accumulated juices, to the pot and reduce the heat to medium.
Cover and cook until the chicken is fully cooked, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the egg noodles following package directions.
Remove the chicken from the pan and, if necessary, cook the sauce over medium high heat to reduce liquid and thicken the sauce. About 3 minutes.
Off the heat, stir the sour cream into the sauce.
On plates, arrange the noodles and chicken and generously ladle the sauce over them.
One of the cookbooks I remember from my youth was chef-restaurateur Romeo Salta’s The Pleasures of Italian Cooking, which was published in the early ‘60s. In its time, Salta’s New York City tony restaurant was a haven for celebrities and was well reviewed by the likes of Mimi Sheraton and Gael Greene. In fact, Sheraton is quoted in Salta’s NY Times obituary as saying: “New York has never had an Italian restaurant as good as Romeo Salta was in its heyday.”
The only recipe I vaguely recall from Salta’s book was one for a chicken cacciatore that, compared to my Neapolitan aunt’s, was far more involved and more heavily sauced.
About ten years ago, I came across another recipe for this classic dish in Giada De Laurentiis’s Everyday Italianthat evoked a recollection of Salta’s. Since that time, I’ve cooked it often, tweaking it and, in so doing, have probably made the dish less authentic and more Italian-American. Nevertheless, it’s one of my favorites and so I decided to share it here with my readers, even though I’ve already posted at least two others for this dish.
8-9 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (approximately 3 pounds) well trimmed of excess fat and skin
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup all purpose flour, for dredging
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large red bell peppers, cut into 1.5- to 2-inch chunks
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¾ cup dry white wine
1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano whole tomatoes with juice, crushed
3/4 cup chicken broth
3 to 4 tablespoons non-pareil capers, rinsed and drained
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
1.5 cups frozen peas, thawed
1.5 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
¼ cup coarsely torn fresh basil
1. Season the chicken with 1 teaspoon of each salt and pepper.
2. Dredge the chicken thighs in the flour to coat lightly, shaking off any excess.
3. In a large heavy sauté pan, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and sauté until brown, about 5 minutes per side. If all the chicken does not fit in the pan, sauté it in 2 batches.
4. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. You may also want to remove any excess fat from the pan.
5. Add the bell peppers and onion to the same pan, season with salt and pepper, and sauté over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes.
6. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant about 1 minute, being careful not to burn it.
7. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.
8. Add the broth and simmer for another 2 minutes.
9. Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, capers and oregano. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, along with any juices that may have accumulated in the dish, and turn them to coat in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer.
10. Continue simmering uncovered over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
11. Add the peas and the mushrooms.
12. Cook for another 10 minutes, or until the chicken is just cooked through. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
13. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter. If necessary, boil the sauce until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Spoon off any excess fat from the sauce. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, then sprinkle with the basil and serve.
A request from my better half for chicken scarpariello, which by the way I had never had, led me to search my cookbooks for a recipe. None of them, however, contained one that met his expectations. Consequently, I expanded my (now our) search to the Internet, where we finally found a recipe by Anne Burrell on the Food Network website that came close to meeting all the requirements.
This Italian-American dish appears to have originated in New York City. Its name, scarpariello, or shoemaker style, has been attributed to its being “cobbled” together from several ingredients that play a key role in it: chicken, sausage, and cherry peppers.
Although a good number of versions call for cutting up the chicken into small pieces to better absorb the sauce, I chose to use whole thighs, which allow for a slightly longer cooking time to reduce the sauce without drying out the chicken. For the same reason, I also cut my sausages and peppers slightly larger than called for by the original recipe. Finally, rather than using hot cherry peppers, I opted for peppers that were labeled “hot & sweet” in order to reduce the heat and keep older digestive systems happy.
Chicken Scarpariello (Adapted from Anne Burrell on the Food Network Website)
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound fennel sausage, cut into 1.5 inch pieces
3-pounds skin-on bone-in chicken thighs
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 cup hot and sweet cherry peppers halved or quartered depending on size
1/2 cup pepper juice, from the jar
1 cup chicken stock, plus a little more if needed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Coat a large, wide, heavy-bottomed pan with olive oil and bring the pan to a medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown well.
Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and reserve.
Trim any excess skin and fat from the chicken. Season generously with salt and pepper and add to the pan that the sausage was browned in. Brown the chicken well.
Once the chicken is brown on all sides, remove it from the pan and reserve.
Drain the oil from the pan and return it to the heat. Coat the pan lightly with new olive oil, add the onions, and season with salt. Cook the onions over medium heat until they are translucent and very aromatic, 6 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.
Add the wine to the pan and reduce it by half. While the wine is reducing, scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pan.
Return the sausage and chicken, along with any accumulated juices, to the pan and add the cherry peppers, cherry-pepper juice, chicken stock, and oregano.
Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and simmer, partially covered, for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for 5 to 10 more minutes; add more chicken stock if the sauce has reduced too much.
Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed. The finished dish should be slightly soupy, spicy, and delicious.