Spotting two perfectly plump pork chops on a recent trip to the market inspired this week’s post. Each weighed a little more than a pound and measured at least 1½-inch thick; the ideal size for an Italian-American recipe I’ve been wanting to make for some time: Pork Chops with Vinegar Peppers from Patsy’s Cookbook by Sal Scognamillo.
Similar to a dish I wrote about here almost 9 years ago that was based on my mother’s recipe, this one also has a family tie. My father was the attorney for Patsy Scognamillo and urged him to buy the building on New York’s West 56th Street, where Patsy’s continues to be one of the city’s landmark restaurants. It was one of the few restaurants that met my father’s stringent standards for the Neapolitan (or at least Italian-American) food with which he grew up. Who knows; these pork chops could have been a favorite.
Slow and steady, so they say, wins the race. A perfect example is Marcella Hazan’s Ragu Bolognese, which requires six hours of simmering to yield “when clinging to the folds of homemade noodles,” to quote Marcella, “one of the most satisfying experiences accessible to the sense of taste.” But when you’re really hungry, especially after a nerve-racking day, sometimes quick and easy is the way to go.
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, 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.