Nowadays, I tend to use my modern-era cookbooks as a source of inspiration, rather than a direct recipe source. I can flip through a cookbook full of soups, spot an idea that I like, and adapt it to suit my needs, tastes, or supplies on hand. Tomato soup becomes roasted tomato soup becomes tomato-basil bisque becomes tomato, chicken, and rice soup. It's easy to rewrite a recipe if you know what you're doing, and it's easy to write a recipe from scratch.
Yet, there are some books that I will cook from verbatim, whose recipes I will memorize and cook over and over again, because they are so good. La Tavola Italiana, by Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow, is one such book, and their recipe for Polastrello in Padella (Braised Chicken) is simply divine. It's simple, flavorful, and delicious.
Earlier this year, we purchased several chickens from Melo Farms. They were large chickens (between 4 and 5 pounds) and were definitely older—their bones were bigger, and their joints harder to butcher when I was working with them. We roasted one plain, and determined that the meat was just a bit too tough to work well with fast, hot cooking. Moist heat, as I've mentioned before, works well for tough meats, helping to break down the muscle tissues without losing the moisture that makes it palatable.
Polastrello in Padella is a recipe that works equally well with your average supermarket chicken and an old bird like we had.
|Tomatoes ready for use|
1 chicken, cut into 4 or more pieces (as you prefer it to be served)
2 pounds (907 g) roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 oz (57 g) prosciutto, cut into small pieces
4 Tbsp (60 ml) olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed
fresh black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 peperoncino rosso (hot red pepper, dried; you can use a fresh red chile)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh oregano, chopped
2 tablespoons (30 ml) fresh basil, chiffonade
|Searing the chicken|
2. Rise the heat to medium. Salt and pepper, then sear the chicken pieces on both sides, lightly browning them.
3. Raise the heat to high, then add the white wine and allow it to evaporate, moving the chicken around to make sure it's not sticking, and to stir up any browned bits of goodness on the bottom of the pan. Once the wine is almost completely evaporated, add the tomatoes, basil, oregano, and peperoncino. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, turning chicken periodically.
4. When the chicken is cooked, remove it to a serving dish and cover with foil loosely; reduce the sauce in the pan until it is quite thick, then spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.
This is a delightful dish, and will serve at least 4, potentially more depending on the size of your chicken and the size of the pieces into which you cut the chicken.
|Polastrello in Padella, served with a Dolcetto D'Alba.|