Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Anerio Cincotta's Peach Chicken

Here is Anerio with his peach.

In a 10x15 inch pan:

Sprinkle Italian Seasoning on the bottom.

Add a layer of bread crumbs lightly on top of the saesoning.

Lay 8 chicken quarters in the pan.

Sprinkle the chicken with bread crumbs.

Bake for 10 Mins. at 375 degrees F.

Remove the pan from the oven and add:

1 large can of Peaches with juice to the pan.

(Salt and pepper to taste. Not really necessary and Anerio does not use it.)

Return the pan to the oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours until the chicken is golden brown.

Baste every 15 minutes.

Thanks Anerio...this sounds good.
Everyone knows that chicken goes well with fruit, or practically any other flavor. But Anerio...You are such a traitor! You know we are citrus people from the islands! Grammie would have drizzled this with olive oil at the end. But then she did that to everything. How would this be, sprinkled with a bit of sugar and a pat of butter inside each peach half(arranged hollow side up)with no seasoning added? Just run it under the broiler till the sugar caramelizes.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Roman Chicken Quandry or Pollo con Pepperoni alla Romana and a little about onions.

I desperately wanted to show this guy climbing into a stainless steel hot tub, but John was making pasta in the only pan that would work.  So, maybe later.

The first time I went to Rome in 1971. I stayed at the Villa delle Rose. I remember it the way it was at the time. It was plain but clean and very close to Termimi Station. As one stepped off the street into the courtyard to the right of the building; each side of the courtyard was planted along the wall with flowers.(Perhaps Tuberous Begonias and Oleander bushes?) Just inside the gate was a fountain in the corner. The back of the courtyard was raised slightly and had a lattice roof hanging with grapes and flowers. I asked for chicken with peppers. I did not know then that this was something of an Icon of Roman cooking; but whatever it was; I loved it. I suppose it reminded me of some of the things I remembered from home. I had been nervous about food in a foreign country. I don't know what I expected. Having grown up in a household filled with Italian cooking and culture I should have had a better idea. (I have to admit that I felt a bit like an outsider growing up in an Irish/Canadian/French county like Aroostook in Maine.) But, I probably thought I would order things that were mainly organ meat by accident, and that frightened the hell out of me.
Anyway, the waiter asked me what kind of wine I wanted. I asked for a Chianti....he was plainly horrified, and asked if I really wanted it with chicken. I stood my ground; not wanting to appear weak I suppose. The chicken arrived stewed, with red and yellow peppers with the skins on, and it was absolutely delicious.
After the meal, and way too much red wine,(these days they don't really care what wine you order except in very high end establishments, but this was long before the liberation of the late 70s and 80s when we were told to drink what tasted best with the food, not what was proscribed by tradition.)
I chose peaches as my dessert. They were probably hoping that I would just go away, but were also disappointed that I did not order five courses. I did not know that I could have saved my wine for the next day. I drank far too much in an effort to use what I ordered without wasting it.
The waiter dropped the peaches, huge and luscious, but not over ripe, into a wire basket that had a petalled wire top to close over it. He swung it by his side as he walked to the fountain in the corner, and dunked the peaches in the water. Then, he hung the basket by the wire handles under the spout. After it had rinsed there a couple of minutes, he walked back with it and placed the peaches on a plate in front of me, still trickling with the cold water, as the rest of it beaded up on the fuzz of the skin. It was cold as ice on the surface, but the middle of the peaches were still warm from hanging in the sunshine that afternoon. I think there was something akin to Moscarpone to go with it. I ignored it, probably to the waiter's horror.
I did not think till this very minute, what kind of risk I was taking by eating what had just been dunked in Roman water! These days it is not an issue, but at the time, I had no interest in spending my vacation in a bathroom.

Years later, the hotel had changed. The courtyard was gone and cars were parked where I had eaten my first Italian meal in Rome. The hotel itself was fairly glitzy compared to the way it was then. When I mentioned that I had stayed there when I was 18, years earlier, a man just a few years older than I stepped forward and said that he had worked there at that time. He offered to give us a little tour. The tour ended on the roof which looked out over the rooftops of Rome. He said that they often rented the little room on the roof to family members and staff when the hotel was busy. By the following night, we had rented the tiny rooftop room with two vast terraces; whose parapets sported terracotta window-boxes filled with succulents. A lovely place despite the changes and lovely people running it.

The next time I had Roman Chicken, was years later. Perhaps it was the same trip as my return stay at the hotel.
We had just walked through the Parco Caffarella which is just outside the San Sebastiano Gate of Rome. It is just down the Via Appia Antica. When we got back out to the Via Appia, we emerged far south of the entrance, but about half way between the gates of the city and the Tomb of Cecelia Metella(Please excuse the spelling). On our right, after a few minutes walk along the Via in terrible traffic,(there are no sidewalks) we came upon a sign which said Cafe Pompeii. John is always up for a meal, and every restaurant we come to usually gets checked out. This one was up a long drive off the Via Appia that rose high above the level of the road. At the top was a long low building with a pergola across the front. It had a view of the tomb across the fields. Inside was a plain but very pleasant restaurant, that during warmer months would probably be more likely to serve under the pergola. We had a rather Sicilian/Neapolitan style Tavola Freddo, with all sorts of cold(room temperature)grilled and marinated veggies. Then came the Chicken with Peppers Roman Style.
This was something of a surprise to me. It was great, but very different from my first experience. This one was all red peppers, stewed in a little covered casserole. The peppers were in rather large pieces, and had been roasted and skinned. A few years earlier, I had gotten into the habit of cooking small portions in tiny covered casseroles, so I guess this really appealed to me.

So which was the real Roman Chicken?

I decided, for some reason, to find out today. I looked on line for the recipes. I found that Giada Di Laurentis was touting it with prosciutto, white wine, and capers...sounds good,(actually it sounds great) but I do not know if that is what I want to call Roman Chicken(Roman food is pretty simple and very unpretentious, which kind of rules out the entire idea of Prosciutto)...then I found some recipes that echoed Giada, some that used canned this and thats, Pancetta(a more likely addition in Roman food) one with diced canned tomatoes(HORRORS!!!!), one with rice...even a gluten free version...(God knows where you might find this recipe WITH gluten)...heavens are we a weird society!

So, I have decided to go back to my past and give you the recipes from years ago when I was just trying to imitate what I remembered.

I used to live in a house in Freeport after my sister moved out of town.(Probably to get away from me) I worked at Springers' Jewelers. I would have my non-cooking friend and fellow clerk Tim Quinn join me for meals.

I started by boiling water and plunging a large tomato into it for a few seconds till the skin cracked. Then I would plunge it into a bath of cold water. The skin would loosen, and I would peel it, quarter it, and get rid of the seeds. Who the hell wants canned, diced cubed tomatoes with calcium citrate!?!?

Cut up a few skinless, boneless chicken breasts into large chunks, and brown them in olive oil. While they are browning, chop a red and a yellow pepper into coarse chunks or strips as you prefer. Also chop one medium onion onto very large dice. Crush two cloves of garlic.

Drop the vegetables into the pan with the half cooked chicken. Crush the tomato through your fingers over the nearly cooked mixture, along with a small amount of oregano, salt and pepper to taste.

Cover the pan tightly and lower the temperature. Allow to simmer gently till the tomato has collapsed completely, and the peppers are soft. Add broth if it becomes too dry. Turn the chicken over frequently so the collapsing peppers coat the chicken.

Serve the chicken with a few strips of the pepper, and toss the sauce and the rest of the peppers onto vermicelli. Pecorino Romano would be good on the pasta, but not Parmesan if we are talking Roman.

These sweet dishes sometimes benefit from a splash of vinegar at the end...only the best red wine please...Italians love sweet and sour, but do not overdo it.

The other version.....

Broil or grill over an open flame, two red peppers. You could add green and yellow, but the green ones have a very different taste.
When the skin is mostly black, drop them into a covered Tupperware container or bowl with a plate to cover. Let sit while the rest of the recipe progresses. Skin and seed them by hand when you can handle them. Save the juices for the pan.
Cut up a small chicken. The Italians do not use the Pterodactyl chickens that we do, except for long stewing. For that matter it is rare to see large cuts of any meat on an Italian table.

Dry then salt and pepper the chicken pieces(make sure you cut the breasts in two). There should be ten pieces.  Bones always add great flavor to any chicken dish!  Brown the pieces on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside in a shallow bowl.(You may chop up a couple of generous slices of Pancetta, and fry it in the drippings here, and remove from the pan with the chicken, but this is very definitely optional) Slice a large red onion into large slivers, and saute them in the oil and chicken fat(This is not for the slim conscious, but the flavor is great.). Add a couple of cloves of crushed garlic for the last couple of minutes of the saute time. Crush in a couple of tomatoes, prepared as in the first recipe or out of a can...watch out for that calcium citrate...this is not usually in whole canned tomatoes.
Meanwhile, cut the peppers into large strips. Return all the ingredients and their juices to the pan. Add a bit of oregano. Add a bit of broth if it is dry. Many recipes also add half or a full cup of white wine(sometimes even red), but do not make this overly juicy.  If they are to be truly stewed chicken pieces or braised...there should be a generous amount of liquid in the pan either at the beginning or not long after the cooking process begins.  You want it stewed, not roasted. Cover the pan, or if you are lucky, an earthenware casserole, and place it in a very low oven to bake for at least half an hour or up to an hour.(You may place it on top of the stove if you like, but watch the heat to avoid scorching. There is a lot of sugar in the peppers, so it will scorch easily.) Do not let them stay long enough to completely disintegrate the peppers. Check them regularly and remove them if they are getting too mushy. It is fine if some of the flesh of the peppers start to coat the chicken a bit, but you should recognize them as peppers when you serve them and not break apart completely when they are mixed into the pasta.

Remove and hold the chicken pieces till after the pasta course and then serve them with a few strips of pepper and maybe a chunk of bread.

Meanwhile, drop cooked Vermicelli or perhaps Buccatini into the sauces in the pan and serve it with Pecorino Romano and family style.

This would not be the same recipe at all, but how about doing this with chunks of sausage instead of the pancetta!?!?

Since we are on the subject, I will mention this, despite the fact that it is in other recipes in the blog.
Canned cubes or chopped tomatoes should be checked for Calcium Citrate. This is added to the tomatoes to keep the shape of the food. When you cook tomatoes down there should be a certain amount of breakdown of the tomato. It should not be like stewed tomatoes when you eat them. Also this will change the texture. I hate putting something that is like a slug in my mouth, and that is what these seem like to me.

About Onions: It is absolutely appropriate to use red onions in this. They appeal to the eye and to the taste buds, but I almost never use them. there are plenty of onions available that are just as sweet as the red. I also don't see the pleasant color everyone always talks about, I just see a dull purple-gray.
Also, try starting a colony of Egyptian onions in your yard. They grow about 15 inches high, on thick green tubes. Tiny bulblets form at the top in a cluster, and those eventually sprout as well. When the plant gets to the end of the season, they fall over, and the little bulbs sprout, making more plants. Let these go for a few years to get a nice bed of them, then you can harvest the stalks, the bulblets at the top etc. Put them in anything you would use scallions in. This dish would be great if you grilled some scallions and draped them over the top of this...many other dishes would benefit as well.
Tiny Cippolini or these Egyptian onions are nice too on a grill pan or heavy skillet and browned in olive oil, finished off with some balsamic or good quality wine vinegar evaporated till thicker in the pan and served cold.
Grammie had these onions growing in Medford, and Aunt May always had them growing amongst the concrete ruins of the chicken house at the top of the land at the back. She would go out and harvest a bit for meals, but she never really encouraged their growth. She did not need much when it was just the two of them in the house, and less when she was alone.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Do Italians make Chili?

A nice cold day in Maine, perfect for chili...to bad neither Fred nor my sister will eat it.

I have been making chili for years and years. I first had chili at my future mother-in-law's after a skating party at Loring Air Force Base in Maine. Marcia and I went back to her house on the base, which by coincidence was housing that my father helped to build in the early 1950s. My evil mother-in-law was a real piece of work, but one thing you could say for her was that she could cook. Her cooking was definately blander than anything I would make, but she always did things of real quality. I will perhaps put a few of the things that I remember on the site as they have become a part of my regular fare. There was no garlic in her chili. She professed an alergy to garlic. This would not be so much of an issue, but both she and her husband constantly put people in awkward positions because of her problem with it. I will not elaborate, but leave it that going anywhere with either of them was a real adventure, and was usually very embarassing.
You can make chili with any meat you want. Pork, chicken, ground beef, stew meat or cubed chuck or round all work well. You could use expensive meats, but what is the point as you will not taste it at the end and this recipe will make the toughest meat fall apart.
Probably the best choice and closest to traditional(Chili has a very obscure origin, so traditional may be overstating things a bit)would be cubed chuck. I usually use ground beef, simply because I find it convenient and requiring less time to make it edible. Other than making sure the meat is tender, the only real warning is to cook the chili long enough to get the raw taste out of the seasonings. It seems a bit chalky and fresh tasting when you do not let it simmer for a while.

You will do better with all similar long cooking meals like this if you invest in a very heavy dutch oven or a huge cast iron lidded pot. It simmers easily and evenly, and everything just seems to taste better if you have the right pot. I do get along with a pan that comes from a standard set of cookware.


Melt lard, brown 10 rashers of bacon(remove to add later) or use olive oil to get enough fat to cover the bottom of the pot. Each choice has it's own special character and each will produce a very different taste.

Fry one large diced onion on medium heat till lightly browned and soft.
Raise the temperature and add one and a half pounds of your chosen meat. Break up and fry on the highest temperature that you dare in order to leave the meat nicely browned and leave a brown coating on the pan. Add 1/4 cup of Chili powder and stir it into the meat, allowing it to toast and darken. You may wish to add more fat if it is very dry. As the chili powder browns, keep stirring and add one tablespoon of Oregano, one tablespoon of ground Cumin and half a dozen minced garlic cloves. Add a rounded tablespoon of tomato paste and allow that to brown a bit as well. When all has darkened without burning, add one 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes. One small can of chili peppers or chili peppers in adobo sauce or half a cup of freshly chopped chili peppers(choose the peppers that will give you the taste and heat that you want). The large green(Poblano) chili peppers tend to be mild. Add one large chopped green pepper, and a tablespoon of beef bouillion. If you prefer, use a can of beef broth instead. At this point, you may need liquid to cover. Use water if you used bouillon or a bottle of beer. Do not allow this to be too soupy, however you are going to simmer this for a couple of hours, so you do not want it thick enough that is sits on the bottom to burn. I add Worcestershire sauce, a couple of drops of liquid smoke(unnecessary if you used bacon) and half a small jar of Salsa.
Allow this to simmer on top of the stove for at the very least one hour. Add salt and pepper to taste after all the flavors have had a chance to blend. Two hours will be a better cooking time, and if you have used a dutch oven or cast iron, a low oven works wonderfully at 300 degrees.
When nearing completion, add a drained and rinsed can of beans of your choice. I use red kidney beans, but black, pinto or any large variety will work.
I often add a cup or so of frozen corn, just for the color really.
Correct the salt and pepper and heat till the beans and corn are heated through.
If you feel the need to thicken the sauce, make a roux of 2 tablespoons of flour and two tablespoons of butter or oil cooked together two minutes in a separate pan and add to the chili while stirring vigorously. Allow it to cook at least ten minutes after adding the roux.


Coat the beef cubes with flour salt and pepper. Fry the meat till very brown in the fat before anything else has been added. Then move on to the onions and spices. There should be a heavy coating of brown on the pan, and you may have to add more fat as the flour will have absobed much of it.(try using corn FLOUR instead)


Take half of the batch of chili and put it in a cast iron skillet. Pour a layer of your favorite corn bread recipe on top(do not add the sugar)perhaps adding minced chilis, red peppers, grated cheese and kernels of corn to the batter. Bake till a toothpick comes out fairly clean. The layer on top of the chili will be quite moist. You could also put a nice layer of cheese between the chili and the cornbread.

Make baking powder biscuits to go with this, or a pan of cornbread. Either could have minced peppers and cheese in them. Put your choice of starch in the plate and ladle some chili over it. Even rice or pasta will work well.

Those of you who like to roast their corn on the grill, try topping the corn with a smear if pureed chili before wrapping it up in foil. You could also use a puree just to season the corn in place of butter as you serve it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bill's Chicken Pizzaola

Bill In the underground city at Orvieto.
Those of you who remember uncle Phil, imagine how he would have liked this place...Look at all the holes for raising pidgeons!

I used to do this recipe all the time years ago when I had a set of one cup(approx) covered casseroles. I used them like ramekins uncovered or as little covered baking dishes covered.

This is so ridiculously easy as to be laughable.
Always avoid tomatoes with calcium chloride in the ingredient list. Your tomatoes do not like to break down with that as a preservative.

This is also easy to do in just a flat baking dish and adjust the amounts for the number of breasts. With large chicken breasts, you might cut into large chunks.

Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish without overcrowding.
Slice pepperoni or sausage so that spreading the meat over the chicken you will have three slices per breast. Mince one clove of garlic for every two breasts or to taste and sprinkle over the meat. Dust the entire dish with basil and about twice as much oregano. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour one can (per four breasts) of crushed tomatoes over the chicken. add a pinch or two of crushed red pepper if very spicy chicken is desired(the pepperoni will heat things up, so be careful).
Bake at 375 covered for 45 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with parmesan or Romano cheese and a generous layer of mozzarella over the chicken and continue to bake for another 15 minutes uncovered.
Serve with pasta. If using ramekins, cut the baking time slightly.

Fred and Sis' Chicken

Fred, Mary and Dusty Burrill at the house in Lakeville on Lombard Lake.

My sister Mary does not like to cook. She is actually a very good cook, and a very careful cook so she is very consistent. This simple casserole is too much for her to bother with, but oddly enough, Fred likes it so much he does it himself. He likes to take it to events such as pot lucks.
A little salt and pepper might not hurt this.

Cube 6 boneless chicken breasts.
soak in 2 beaten eggs and 1 teaspoon of Accent for one hour.
Flour the chicken cubes.
Brown in butter and drain.
Layer into a casserole with sliced mushrooms and Muenster cheese.
Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes.
Using 1 cup of chicken broth, baste twice in the first 15 minutes of baking.

Pennsylvania Dutch Pot-Pie and Clarified Butter

I remember many years ago when my cousin came to stay with us in Maine. She brought her exchange student from Holland. Rudy Jansen was his name. He was homesick for something from home so I decided to cook Hotsput. This is sort of an unofficial national dish in Holland. It was basically a boiled dinner. I used Corned Beef but any big cut like that would do. I started the dish, but he hung over me pointing out that I had not cut the onions just the right way, or the potatoes had to be just this shape. It slowed me tremendously. Anyway, after hours of cooking this at 185 degrees exactly, it was finally done, and when his plate went in front of him he mashed it to a pulp before consuming it.....I almost killed him!
As you may know, the Pennsylvania Dutch are not Dutch. They are Swiss for the most part, from the German speaking part of the country. But there is a certain similarity in their cooking to other Germanic areas like Holland.
Virginia Good, odious woman that she was, was a good cook as detailed elsewhere in the blog. She was from an area and later lived in areas that were influenced by the Pennsylvania Dutch. They called this Pennsylvania Dutch Pot-pie or just Pot-pie. Just how Pennsylvania Dutch it was is up to you to research. I just know it was very good, though not as tender as a Pot Roast. The meat falls apart, but it remains in a sort of stringy form. Not tough by any means, but the texture is not like a New England or Yankee Pot Roast.

Ginny Good would buy a large Bottom Round Roast. I have used other cuts that you might associate with Pot Roast, but this is what she used.
She would cut the meat apart along it's natural divisions, and remove every scrap of fat, gristle and silver skin from the meat. She would cut the remaining blocks of meat into the largest uniform sizes possible.

Put a generous amount of olive oil in the bottom of the pan. I had a steel pressure cooker that worked well, though I never used it as a pressure cooker. I use just standard oil, not Extra Virgin. Butter works, but it burns easily, so clarify it first. I preheat the pan and add the oil, but she started cold and raised the temperature till the smell of the oil was obvious. Very hot!. Then brown the meat on all sides till it is very dark but not burned. You may have to lower the heat a bit, but adding the meat itself will lower the heat while it is on high. Nevertheless, you want a lot of color. While browning the last side, add a tablespoon per pound of Italian seasoning. I just mix my own, but she warned that you should avoid too much Rosemary. She sprinkled a generous layer of granulated beef bouillon over the meat at this point as well.(see below) Lower the heat to a simmer and cover tightly. The meat should develop a broth from the smothering process. Feel free to add water or broth at any time. The beef can go in the oven(She and her sister would do this in shallow foil baking trays, but it would be good in a dutch oven as well. Bake, or simmer at about 300+- for about two to three hours, till the meat is ready to fall apart, but still retains it's shape. Serve as chunks in the broth, sliced, in sandwiches or continue with the recipe below.

As the meat was covered, she would add pearl onions. I use chopped onion to taste, You can also add carrot chunks or baby carrots. As the broth developed from the smothered meat she would also add large chunks of potato. The carrots are my addition. The recipe calls for double starches, but no vegetables other than the onions.

Meanwhile, she would make pasta sheets. See earlier recipes in the blog. The pasta was rolled out very thinly on a table or counter. Stretch it if necessary. Then it was cut into huge squares. Perhaps four inches by four inches. Remove the meat and potatoes from the broth. Bring to a boil and drop in the squares of noodle one by one. Shred the meat very coarsely or leave in large chunks. When the pasta is cooked, return the meat to the broth and noodles. If you cannot stomach the double starch and no veggies, add the carrots with the onions and a couple of hands-full of peas in the last five minutes. Serve in large shallow bowls with plenty of broth and starch number three, bread.

Clarified butter. Salted butter is for spreading on bread, potatoes, or veggies. Any time you plan to fry or bake with butter, always use unsalted butter. This means that the amount of salt that you use in the recipe is the amount called for in the recipe. Salted butter is very salty indeed.

To clarify butter, you simply melt the butter in a sauce pan on low heat. The completely melted butter will have a cloud of milk solids in it. You simply ladle or siphon out the clear part of the butter and leave the solids behind. The butter that is left behind may still be used, but not for anything where looks are important or where heat will be applied.
The clarified butter is straight fat. This is less likely to burn when frying as the solids burn before the fat does. This does not give you leave to use smoking hot fat to fry. As soon as it smokes, you start to get into health problems above and beyond the ordinary dangers of fat.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Chicken in Red Wine

I do not drink.  Well, I do, but not on a regular basis.  I am always happy when I get a bottle of wine for a gift, but not if they expect me to drink it while they watch.  I like a glass of red wine now and then.  I love Malvasia, but cannot really afford it.  Anisette, Amaretto, Calvados(OH MY GOD!), Grand Marnier.  I got tired of Creme De Menthe and all those things I was allowed to TASTE as a child.  I have never been a beer lover...Hate the calories...but on occasion, paired with the right foods, I like a nice dark beer and always a good Bock Beer.  Strangely, I like beer with pizza.

So, when we get a bottle of wine, I may have a glass or two in the course of a couple of weeks, by which time a serious wine drinker would say that the wine is spoiled.

So, the answer is clear.  Cook with it.

Every time someone cooks on a TV show, the first thing they say is:"Don't cook with a wine you would not drink". and they are so right.  But, do not get into the habit of buying expensive wines and dumping half of the bottle into a chicken dish for Saturday lunch, even if friends are coming over.  Save such obvious waste for wedding food or for the president when he visits.

A good, solid wine that you might drink, that has a nice full bodied flavor, will make a nice meal without breaking the bank.  (Of course you could do this with white wine if that is what you got for your birthday.)

That being said, use wines you know.  If you have not tasted it before, make sure you take a slug before you dump it into a dish you have been working on for two hours.  Some German wines are very fruity, and you might find a Sauterne a little sweet for some dishes, though it is wonderful in Grammie's chicken in wine.(With lemon, cinnamon and pine nuts or almond slivers)(posted elsewhere)

Today, I used a nice Merlot.

Cut up a chicken into ten pieces or buy Chicken thighs, breasts, or even a mess of wings.(lots of work to eat, but they taste good). Perhaps a four pound chicken is OK.  If you use a bigger bird, you may want to cook it longer.  I find that the dark meat has a stronger flavor that I do not like in a large bird.

I skin the bird.  I am always on a diet.  It is definitely inferior in taste, but you save a ton of calories.  To be absolutely correct, you might flour the pieces, then brown them, then remove them while you brown the veggies.   When you return them to the pan, you have to monitor them, because you have already introduced a thickener.  I hate monitoring something so closely that it takes the joy out of cooking. The slightly thickened sauce cooked for a long time, is more likely to scorch at some point, so I prefer to thicken at the end.

OK..So you have ten pieces of chicken..
Two wings, tips removed
Two thighs
Two legs
Two breast tips (Divide the breasts by cutting 2/3 of the way back from the tip because the back part of the breast is much thicker.)
Two breast parts from the thick end

Leave the meat on the bone, but do remove the ribs and their little scraps of meat, wing tips etc and put them with the backbone to make chicken soup.

Crush and peel five cloves of garlic or to taste.
Chop four medium carrots.  (My dog, Harry, loves carrot chunks, so I have to peel extra that never make it to the pot.)
Chop a large onion.
Chop two ribs of celery.
Reserve one cup of peas till near the end.
Chop a couple of large tomatoes.
One pound of white mushrooms if desired, left whole, or quartered if large.

Brown the chicken in vegetable oil(olive might be too strong) on all sides.(floured or skinned or unskinned...just as you prefer)
remove to a plate on the side.

Remove excess fat, leaving about a tablespoon.

Brown your vegetables, except your tomato and peas.  When they just begin to soften and brown a bit, nestle your chicken pieces into the vegetables.   I use a large frying pan that was made as a chicken fryer.

Add salt, black pepper, 3 bouillon cubes and a cup of water (or better, a can of broth), two bay leaves, a rounded teaspoon of thyme, and a tablespoon of parsley.  I sneak a dash of cayenne in when no one is looking.

Pour in 1/2 bottle of red wine.  This should come close to covering the chicken.  Add a bit more wine or broth if it is not close.

Cover tightly.   Bring to a boil and then lower the temp to simmer for one hour at very low temp.  It should be just bubbling.

Turn the chicken once or twice so that it will color evenly.

At about the halfway point, add the tomatoes.  At about 45 minutes, add the peas.

Test the chicken with a fork or by eating half of it.  It should be very tender, and READY to fall off the bone, but do not let it disintegrate.  Do not hesitate to cook longer if it is not perfectly tender.

Mix two tablespoons of cornstarch with a bit of cold water, and pushing the chicken aside, stir into the broth in several places.  Bring to a gentle boil, and allow to thicken.  Taste critically, salt is an issue here.  This is very easy to get too bland, but remember you have broth or bouillon cubes, and salt already.

Serve over rice, mashed potato or noodles.  Maybe couscous would be good.

You could alternatively place the entire meal  into a covered casserole just after you add the wine.   Earthenware would look wonderful.  Slide the whole thing into a 325 oven for your hour of cooking time.  Thicken on top of the stove if the casserole will take it, or do it a little earlier, and allow it to cook for a few minutes in the oven at a slightly higher temperature so the cornstarch will activate.

Lazy Man's (or woman's) Chicken in Sauce

I had to be out of the door in half an hour.  There was going to be someone there in the house to put out fires if I caused them, so I put together a great sauce in no time flat.
I had thawed a three pound chicken breast...That was one formidable chicken! Perhaps an old one. This would be a great way to cook a whole chicken or capon as well.  Perhaps pigeons?  Who buys capons these days?
Cut a large onion in slivers and drop into the bottom of a large oven safe pot or covered casserole.
Add a teaspoon of salt and three bouillon cubes(Broth would be nice but you will end up with really soupy sauce as you are baking this covered and the chicken will contribute liquid.)
pepper to taste(Remember to over season chicken sauces as chicken blands a sauce like crazy.), two medium bay leaves, a dash of red pepper flakes, a tablespoon of basil, and if you have a garden, a stalk of oregano, flowers and all. (One and a half tablespoons of dried.)
Lower your chicken or breast onto the bed of onions, and pour a can of crushed tomato(Or crush up canned whole tomatoes) over the chicken, juice and all.  Add a small can of tomato paste, stirred into the rest of the tomatoes, breaking up the mass of paste.  The chicken should be about half submerged.
Cover tightly and slide into a 325 oven for three hours.  Take out and baste the chicken or turn it over every 45 minutes to an hour. Try not to break it up, as you could end up with shreds of chicken instead of nice meaty chunks, flavorful from cooking on the bone.
Break the chicken up a little, warn everyone of the bones(or remove them) and serve with bread, Parmesan and Spaghetti.  Try to leave the pieces large if you break it up. 
One of my greatest pleasures is mopping up the sauce with a piece of bread.  Serve with a big glass of red wine!  I would love to serve Brunello di Montalcino, but I cannot afford it.  How about a decent or even a not so decent Chianti or Zinfandel.  Not great wines, but I remember them on the table when I was a child.  A good time for a box of wine!!!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Chicken Parmesan(Veal as well)

The bad thing is that breading anything for frying is a bit messy. It is not overpowering though as long as you are organized. The good thing is you are not deep frying here. Less mess, less waste and easier to clean up in this recipe.
I have an aversion to cooking baby animals. I avoid Veal and Lamb at all costs. I have no issue with others who eat them, after all this has been going on for millenia, but I just opt out.
I went to a well respected hotel and it's attached restaurant recently. It was really a seafood restaurant. I ordered Chicken Parmesan. I should know better. If they are not sensitive to Italian foods and especially chicken, I have only myself to blame. The chicken was a whole breast with crumbs. It was over fried because it was so thick. They had to fry it forever because it would not have cooked in the middle otherwise. The sauce was half cooked(diced tomato with calcium cloride). It was perhaps not my worst experience with Chicken Parm, but I expected more from a nice restaurant.
I have already discussed tomato sauce, but you could do a very simple Marinara for this...I am hoping someone will send me a couple more sauces, but we can work with the ones I have already posted.

There are no specific amounts here. Chicken, these days, can be very unpredictable. I have cooked chicken recently that must have been right out of a Jules Verne movie. I did Chicken Parm tonight, and John could not finish the single half breast I made for him. This thing filled the bottom of my chicken fryer completely and that is 10 1/2 inches across.
Neatness does not necessarily count when it comes to the outline of the cutlet. It will be hard to come out of this with a neat round or oval. You may wish to remove the tender from the breast and use it for something else, or cook it separately in this recipe breading them individually or even pounding the devil out of several together so they become a single cutlet.

Lay out three plates and a bowl on your counter, near your stove.

In the first plate, put a cup or so of flour and hold some out in a second container to replenish the supply as you use it up.

In the second plate, make a layer of finely grated Parmesan cheese. Powder fine grating not the shreds. Keep extra on the side for when you run out.

In the third plate, put a layer of PLAIN bread crumbs(Pani Caliatu if you can). This is one recipe where you should avoid Panko. Keep an extra supply of this as well.

In the bowl, beat one egg for each large cutlet you plan to coat and add a couple of Tablespoons of cold water for each.

Place your boneless chicken breast on a flat surface. You may put it between layers of plastic wrap if you like, but it is easier, I think, just on a surface that does not absorb the chicken juices. Marble and Granite are good choices but watch out if you are pounding with a bottle(see note). Using the textured surface, pound with a meat hammer gently.(if you do not have a meat hammer, just use a very thick champagne bottle) You are trying to flatten the breast till it is all equal in thickness and well tenderized, but try not to make hamburger out of it. Start in the middle and work outwards with glancing blows that will spread the cutlet. Using English...sort of.

Lay the meat into the flour, and try to cover all surfaces. Press it in, but do not leave more than a nice dusting everywhere. No caking.

Place the meat into the egg and get it completely covered.

Lay it into the cheese. It is hard to get a perfect coating of the cheese, and it is not necessary.

Lay it back into the egg to coat again.

Now you finish by coating in bread crumbs. Leave it in the crumbs while you heat a large skillet with a heavy coating of olive oil. It should be hot, but not above say, medium.

Cook till the first side is nicely browned(You do not have to cook the chicken completely through) and turn with tongs or a large spatula. Brown the second side. Do not over brown.

You can be working on pounding, and coating the second cutlet as you fry the first and continue till all the cutlets are fried.

As you take the cutlets out of the pan, put them in a large, (very)lightly oiled baking dish...I mean large as these cutlets will be huge...you do not want these to be overlapped any more than necessary.

Place the pan(s) into a 350 degree oven to bake while you are heating your pasta water and slicing your Mozzarella.

I slice a ball of Buffalo Mozzarella for every two breasts. You can also use shredded Mozzarella, though the quality is lower.

Remove the Chicken from the oven when you are sure the chicken is cooked through(Just barely...do not overcook)and spread half to one cup of tomato sauce on top of each breast. Lay a few slices of Mozzarella on top and allow to melt while the pasta is cooking. Serve one(half boneless) breast per person. This may not seem like much for a big eater, but the egg, cheese and breading give you plenty to eat.

About Salt.
To be sure of your salt, you may profit from coating a small scrap of chicken and frying it up before continuing with the rest of the chicken. You can decide then if you need to add salt to the crumbs. Be careful, as the cheese is already salty.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Chicken with wine and lemon.

I am holding on to a deep regret. I suppose it is a little thing, but it was a symptom of Grammie's aging process and as often happens people feel redundant. I have always felt guilty that I made the wrong choice. Grammie lived in the apartment at the back of our house. I shared the bathroom with her. We became very close over the years that she lived with us. I know that she was feeling like a fifth wheel in the house. Mom pretty much ran the show at holiday meals. She was a great cook, so it was the natural choice. One Thanksgiving Grammie made this chicken recipe and brought it to the table, a few minutes late. I had already filled my plate, probably beyond my ability to consume the meal. She offered the chicken to all and was refused by everyone, as the meal had already been served. I was the last to be offered. I did not remember ever having seen it before, and it was unconventional looking and smelled just as unusual. Nevertheless, I would have loved it had I tried it, but there was no way I could take it. I was her last straw I guess. She took her chicken and stormed off to her apartment. We did not see her at the rest of the dinner. I felt so bad. It ate at me for days(still does I guess). A few weeks later I made the point of going up and asking her how to make it. She taught me how, and I have been doing it ever since.
I am terribly concerned about calories, so I have not really done it this way for years. Chicken skin just doesn't make it onto my table as a rule. It is never the same! You just have to bite the bullet and do the chicken skin.

Cut up a small chicken into serving pieces, the breast is good in two pieces. Leave the skin intact.

Place in a covered casserole that will go from stove top to oven. She used Corning Wear. Place on the stove on low heat and simply stew the chicken in the juices that come out of it till it is about half done.

Remove it from the heat and squeeze the juice of a whole lemon over the chicken.

Pour in about a cup of a semi-sweet white wine. She used Silver Satin...Where you would get that today is a mystery to me. A Sauterne would be good if you can find one you can afford. I use Marsala these days. Perhaps this is a way to use Malvasia if you take out a bank loan to pay for the meal.

Shake a fairly heavy coat of white sugar over the chicken.

Dust the whole thing with cinnamon.

You might do well to put on another layer of sugar over the cinnamon.

Put the pan uncovered into a fairly hot oven and baste very carefully every 10 to 15 min. Be careful to moisten the sugar without washing it away.

You are trying to crisp the skin and caramelize the sugar on the surface.

Toast a half cup of slivered almonds or Pine nuts in the oven and sprinkle over the chicken the last time it goes into the oven.

The Arab world touches Sicily in this dish, and this would be great served with rice or couscous soaked in the resulting syrup.

In speaking to my cousin Jenny DeFina, I have another version of this.
Her mother, Rose Cincotta used Alspice instead of Cinnamon. Also, instead of layering up the sugar and spice on the top of the chicken, she made a sort of sweet lemonade with sugar and lemon and poured it over the chicken. She also grated a bit of lemon rind and put minced onion into the dish after it braised. She toasted slivered almonds and sprinkled them on the dish only on holidays.
Of course this is still the same dish with its roots firmly in the Arabic world....Spice, sugar and lemon...That is Arabic all right.