Sunday, May 16, 2010

Chicken Cacciatore

Growing up, my favorite part of Thanksgiving (which has always been my favorite holiday) was sneaking a piece of crispy, salty, Heavenly skin from the roasted turkey before dinner. It was like crack and I was a junky willing to cheat, steal or lie my way into more of the golden good stuff.  

When I was 22 I worked in a posh, little bakery/prepared foods shop on Cape Cod. Ahead of its time, really. One of the dishes it was known for was its chicken salad. I would get into work at 6am, six mornings a week and begin my day by roasting dozens of chicken breasts. When the chicken was perfectly roasted, and the sea salted skin was blistered and screaming my name I would rip all the skins off (eating several for breakfast) and chop the meat up into fat chunks to make the famed luncheon salad. I would stash two or three crispy skins aside, before (sadly) throwing the rest away into the trash bin.

At lunch I would retrieve my beloved chicken skins from the refrigerator, pop them into the oven to crisp up, then slather two, thick pieces of homemade white bread with cold sour cream and a sprinkling of freshly crack black pepper. I'd place the hot, crispy skins in between the bread slices and, sitting on the back porch alone, I'd dig in, sincerely enjoying every mouthful. It was the best sandwich ever, and I ate it almost ritualistically every day that summer. 

Curiously, I did not gain weight during those few, blissful months, but I chalk that up to the fact that, because I was to report to work at 6am every morning, I was not out drinking beer with friend the night before. 

That was the summer of sedate, solo gastronomy.

Sometimes-- very rarely-- I think that poultry skin is superfluous. This is one of those recipes. I see no point in keep ing the skin if it will simply become soggy in the braising liquid, so I remove it before cooking.
This was originally a Jamie Oliver recipe, and I DO love his recipes. I've tweaked this, removing several steps (as well as the chicken skin), and added capers. It is really delicious and very hands-off, but you do need to think ahead with this one, as there is ample marinating time and it is a slow-cooking dish. Get the chicken marinating tonight for a fabulous dinner tomorrow.

1 chicken, cut into 10 pieces (cut the breasts in half)
1/2 bottle Chianti
2 twigs rosemary
3 whole cloves garlic, peeled
3 bay leaves

2 tins chopped tomatoes
6 anchovy fillets (just do it, you do not taste anchovies in the finished dish)
1 tablespoon capers
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
Handful of good quality olives (that you would like to eat)

1) Place the chicken pieces into a re-sealable plastic bag, or Tupperware container. Pour in the wine and toss in the rosemary, 3 garlic cloves and bay leaves. Close the bag or container and slosh around, then stash in the refrigerator and forget about it for a day (over night or up to 24 hours, but at least 2 hours).

2) Two hours before you want to serve: Pre-heat the oven to 180C (375F). Pour the chicken and all of the marinade into a very large roasting pot and add in the tinned tomatoes, anchovies, caper and garlic. Cover and braise for 1 hour. After 1 hour add in the olives, cover and continue to braise for 30 minutes more.

Taste and adjust seasoning (salt/pepper, if desired). Serves 4.

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