One of the great dishes of Piedmont: a braised chicken (but it could be rabbit too, a very popular meat in Piedmontese cooking) with peppers and lots of herbs. This is classic home cooking done entirely on top of the stove and it follows a usual pattern: the chicken is browned, then wine and aromatics are added, when the chicken is half way done, some mixed peppers go into the pot. By the end, the pan juices are not copious but the few tablespoons left are deliciou and the meat has been infused with the flavor from the herbs, the wine and the peppers.This classic dish comes from the book I have been studying lately and that I mentioned in the previous posts: “La cucina del Piemonte collinare e vignaiolo” by Giovanni Goria.
It is not difficult dish but few points must be observed: the chicken must simmer in a such a way that by the end the pan juices are not too abundant, it is left therefore to the cook to decide when it is time to cover/uncover the pan tin order to create a more or less steamy environment; above all, by the end the peppers should remain rather firm, albeit fully cooked ,of course.
You can use either a whole cut up chicken or just some meaty thighs or legs (drumsticks + things), which, I think, are the tastiest of all chicken parts.
Following Goria’s advice, I remove the skin of he chicken: this gives me the chance to really brown the meat and, at the same time, it prevents the sauce from becoming too greasy. If you want to retain the skin, Goria says you must degrease the dish towards the end of the cooking time. Another crucial point: the cooked dish benefits immensely from some resting, 20 to 30 minutes would be ideal (covered and then reheated very gently if necessary).
Pollo o coniglio ai peperoni (chicken or rabbit and peppers)
4 to 6 portions
You will need a large frying or sauté pan (or use two, of course). The chicken pieces must not be too crowded.
1.5 to 2 kg chicken pieces, skinned, salted in advance and patted dry (see notes)
olive oil and butter
2 unpeeled cloves of garlic
few sprigs or rosemary
2 bay leaves
a couple of glass of dry white whine, about 250 ml
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 mazzetto d’odori (bouquet garni): rosemary, sage, bay leaf and thyme, tied up with some kitchen string, if you want to be neat; I often ignore such subtleties and I just chuck the herbs in (as per pictures)
4 large, mixed color peppers cut into large pieces (I always peel them, using a potato peeler)
Flour the chicken pieces, shaking off excess flour.
Heat up the pan with some oil and butter, the garlic, the rosemary and the bay leaves. When the fat is hot, slip in the chicken pieces and brown them on medium-high, turning them a couple of times. The pieces should take a deep golden-amber colour (my pictures are misleading: the chicken looks paler than what it actually was).
Add one glass of whine and let it evaporates almost completely.
Lower the heat, add the sliced onion and toss well to distribute it amongst the pieces of meat. When the onion has wilted, add the second glass of wine and the mazzetto d’odori (bouquet garni). Toss the pieces once more and cover but not completely: a little gap is essential to favor some reduction and cook on a gentle simmer for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally. This is an importante step and you must use your judgment:cover and uncover the dish according to necessity – there should not be too much liquid in the pan but neither too little, just enough to prevent sticking (add few tablespoons of hot water if the pan looks too dry).
Add the peppers and cook for a further 10-15 minutes, covered; at the end, the pepper should be tender-crisp, the juices should not be too abundant. If this is not the case, lift the chicken and reduce the juices on a very high heat.
Let the dish rest for 20 minutes, partially covered.
Remove the herbs, toss everything together once more and serve.
I salt all my meat and fish well in advance, even the day before I am going to cook it: the salt has time to penetrate the flesh and to really flavor it rom inside. I keep everything in the lowest part of the fridge (to avoid any food contamination), barely covered with some kitchen paper: this will allow the flesh to dry a little and thus the browning will be more efficient.