Today’s post is for my friend and colleague Julius, who cooks for his lovely wife Alexis on Thursdays. I promised him more chicken recipes on Due Spaghetti, as he’s already cooked his way through pollo alla cacciatora, pollo alle olive and pollo alla griglia. (What is it with guys and chicken, anyway?)
It’s also a tribute to men everywhere who cook, care for children, fold the laundry, and vacuum the rugs. Many an Italian man lifts not even a finger at home, but I’m fortunate that Stefano is among the enlightened ones. I’m also lucky that he is masterful at preparing chicken, evoking the methods and flavors he recalls as a child, when his mother would butcher a pollo ruspante, or free-range chicken, and cook it on the stove top. It was one of Stefano’s favorite dishes, and one he still he requests when he returns home to Rome.
The tomatoes, peppers, capers and oregano make this a classic, roman-style chicken dish. As is so often the case with regional recipes, everyone has their variation. This version has its origins in the cookbook Cucina Romana by Sara Manuelli. We’ve adapted it over the years by adding more peppers and tomatoes, and cooking it slower and longer, until the meat comes off of the bone.
It’s not a glamorous dish, but more like soul food, comfort food – rich and hearty, but complex in its flavor also fairly healthy. It’s a guy’s kind of recipe, but sophisticated enough to serve to his significant other.
1 free range chicken, with the breasts 3-4 cut into pieces.
4 cloves of garlic, minced.
A small handful of capers, quickly rinsed under running cold water.
2 cups dry white wine
1 large can (28 oz. or 1 kg) whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
3 red, orange and/or yellow bell peppers, cored, de-seeded and sliced.
Salt and pepper to taste
Cover the bottom of a large saucepan (big enough to hold the chicken tomatoes and peppers) with olive oil. Add the garlic, capers, a few sprigs of oregano (or dashes if using dried oregano), and salt and pepper to taste. Heat the oil, and gently fry the chicken pieces, turning them occasionally, until seared on all sides. Pour in the wine and let it cook off, approximately 15 minutes.
Toss in the peppers. Add the canned tomatoes, passing them through a food mill first to produce a smooth purée. If you don’t have a food mill, you can blend the tomatoes before adding them. If you prefer, you can also leave the tomatoes whole.
Cover partially to allow some vapor out, and cook over low heat for approximately an hour. Taste for salt after 30 minutes, and add more if you wish. Stir from time to time to prevent sticking, and add white wine if more liquid is needed. The chicken is done when or the meat comes off of the bone and the sauce has thickened.
Serve hot with a generous spoonful of sauce on top.