Serves 6 to 8
This recipe for sweet, spicy, succulent chicken sometimes goes by the name pollo alla trasteverina (chicken cooked in the style of Trastevere). Everyone in Rome agrees that whatever the name, chicken with stewed peppers is the archetypal Roman chicken dish, traditionally made for the Festa de' Noiantri and Ferragosto, respectively the mid-July and mid-August holidays that go back to antiquity. The recipe is still made by countless home cooks and often appears on the menus of trattorias in Trastevere, where it was probably invented centuries ago. Making it in the traditional way involves blackening and peeling the sweet peppers before stewing them, a messy process that's richly rewarding because scorched peppers are tastier and sweeter than un-scorched ones. A perennial argument among this dish's devotees revolves around the roasting, scorching and peeling methods and whether onion or garlic or both should count among the ingredients. You'll need a large, high-sided frying pan with a lid to make this recipe.
5-pound whole range-raised chicken or parts
(mix of thighs, wings, breasts)
1 large white onion
2 ounces pancetta or bacon (2 to 3 strips)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 peperoncino (hot chili pepper), shredded,
or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup Italian dry white wine, preferably Frascati or Marino
1 (16-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
Kosher salt or coarse sea salt
4 to 5 large sweet peppers (mix of yellow and red),
roasted, skinned and seeded (see How to Roast, Skin
and Seed a Sweet Pepper, page 65 of book)
1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh marjoram or oregano
1. If necessary, cut the chicken into individual parts. Rinse the pieces and pat them dry with paper towels. Remove and discard any fat.
2. Peel and roughly chop the onion with the pancetta.
3. Heat the oil in a large, high-sided frying pan over medium. Add the onion and pancetta. Sauté, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula, until the onion becomes translucent and the pancetta barely starts to crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove them from the pan to a bowl and cover with a lid.
4. Add the peperoncino to the pan and stir. Increase the heat to high, add the chicken parts and brown them thoroughly, stirring, flipping and scraping, 8 to 10 minutes. If the chicken is very fatty pour off some of the fat. Return the sautéed onions and pancetta to the pan and stir thoroughly.
5. Pour in the wine and boil to evaporate it, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their packing juices and a pinch of salt. Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring and crushing the tomatoes with a wooden spoon or spatula. Lower the heat to minimum and simmer, covered, while preparing the sweet peppers.
6. Slice the skinned, seeded peppers into strips 1/2 to 1 inch wide and 1-1/2 to 2 inches long. Stir them into the frying pan with the chicken. Sprinkle in the marjoram and adjust the salt. Simmer, partially covered, until the chicken is tender enough to flake apart with the tines of a fork, 15 to 25 minutes.
7. Serve immediately
Cooking the Roman Way
Authentic Recipes from the Home Cooks and Trattorias of Rome
by David Downie
Hardcover, 336 pages
Price: US $34.95, CAN $52.95
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created April 2003
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