This recipe, Chicken in Piquant Tomato Sauce, is from Domenica Marchetti's cookbook The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy.
Makes 5 or 6 main-course servings
Meaty chicken thighs are simmered to tender succulence in a lush, spicy sauce of onions, tomatoes, and anchovies. Why thighs? Because they have lots of flavor and can stand up to long simmering without losing moisture. As for the anchovies, I won't even try to make a plea in their defense; I don't believe they need one. They are a staple in southern Italian cooking and I wouldn't think of making this dish without them. They add an essential layer of flavor. This is delicious served over rice, pasta, or polenta, but I like polenta best for soaking up the sauce.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, place half the chicken thighs, skin side down, in the pot and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook the chicken for about 5 minutes, or until the skin side is browned and crisp. Using tongs, turn the chicken thighs over. Sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper and let brown for about 5 minutes longer. Using the tongs, remove the thighs to a deep plate and repeat with the remaining thighs, removing them to the plate when they are browned.
If the chicken has rendered a lot of fat, pour off all but about 2 tablespoons. Return the pot to medium heat, add the onion, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until just beginning to soften. Stir in the garlic and sauté for another minute or two, or until the garlic releases its fragrance. Sprinkle in the flour and mix well. Pour in the wine, stir to combine, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until some of the liquid has evaporated. Add the anchovies and red pepper flakes and then add the tomatoes.
Using your fingers, peel the skin off the chicken thighs (see Cook's Note) and discard. Arrange the chicken pieces in the Dutch oven with the sauce, along with any juices that have accumulated in the plate. Cover the pot and put it in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes; uncover and cook for 1 hour longer, or until the sauce has thickened and the thighs are very tender.
Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and then serve in individual bowls.
I may be in the minority, but I have never liked chicken skin. So, once it has done its job of rendering some pan drippings and flavor during the initial browning, I prefer to remove it. (If left to simmer in the sauce, it will lose its crispness and turn flabby, and make the sauce unnecessarily fatty. Where's the appeal in that?)
The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy
by Domenica Marchetti
Photography by William Meppem
Chronicle Books, 2006
29 color photographs
Recipe reprinted by permission.
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