Saturday, March 12, 2005

Pollo alla Scarpariello

Did you ever get the impression that I like chicken? Well, it just so happens I do. It's versatile, inexpensive (by comparison) and if you get the right brand of chicken, it can be, well, gastronomically orgasmic. (I hope that is not offensive to anyone - if it is, tell me and I will change that term.) When buying chicken, try to get 'air-chilled' chicken, not water chilled. And there's only one producer of air-chilled pollo in the U.S.A - MBA Poultry - Smart Chicken. In New England, you can find it at the Big Y stores. Water chilled chicken is the stuff you buy, and when you open the package all the reddish slime water pours out. The chicken should be thoroughly rinsed at best before cooking. Don't ask me how they do it, but Smart Chicken cooks in half the time, and is actually jucier. Enough!! On to the recipe.

Scarpariello means "shoemaker-style", and it is thought that the name might have originated as the result of chicken bones protruding from your mouth as you eat them much like a shoemaker might hold tacks in his mouth as he works.

Another southern Italian origin to the name comes about from the fact that even the family of a poor shoemaker in southern Italy could afford to make this dish, while another version is that all of the ingredients in this dish can be easily "cobbled" together. Whatever the source of it's name might be, the dish is delicious. Some versions of this dish add sausages and vinegar in place of the lemon. All of the recipes I have come across use cut up chicken pieces. (*)

Cut the chicken breast into 2 or three pieces to ensure all of the chicken pieces cook evenly. You can remove the skin as well if you prefer. I like to serve simple side dishes to accompany this dish such as mashed potatoes or polenta, linguini pasta, and a nice crisp green vegetable.

1 (2 1/2 to 3 Pound) Chicken Cut Into Pieces
1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
Salt & Pepper
1 tsp Oregano
4 TBS Olive Oil
3 Cloves Garlic, Peeled & Sliced
1/2 Cup Chopped Onions
1 Sprig Fresh Rosemary
1 Cup Chicken Broth
1/2 Cup White Wine
Juice From 1 Lemon
3 TBS Unsalted, Softened Butter
1 TBS Flour
1/4 Cup Chopped, Fresh Parsley

Preheat the oven to 400F. Mix together the flour and oregano, and season with salt and pepper. Rinse and dry the chicken pieces, and then dredge them lightly in the seaoned flour mixture. In a heavy, ovenproof skillet, large enough to hold all of the chicken pieces, heat the olive oil, and then brown the chicken well on all sides over medium heat. Be careful not to burn the oil by using too much heat. Once all of the pieces are well browned, remove them to a plate.

Pour out the left over oil in the pan, leaving just a tablespoon or two with the browned bits at the bottom. Add the onion and cook until soft, and then add the garic. As soon as the garlic begins to sizzle, add the wine, and stir the browned bits at the bottom while you reduce the wine by half over medium high heat.

Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Break up the rosemary into pieces, and add it to the sauce. Return the chicken pieces to the skillet, and spoon the sauce over top. Bake the chicken until done, about 20 minutes

Remove the chicken to a warmed platter, and bring the remaining sauce to a boil. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Mix the tablespoon of flour with 1 tablespoon of softened butter. Add the remaining butter to the sauce in the skillet, and mix well.

Remove the rosemary pieces from the sauce. If the sauce is thin, stir in a little of the flour and butter mixture, wisking continuously to prevent lumps. Once the sauce has thickened, add the chopped parsley, and pour the sauce over the chicken on the platter. Serve immediately.

(*) Y'know, you could avoid the bone-in chicken, and use boneless/skinless chicken breasts; or, boneless/skinless thighs. Either way, it's exquisite. Mangia, mangia!! AND, be sure to have some Chianti or Bordolino on hand. IF, and it's real iffy, you can find or order a bottle of white chianti, you will be in for a treat beyond belief. REAL garlic bread is a must here.