I’m a person who, regardless of the renown of the restaurant, will never order chicken “out”. I’ve never found chicken be one of those glorious protein providers like beef, or pork, which seem graciously to bring something to the party no matter how you prepare them. No. Chicken seems to me to remain resolutely a “party” unto itself, stingily lending flavor only when you coax out its schmaltz (yay, fat!), whilst stubbornly refusing to “give it up” at any other juncture of the cooking process. Capture it at just the right moment, or in just the right way, or be damned! It has a hard time mingling with other flavors, and all too often ends up sitting sullenly in a pool of sauce it has refused to embrace. I have encountered this perverse anti-gastronomic character of chicken in its many forms way too often, in way too many dishes, over way too many years. One might conclude that I have some sort of Freudian love/hate “thing” about chicken. One would be right.
So, once again, when I find a chicken preparation that somehow manages to mix it up and pass on some real flavor, I feel compelled to share it. Following are two very tasty recipes for chicken. Not haute cuisine, but perfect for the family table, and guaranteed to set your salivary glands atingle. For the first recipe, Chicken Pisano, I am even leaving in the personal comment I left at the top of the recipe after I first made it. It says it all.
(This is freaking delicious!)
4 large potatoes
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or the equivalent amount of alternative cut of boneless chicken, if desired
2 T olive oil
4 (3 to 4-ounce) Italian sausage links
4 T salted butter
1 small can sliced jalapenos (sizes will vary) or approximately 1 fresh jalapeno, sliced
1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning or 1/4 teaspoon combined dried basil and oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
4 T all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 to 2 (14-ounce) cans beef stock
Wash and peel the potatoes, then quarter and slice the quarters into 1/4-inch sections, producing triangle-shaped pieces. Wash and core the bell peppers, then cut them into 1 by 1-inch pieces.
Wash the chicken and pat dry. Cut the chicken into strips.
Cut each sausage link on the bias into 4 pieces. In a nonstick 14-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat add the olive oil and sausage, and brown the sausage, for about 5 minutes. Once the sausage is browned, add the chicken, and brown it on all sides, about 5 to 10 minutes. Once the chicken is browned, reduce the heat to medium and add the butter, all of the bell peppers, the jalapenos and potatoes. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning and 3 turns of a peppermill, or a good pinch of black pepper. Sauté on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the flour and cook it until the roux is light golden brown, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low. Carefully add the sherry, avoiding the open flame, to deglaze pan. Add 1 can of beef stock and stir to combine. Mixture will thicken, while simmering on low heat for 10 minutes; if you like thinner gravy add more beef stock until you achieve the desired thickness. Season with more salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer the Chicken Pisano to a serving bowl and serve.
Sticky Chicken has been a family favorite for more years than I can remember. It originated in mimi’s cyber kitchen, and has put on plenty of miles since it first hit the web. I have never run across anyone who didn’t think it was just about the best thing that ever happened to a roast chicken. A vibrant spice blend gets rubbed both inside and outside a chicken, which you then marinate overnight in the fridge. The next afternoon it gets packed with some chopped onion and cooks in a very low oven for 5 hours. The smells while it cooks are enough to drive you mad. It’s ideal to put in the oven on a Saturday when you have errands to run, because it really needs no tending, except toward the end of cooking, when I like to baste it a few times to distribute the flavors. Serve this with some perfectly mashed potatoes, and use the fabulous sticky residue in the pan to make the world’s best ever gravy. I’m pretty sure this chicken has earned more than one woman goddess status in her family!
If you find yourself with enough leftover chicken, check out my “Chicken Redux” , a k a Chicken Divan recipe. It’s a classic and quite delicious way to revisit leftover chicken or turkey
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. paprika
3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp white pepper
¼ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. black pepper
(I make this up a bunch of this in advance and keep it on the shelf. Each chicken uses about 2 tablespoons of the mixture).
1 whole roasting chicken, about 3 pounds
1 cup chopped onions
Combine all spices in a small bowl. Rinse chicken, inside and out. Drain well. Rub spice mixture over skin and inside of chicken. Place in a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate overnight. When ready to roast, stuff the cavity with onions. Place chicken in roasting pan, breast-side down. Roast uncovered at 250º F for about 5 hours. Baste frequently, especially towards the end.