Delicioso! Peppers, Tomatoes & Chicken
his dish is
adapted from a recipe by Biba Caggiano in her Modern Italian Cooking
cookbook. We have had the pleasure of meeting her several times, though
was fleeting. We've eaten at her restaurant in Sacramento, California.
We've collected all her books and they are an important part of our
recipe collection. Highly recommended. This recipe isn't hard. It's just plain delicious.
We keep going back to it and think you will too. Ms. Caggiano calls it Pollo in Umido alla Romana
(Chicken with peppers and tomatoes, the Roman Way).
have adapted it to suit our own tastes.
Teasing the Summer
hen height of the
season tomatoes are ready we eat a lot of The
We grows lots of tomatoes, always some cherry tomatoes and mostly
medium sized sandwich tomatoes. We don't bother with heirlooms (they
have never produced enough for us) or 'paste' tomatoes (ones to be used
for tomato sauce) because good canned tomatoes can have very good
flavor for some dishes. This recipe is an example of one that you can
do all year long. Meanwhile we keep looking out the window at those
green tomatoes and wait for the first blush of summer.
oday we are
talking bell peppers. Though they are part of the food grouping
(genus) Capsicum (which includes hot chile peppers), the 'bell' pepper
does not produce capsaisin, the compounds that makes chile peppers hot.
While treated culinarily as a vegetable, the bell pepper also known as
a sweet pepper, is a fruit. What you see the most is the green bell
pepper, followed by the red bell pepper. Turns out they are exactly the
same. The red bell is just a green bell that has been allowed to ripen
to the red stage. At that point it does taste different. Some say
'sweeter', but to us, we'd say less bitter than the green. We know a
parrot that will only eat red bells. She probably knows something.
are part of the 'nightshade' family of plants that includes tomatoes,
potatoes and eggplant (and tobacco), among others. To us it means that
in our limited garden space, we have no room to plant them as we want
all the tomatoes we can get. So we can't plant them in the 'fallow'
plots as it would destroy the concept of rotation.
makes use of a lot of tomatoes and a lot of red bell peppers. Does that
relationship mean anything? Not that we know of, but, as we've said, it
really is delicious.
When working with bell peppers there is (at least we are guilty of) the
tendency to cut them up fast and toss them into what you are cooking.
Or, maybe to bite into them like an apple. Beware. A perfectly
looking pepper might have a hidden surprise. In our experience, they
are prone to mold on the inside as we found in one of the peppers we
were cooking for this dish.
Skin or Skinless?
way or another you want some of the chicken fat that is in the skin.
Tons of flavor. Our recipe calls for sauteing the chicken with skin and
using the fat that comes from the skin to saute the garlic and peppers.
We have tried alternatives. For example, we have removed the skin and
sauted it first to release the fat. We then discard the skin and saute
the garlic in the fat. With this method you can reduce the amount of
chicken fat and use olive oil to replace. Keep some for flavor!
(Remember not to overcook the skinless chicken, It will sear but not
We eat large main courses
(there is just two of us) and you may find that it is more than you
want. We might have leftovers which are very tasty for breakfast. In
Ms. Caggiano's recipe she calls for 3 red bells, but says you can
double it so that you have extra to put on pasta another night. We have
doubled them to start. Her recipe calls for a 3 to 3 1/2 pound chicken
cut into serving pieces. We never see chickens that small (except at
farmer's markets for quadruple the price or more). And because we like
the way dark meat tastes and cooks, we call for only chicken thighs. So
make as much or as little of the chicken as you prefer. The sauce takes
up the chicken flavor and a big part of the dish is to sop that up with
bread (if you were just going for flavored sauce, you could use one
chicken thigh). Which is very much like having the left over sauce with
pasta except eating it tonight. Once you have made it you'll see. And
you will want to make it again.
1 28oz. can (LESS 3 TOMATOES) good quality tomatoes. We gravitate to Muir
Glen. Plum tomatoes would be nice but not required. We found a whole
can made it a touch TOO tomatoey.
4 chicken thighs (big or small is up to
you, use more or less as you
3 TB olive oil (or less as desired)
2 garlic cloves (or more as desired),
4-6 large red bell peppers sliced into
strips and then cut in half
1 cup dry white wine
Nam Plan (few drops, optional. Our trick
for a little umami kick)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Optional first step: Brine the chicken pieces in 1 quart water and 1/4
cup salt. We put the brining chicken in the fridge for 30 to 45 minutes
depending on how big the pieces are.
the tomatoes in a food processor. Or, if you like having one less thing
to wash, carefully squeeze the tomatoes in the can to break them up
(don't get cut on the rim!) then chop them up finely. Pat the chicken
pieces dry with paper towels. Dry chicken sears instead of steams,
which is what you want.
Saute the chicken over medium heat. You are both browning them and
getting the skin to give up fat. Remove the chicken and set aside.
Saute the garlic in the pan for a few minutes. We
might tilt the pan so the garlic has something to swim in if there
isn't a lot of fat. Don't let it get brown. Add the peppers and slowly
saute until they are soft. (Don't cover them. We tried that for awhile
but they tend to steam and have less flavor.) Use some or all
of the olive oil as needed or desired.
Add the white wine and cook over medium heat until the wine is reduced
by half. Add the tomatoes, the optional nam pla, salt, pepper
and the reserved chicken. If you have brined the chicken, you might
want to use less salt, Cover and cook over medium-low heat until the
chicken is done. This can take 25-45 minutes, give or take, depending
on how much you sauteed the chicken in the first place and how big the
pieces are. Remove the chicken and set aside.
Cook the tomato/pepper
mixture uncovered until it is reduced to a pretty thick
consistency. This step is important. It concentrates the
flavors which are delicious sopped up with
bread. Notice in the picture below how you can scrape the pan and it
stays scrapped away. It is that thick. Taste the sauce and
add salt and pepper as needed.
Plate the tomato/pepper mixture and top with chicken. Serve with bread.
We prefer sourdough. Of course you could use pasta instead.
e were thinking a
blend when it came to us that the Nalle Cabernet is a blend of 75%
cabernet and 25% merlot. (In California a wine can be called by the
grape name if it has 75% or more of that varietal.) It turned out to be
a very good match. It you don't happen to have that wine at hand, we're
also thinking that a nice Barbera or Sangiovese might be a good match.
Here is a summary
of the recipe in a .pdf you can print