Caprese Style Chicken with Beans

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Caprese Chicken finish 1 - Copy.jpg with script

Buon giorno!

The use of the term “Caprese” is often heard in the world of Italian food these days. What does it actually mean? Caprese refers to recipes and a cooking style coming from the island of Capri in Italy located in the Tyrrhenian Sea . This area is celebrated in song as well and is noted for its amazing and unique blue water color.

There are many great dishes coming from this island. However, in the US, when we think of Caprese Style, we relate most often to the use of tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella and good olive oil.

CAPRESE STYLE CHICKEN WITH BEANS is one of these dishes that combines these ingredients, and a few more, resulting in a rich, fresh tasting, and thoroughly delicious dish. It is easy and takes just a few minutes to prepare.

Andiamo!

CAPRESE STYLE CHICKEN WITH BEANS

Serves 4

Prep 15 minutes

Cook about 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

8 Boneless skinless chicken thighs

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic finely chopped

10 Campari Tomatoes – quartered

3 Tbsp. chopped fresh Basil

2/3 Cup Dry White Wine

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 Can (approx. 15.5 oz.) Cannellini Beans – drained

8 oz. Fresh Mozzarella slices or Ciliegine (little balls of fresh Mozzarella) – as pictured

More Fresh Basil

Balsamic Glaze (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Season the chicken with salt and peper – both sides and brown in the oil along with the garlic in an oven proof pan.

Add the tomatoes, basil and wine. Cook about 15 minutes uncovered at a strong simmer.

Caprese Chicken 1

Add Mozzarella and beans.

Caprese Chicken 2

Place pan in oven and cook at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Garnish with fresh Basil.

Drizzle with Balsamic Glaze (optional but adds to the flavor!) and serve.

Serving suggestion for CAPRESE STYLE CHICKEN WITH BEANS  – Try a beautiful Northern Italian white like Donna Anita Roero Arneis with this dish.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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November: Stuffed Quail With Orange Sauce

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A Whale of a Quail!

Quail finish 2 with script

Buon giorno!

Long thought to be a luscious item reserved for hunting households and gourmet menus, STUFFED QUAIL WITH ORANGE SAUCE has been missing from many tables over the years. In many regions of Italy, where they hunt for sport and sustenance, quail has been part of the menu along with other game birds – partridge, pheasant etc. Until more recently, in the US, it was unavailable in markets. However, during the 80’s farms developed to provide these game birds to the average household. It began with special orders, and now quail is available frozen, in many local markets. These birds have actually been of high quality and are clean and ready to prepare.

Many are unfamiliar with these tiny birds. They are very tiny and can be eaten easily by just picking them up in your fingers. If not overcooked, they are juicy and tasty. You can stuff them as you see here or simply roast or broil them. They are often served with some sort of fruit – or fruit sauce as shown. It is a perfect choice for cooking with dried fruits. Italians often enjoy serving their quail over polenta.

I enjoyed quail and other game birds during my growing up years with my family. My father, Attilio, was a passionate hunter, and hunted many types of game birds as the seasons dictated. He brought them all home to be eaten by the family. The birds were immediately plucked and cleaned in our kitchen and then sometimes frozen for later use. We loved the quail, in particular, because of their size. These little birds were tender and actually fun to eat. You could eat more than one for a meal or just one for a first course or starter.

My father was a great cook as well as a hunter and really knew how to prepare these birds. He always used bacon to wrap them, as fat is missing from these wild ones. The bacon kept them moist while offering great flavor. Most often, he stuffed the quail using sausage and onion and worked fruit into them somehow – either in the stuffing or the sauce or both. The resulting meal was one we relished and remember to this day how wonderful they were. He was always proud of them! Here he is preparing one of his famous quail recipes.

You can prepare most of the recipe a day ahead following the instructions. This makes the recipe so easy. Then stuff and cook the quail on the day you serve. The Orange Sauce is beautiful, with just a little sweetness and a slight hint of piquant. You can also use the sauce on Cornish Game Hens or even chicken. Plan for one quail per person as an appetizer or as a first course. Plan on two per person for dinner – but one per person will do if it follows a hefty first course. Buon appetito!

Dad - birds 2

STUFFED QUAIL

Makes: 4 Quail

Prep: 1 hour 15 minutes

Cook: about 40 minutes for roasting

Stuffing Ingredients

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1/2 lb. Mild Italian Sausage – out of the casings

1/2 Onion – chopped

1 Tbsp. Fresh Sage – chopped

1/2 C. Chopped Roasted Chestnuts (these can be purchased now roasted and packaged)

1 Tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese  grated

1/2 C. Fresh Breadcrumbs

(1/2 C. Currants – optional)

1 Large egg

Stuffing Instructions

On medium high – cook sausage, onion, and sage in the olive oil until sausage is browned and onion is tender – About 8 minutes. Break up the sausage with a fork as you cook.

Quail stuffing 1

Remove from hear and add the chestnuts, grated cheese, chestnuts, and breadcrumbs – mix together. (Add currants if using)

Quail stuffing 2

Add egg and mix.

You can make the stuffing a day ahead. If you do, you should not add the egg until just before you stuff your quail on the day you serve.

Orange Sauce Ingredients

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Onion – chopped

1 cinnamon Stick

1/2 C. Cognac

2 Tbsp. Honey

1 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar

1 Cup Orange Juice

Zest of 1 orange

Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

1 Sprig Fresh Tarragon

1 Bay Leaf

2 Cups Chicken Broth

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 Tbsp. Butter

1 Can (11 oz.) Mandarin Orang slices drained.

Orange Sauce Instructions

You can make this a day ahead.

Cook the onion and cinnamon stick in the olive oil for about 5 minutes.

Sauce 1

Then add the cognac – stirring and continuing to cook another minute.

Add the honey, vinegar, orange juice, zest, red pepper flakes, tarragon, Bay Leaf and broth. Add a little salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Sauce 2

Cook for 20-30 minutes at a strong simmer. It will cook down some and thicken slightly. Remember – this is a sauce and not gravy. You can add a little water if it has cooked down too much.

Remove from heat and add the butter and stir in.

Pour all into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.

Add the orange slices and serve or refrigerate until the next day.

Sauce 3

This is not a thick gravy. It should be a smooth velvety sauce.

Plan to drizzle a little sauce over each stuffed quail before you roast them. Reserve the remaining sauce for serving.

The Quail Ingredients

4 Quail if using as a first course, appetizer, or if your quail follows a heavier first course. Plan on 8 (2 per person if not serving a first course) You can find them frozen at most markets.

4 slices Bacon

The Quail Instructions

Pat the quail dry.

Cut them up the center of the back and open them up. This is where the stuffing will go. This is easy as they are so small and delicate. Any pair of kitchen scissors should work.

Quail stuffed 1

Stuff the inside and secure with two or three toothpicks.

Quail stuffed 2

Turn them over, breast side up, secured side down, and place them on your pan. Repeat this process with each quail.

Drizzle a spoonful of orange sauce over each quail.

Cut your bacon slices in half and fold two halves over the breast of each quail.

Take a small bit of string and tie the legs together as you see in the photo.

Quail stuffed 3

Roast the birds in a 425 degree preheated oven. for about 10 minutes. Then reduce the oven temp to 325 and continue to roast for another 30 minutes.

If there is left over stuffing just bake it at 325 degrees a few minutes and serve a little with each bird.

I like to nest the birds in a small pool of the sauce with oranges. Bellissima!

Quail finish 1

***Another preparation which I credit to my father was to roast the birds, breast side down,  wide open without securing them at all. He simply piled the stuffing on the the open birds and topped them off with a slice of bacon. This is the way he prepared them for the photo above.  For these, you would simple roast them at 350 for 30-40 minutes! This is not as “cute” – but less labor intensive – and just as delicious!

With the lovely STUFFED QUAIL WITH ORANGE SAUCE, plan to serve a worthy wine of your choice. I like a lighter red wine with game birds. A beautiful Toscana or Barbera d’Asti would be just right!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Chicken Agrodolce With Pappardelle

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A Rabbit That Clucks –

Chicken agrodolce finish 1 with script

Buon giorno!

Trick question: when is a rabbit not a rabbit – but.. a chicken? It is when you enjoy the delectable CHICKEN AGRODOLCE WITH PAPPARDELLE.

A signature dish of some regions of Italy – coniglio all’agrodolce – is made with rabbit and prepared in several different ways. The rabbit hops a path to tables in Piemonte in the North, the hills of Tuscany, and the forests of Campania. It has now even become a featured dish on the menus of regional Italian restaurants here in the US. It is great “eating” as hunters say, with no game flavor, tender and easy to prepare.

Looking back to our little kitchen in upstate NY, my father, Attilio, “hunter extraordinaire”, made sure our freezer was always full of game. We had all kinds from deer to quail – and also rabbit. It was one of my favorite things, and my father knew how to prepare it with unequalled skill. The way I liked best was “agrodolce” – sour and sweet. It was tender and almost sweet – the kind of flavor that made you lick your fingers. Oh… the sauce. Just before my first child was born my Dad asked me what he could cook for me. It took about 30 seconds for me to tell him that I required one of his amazing rabbit meals. I enjoyed and remembered it like no other. And yes, it resulted in a happy mother, and a very happy child.

In my household today, you probably won’t find one of those rabbit dinners, as there are no willing hunters. Also, we have over the years become so fond of some of our domesticated rabbit friends that it just wouldn’t seem right. What to do?

I have found that rabbit meat and chicken thighs are quite similar in texture, flavor, and are both easily acclimated to one of my favorite cooking techniques – braising. Caution: The fragrance coming from your kitchen will attract the neighbors.This braised dish using the chicken thighs is sure to fool your guests with its similarity to rabbit, and make them yell for more. The meat is unforgettably tender. The sauce has a tiny bit of sweetness which offsets the vinegar in the dish. The sauce is so lovely and aromatic, I can’t emphasize it enough. It is simply perfection with papardelle pasta, as seen here, with gnocchi, and also with the more traditional polenta. Try them all!! OOOOO how I love this dish! Hint at how much you will enjoy this: it ranks as one of “Tom’s Favorites”!

Bunnies have nothing to fear here but the chickens better hide! Chicken thighs are great candidates for several of the Italian regional preparations for rabbit that I happen to love. Here is one of them!

CHICKEN AGRODOLCE WITH PAPPARDELLE

Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: about 50 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Pappardelle Pasta (wide) or gnocchi,or polenta cooked according to package directions

4 Chicken Thighs – boneless and skinless

Flour for dredging

Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp. Butter

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil +  a little more if needed

3 Oz. Chopped Pancetta

2 Cloves fresh garlic chopped finely

1 Onion chopped

1 C. Dry Red Wine

1/4 C. Fresh Sage Leaves – chopped

1/4 C. Balsamic Vinegar

1 Tbsp. Sugar

1 C. Chicken Broth or stock

1 Tbsp. Butter

Instructions

Dredge the chicken thighs on both sides in flour seasoned with salt and pepper.

Chicken agrodolce 1

Heat butter and oil in pan and brown both sides of the chicken pieces and remove them to a platter.

Chicken agrodolce 2

Add a little more oil if your pan is dry. Then add the pancetta, garlic, and onion. Cook at medium high for about 3 minutes.

Chicken agrodolce 3

Then add the wine and the sage and cook a couple of minutes more, stirring.

Chicken agrodolce 4

Next add the vinegar, sugar, and chicken broth to the pan. Stir in.Turn chicken pieces so they are coated with the sauce.

Chicken agrodolce 5 - with stock added

Now cover the pan and let simmer for about 40 minutes. Turn chicken pieces over once during cooking to make sure the chicken is well coated with sauce.

Remove the chicken pieces to a platter again and cut them into small strips.

Continue to simmer the sauce to reduce slightly for just a minute or 2.

Then strain the sauce into a sauce pan and add the remaining tablespoon of butter. Just heat through.

Add the chicken pieces back to the sauce and pour over the noodles, gnocchi, or polenta – whichever you decide to use.

Garnish with whole sage leaves, and serve with Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese.

Serve your CHICKEN AGRODOLCE WITH PAPPARDELLE with your favorite Chianti Classico or Montepulciano di Abruzzo. Prepare to be dazzled!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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November: Chicken Scarpariello

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7 Ready to simmer

Buon giorno!

Chicken what??? Say it with me slowwwly – CHICKEN SCARPARIELLO. You know that saying “it tastes like chicken”? Well, this is a chicken dish that does NOT taste like chicken. Instead, it is an explosion of several different flavors happening all at once. It is one of those really splendid taste experiences where you are not sure what to comment on first. It may not taste like chicken, but it certainly tastes like something wonderful has just happened in your mouth with every bite. It is a fabulous twist on the traditional sausage and peppers that is so much more. Just look at it – Oh the colors –  this is a gorgeous dish!

CHICKEN SCARPARIELLO is a dish with seemingly no definite origins. No one seems to know where it came from. It smacks of Southern Italy in some ways but my guess is that it is one of those Italian American dishes that just appeared and evolved. Scarpa means shoe in Italian. The name Scarpariello  means in the style of the shoemaker. Go figure!

Some like to call it a great Sunday Supper dish. It is definitely that – but to reserve it only for that day would neglect all of those other days when it would be just as welcome.

It is simple to make – but has a definite set of ingredients which make it the authentic dish. Of course, the chicken, but also, the red pepper, the pickled peppers (I like Peppadews!), fresh garlic, broth, and fresh herbs. Some recipes deviate a little by adding or omitting the following: white wine, fresh lemon juice, and mushrooms. It is perfectly fine to use breast meat if you like, but the thighs are soooo tender in this and give the impression of the traditional Piemontese rabbit dishes for which the the Northern Italians are so famous.

You can serve it on its own with lots of Italian bread or over pasta, polenta, or over mashed potatoes as you see it here.

However it got started, and no matter how or when you serve it – you will love this one and want to make it a part of your family tradition or a great meal to introduce to your friends.

COLOR rules the day with this dish! Can you resist?

CHICKEN SCARPARIELLO

Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 35 minutes

Ingredients

8 Boneless, skinless chicken thighs ( I like thighs best for this!)

Salt and Pepper

Flour for dredging

1/3 C. Olive Oil

4 Links Italian Sausage ( cut into pieces)

5 Whole Garlic Cloves

1 Medium Fresh Red Pepper – cut into  pieces

6 Peppadews or Pickled type peppers – cut into strips ( I like a combo of orange and red ones) They are sweet South African peppers that can be found in jars or in olive bars at most grocers.

1/2 lb. Mushrooms ( I like the wild ones!)

1/2 C. Dry White Wine

5 Fresh Sage Leaves

1 Tsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves

1 Long Fresh Rosemary Sprig

2 C. Chicken Broth

Juice of a fresh Lemon

2 Tbsp. Butter

Instructions

Add some salt and pepper to the flour and mix. Dredge the chicken thighs in this flour.

1 Dredging chicken

Brown the thighs in the olive oil – adding more if needed. Then remove the thighs to a platter and set aside.

2 Dredging chicken

Add the sausage pieces to the same pan, brown them, and add them to the platter with the chicken.

3 Sausage browning

A look at Peppadews – sweet and luscious –  for those unfamiliar and the next group of ingredients to include.

4 Peppadews

5 Ingredients for chicken

Back in the pan, add the garlic cloves, red pepper, Peppadews, and mushrooms – Cook for about 5 minutes.

6 cooking vegs

The color begins to emerge!

Add the wine to the pan and de-glaze about 3 minutes at a good simmer.

Add the chicken and sausage back to the pan and add the sage, rosemary, broth, and lemon juice. A gorgeous display of color has appropriated your pan!! Stir.

7 Ready to simmer

Heat until bubbling. Cover and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes – then uncover and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter – melt in.

Remove the garlic cloves, if you like.

How to serve your CHICKEN SCARPARIELLO? Serve it straight up on its own with plenty of Italian crusty bread OR serve it over mashed potatoes as you see in the photo.

Scarpariello Finish with Script

Another great way to present this dish is over polenta for a meal with a Northern Italian edge. Of course, it is always delicious over a pasta like Cappellini. However you do it – you will love this dish for the ease of prep and the extraordinary flavor!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Braised Chicken Ligurian Style

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Braised Chicken - finish with script

Buon giorno!

I love to braise! It is an easy technique that is difficult to mess up and produces a slow cooked meat with a usually rich sauce. The Ligurians in their northwestern region of Italy are known for an easy preparation of chicken which is braised. You’ll find recipes for this prep that run the gamut of differences. This is the way I like to make my BRAISED CHICKEN LIGURIAN STYLE!

Braising is a wonderful way to cook meats. It involves an initial sear or browning on both sides of the meat and then the addition of the ingredients that will bubble together and do the work for you. From there, in just a few minutes you have an amazing dish with a dense sauce and rich complex flavor. There is nothing complicated about it.

When making this easy dish, you can, of course, use any part of the chicken you prefer. I like to use thighs for this as they produce such a tender and juicy result and are economical. This is a dish that cooks up in minutes, yielding a rich sauce that fools your family and guests into thinking you spent the day preparing a dish just for them! NOT!

Many recipes for this type of chicken dish call for different choices of ingredients and often times white wine. Keep in mind when choosing your ingredients to use fresh herbs and garlic, if possible. They make SUCH a difference! I like to introduce another level of flavor by using Marsala wine. It works so well with the selection of ingredients. Marsala is a fortified wine which means it can be kept longer than regular wine. It is available sweet or dry. I prefer the dry version when cooking chicken.

Andiamo! People are hungry!

BRAISED CHICKEN LIGURIAN STYLE

Serves: 3-4

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: about 50 minutes

Ingredients

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1/3 C. Chopped Pancetta (Tip: easier to chop when partially frozen)

6 Chicken Thighs ( I like to use skinless and boneless)

1 Medium Onion – chopped

About 7 baby carrots – chopped

1 Stalk of celery – chopped

1 Clove Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme leaves – chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary leaves – chopped

1 C. Marsala Wine ( I prefer dry Marsala in this) – found at most grocers or liquor stores

1/3 C. Chicken stock or broth

1/2 lb. Mushrooms – sliced or whole – your preference

1 Tbsp. Capers – rinsed and drained

1 Tbsp. Pignoli

(Many recipes use olives in this dish. If you want to add them – about a 1/2 c. is fine)

Instructions

In the Olive Oil, cook the pancetta about 3 minutes.

Braised Chicken Ligurian Style 1

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and add to the pan, browning on both sides.

Remove the chicken to a platter.

To the same pan, now add the onion, carrots and celery – cook about 5 minutes to soften.

Braised Chicken Ligurian Style 3

Add the garlic, thyme, and rosemary, and return the chicken to the pan.

Pour in the wine and cook on Medium high until the sauce reduces by 1/2.

Braised Chicken Ligurian Style 5

Add the stock or broth and mushrooms.

Cover the pan, reduce heat, and continue cooking for about another 30 minutes. Half way through cook time, turn the chicken pieces over in the sauce. (If it needs more liquid, add a bit of broth)

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper.

In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add your capers and pignoli.

Serve your BRAISED CHICKEN LIGURIAN STYLE over polenta, risotto, or even pasta!

PARLA COME MANGI!

 

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October: Game Hens Agrodolce

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Game Hens Agrodolce21

Buon giorno!

Linda’s Italian Table raises a glass to 2 years sharing the joy of Italian cooking online. Join me in celebrating with this beautiful fall dish, GAME HENS AGRODOLCE. This dish is typical of Tuscan preparations for game offered down through the centuries. It is an incredibly delicious – lick your fingers – kind of dish with a bounty of flavor. Tuscan hunters often use the “agrodolce” (sour and sweet) method when cooking their game, using its  sweetness to mask the “gamey” essence of many forms of wild birds and animals.

This recipe calls for Cornish Game Hens – easy to find at any grocer – and needing no masking as they do not have a strong wild flavor. They are small, delicate, and fun to eat. They also make a lovely presentation for guests. I like to make 2 hens whether serving 2 or 4. Even if it’s a twosome, the leftovers are sooo good.

OK – before you tip-toe away looking for something “less complicated” – let me reel you back in. The secret here is that these little game hens are way too easy to make. No excuses for running away! It doesn’t get any easier than this. On the other hand, it will look like you’ve been slaving in the kitchen for days. My advice – let them think you did!

Making agrodolce dishes is a personal favorite Italian cooking choice for me, not only because they are so good, but also because my father, Attilio, was a WIZARD at making them. Whenever he cooked his game (which he hunted and dressed himself), I wanted to be around to watch (and taste). It was always an event involving tantalizing aromas, seductively delicious tastings, and splendidly well chosen red wine. I always anticipated learning which fruit he might include his masterpiece. The dishes provided visual delight and an always memorable dining experience for me and any fortunate others who might be hanging around the kitchen that day.

TO THE HENS!

GAME HENS AGRODOLCE

Serves: 4

Prep: 25 minutes

Cook: 30

Ingredients

2 Rock Cornish Game Hens

4 Tbsp Olive Oil

1/4 c. Salt Pork – chopped

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

2 Whole Shallots – chopped

3/4 c. Dry Red Wine

2 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar

2 Tsp. Sugar

2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary – chopped

2 Tsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves – chopped

2 Tsp. Orange Zest

1 1/2 C. Dried Cherries – whole

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

Instructions

Prepare your ingredients.

Game Hens Agrodolce02

Clean hens, pat dry.

Using poultry shears or sharp scissors, cut the hens in half, lengthwise. Lay the halves down and flatten them with a mallet or a heavy can of something like tomatoes!

Game Hens Agrodolce01

Salt and pepper the hen halves on both sides.

Brown the halves in the olive oil. Just brown them – don’t attempt to cook through.

Game Hens Agrodolce04

Remove the halves to a platter and reserve.

In the same pan, saute the salt pork, garlic, shallots for a couple of minutes.

Game Hens Agrodolce03

Add the hen halves back to the pan and add the wine, rosemary, thyme, vinegar, sugar, zest and cherries. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook a couple minutes, turning the hens.

Place pan in 350 degree oven, uncovered, for about 15-20 minutes until cooked through. This does not take long. Turn the hen halves halfway through cooking.

If the pan begins to dry, add a little water.

When finished, taste sauce for seasoning.

Game Hens Agrodolce10

This recipe does not make a lot of sauce – just enough to spoon over the hens.

Serving: GAME HENS AGRODOLCE  is one dish just made to serve over polenta, as you see in the photo. However, it is also lovely with red skin mashed potatoes. You will love this great fall Tuscan dish! Attilio would have served the hens with his beloved Valpolicella Ripasso. The more adventurous might consider a Brunello di Montalcino which is often served with heavier meat dishes. This dish with its earthy and deep flavors will stand up well to the Brunello.

While you enjoy this dish, you might tip a glass to the third year for Linda’s Italian Table which is just beginning. I will definitely be toasting to YOU!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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September: Roast Chicken With Peppers And Potatoes

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Pollo Arrosto Con Peperoni E Patate

Roast-Chicken-with-Peppers--Potatoes[2]

Buon giorno!

My mother, Loretta, knew how to stretch a buck! She also knew how to make a great meal out of that buck. One of my favorite dishes growing up was Loretta’s ROAST CHICKEN WITH PEPPERS AND POTATOES, a one dish meal that was sooo delicious and was as economical as it was flavorful. This dish is one of those simple rustic dishes that looks almost too easy. In fact, it is so simple, you might be tempted to say, “So what?” That there is nothing “gimmicky” to this one – does not reduce its appeal. It is a combination of good ingredients – fresh for the most part – that come together for a satisfying result. This is the one you’ll be serving all through the cooler months and comes under the category of comfort food.

About Italian Chickens: Chickens have long been used in the Italian diet though not always for eating the birds. In old times, peasants kept their chicken for egg laying and usually only ate them when they were old and no longer producing. Then they would use them for soup. The well-to-do were able to raise them to eat. They were apt to roast and stuff them with all kinds of nuts, fruits, and berries. It is the Tuscans, who were and still are known for their chickens raised in the free range style and fed unusual foods from marigolds to goat’s milk for the purpose of enriching the yolks and making them vivid in color. Even though the Tuscans may tout their “cluckers” – you will be sure to find chickens all over Italy.

Let’s break it down: Loretta made this very often with a whole chicken cut into parts – something you certainly can do and enjoy – or even use white meat, if you prefer. However, I happen to like dark meat, and thighs are particularly tender and not very expensive. I love using thighs for this recipe. Their juicy and flavorful nature just seems made for it. I like the skin removed not only because of the extra fat, but also because there are enough juices generated in the dish, and the skin creates more that seems unnecessary. You can choose thighs with the bone in or boneless. To me, the boneless thighs just make the whole thing easier to eat.

Very often, Loretta made this dish by simply adding green peppers and potatoes to it. I so love yellow peppers that I like to use both yellow and green which made a pretty presentation and become very sweet upon roasting. I also add mushrooms, and sometimes use wild mushrooms when I can find nice ones. The garlic roasts beautifully into the dish, imparting its usual punch. However, the addition of just a little chopped pancetta take it to a deeper more complex flavor level. Nothing like a little pork to kick this dish straight through the goal posts! Ahhh! The herbs – always fresh and in abundance in any successful dish, this is no exception. The herbs in this beautiful dish are not chopped or minced, but instead, are added in sprig form and in larger pieces.

The aroma emanating from your kitchen will attract everyone within smelling distance, coming to discover what and who is responsible for this tantalizing intrusion to the senses.

Andiamo!

ROAST CHICKEN WITH PEPPERS AND POTATOES

(Pollo Arrosto Con Peperoni E Patate)

Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: I hour 15 minutes approx

Ingredients

8 Skinned chicken thighs – boned if you like (If preferred, use assorted chicken parts or even breast meat)

1 Medium Onion – cut in large pieces

4 Large Gold Potatoes – skins on or off – up to you

1/2 lb. Mushrooms – Whole or cut in half

1 Green Pepper – cut in large pieces

1 Yellow Pepper – cut in large pieces

6-7 Cloves of Fresh Garlic – sliced

4 Slices Pancetta – chopped

A couple of Large Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary – broken into pieces

4-5 Springs Fresh Thyme

Kosher Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Olive Oil

Instructions

Lay the chicken thighs in a large baking dish or pan. Sprinkle with Kosher Salt and Pepper and drizzle with a little Olive Oil.

Add the next 9 ingredients remaining ingredients.

Finish with a generous drizzle of olive oil over all, and then add the salt and pepper.

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Place the dish in a 350 degree oven and roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring a couple of times during the cook time. ( You may or may not need the full cook time. When the chicken is cooked through and vegetables are fork tender, it’s done.) Easy enough?

For a delicious pairing with ROAST CHICKEN WITH PEPPERS AND POTATOES, I like a medium bodied red wine like Amarone or Valpolicella. Either seems to hold up well to the rich flavors of the roasted vegetables, dark meat roasted chicken, and pancetta.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Stuffed Rock Cornish Game Hens & Cranberry Sauce

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Buon giorno!

In my – ahem- younger years, one of my favorite dishes, was my mother, Loretta’s, Stuffed Rock Cornish Game Hens. She made hers in different ways, sometimes using rice , sometimes bread. Often, the preparation was influenced by my father, Attilio’s, special game dishes. He would try to slip something of his own in the stuffing when she wasn’t looking. It was usually some sort of dried fruit that he always used with his game birds, and of course a good slug of wine would get in there— somehow.

Rock Cornish Game Hens aren’t really “game” at all. They are domestically raised and a cross between Cornish and Plymouth Rock chickens. They are small  – bigger than quail – but smaller than pheasant. A hen fits neatly in the palm of one hand. One hen provides a hefty meal for a hearty appetite, but more often will be plenty for 2 people. They are different from chicken in that they are extremely tender, delicately flavored, and juicy – even the white meat. Although they are not considered “game”, they are probably the nearest domestic bird to the wild and most often treated as such in their preparation, using many of the same sauces, cooking styles, and ingredients such as fruit, wine, brandy, sausage, and wild mushrooms.

First – to Italia! Italians are known for being avid hunters. They hunt pigeon, pheasant (fagiano), quail, ducks, geese, doves, venison, hare, and the infamous wild boar (Cinghiale) of Tuscany. Italians eat all kinds of birds – even peacock! In Renaissance times, the nobility in the Northern regions set up their own personal hunting reserves on their land complete with lodges. With only the upper classes given the privilege of hunting there, the peasants were left to catching the occasional “stray”. Aside from their celebrated wild boar dishes and sauces, the Tuscans are also noted for their recipes for guinea hens and hare.

It’s in the cooking: It is common for these Italian hunters to be excellent cooks, in particular, as it pertains to game. My father was one who spared nothing when it came to preparing his “birds”. He made his own sausage for the stuffing, used all kinds of dried and fresh fruits, and prepared his sauces also from the fruits accompanied by different types of brandy and, of course, his favorite Valpolicella wine.  He used pork fat of differing types to give the wild and lean birds more flavor and moisture.

Today, I will give the Stuffed Rock Cornish Game Hens & Cranberry Sauce the “game treatment” and dress them for a special holiday table. In keeping with family tradition, you will recognize some of the ingredients used by Attilio for his game birds. You will love these!

STUFFED ROCK CORNISH GAME HENS & CRANBERRY SAUCE

Serves: 4

Prep:

Cook:

THE HENS:

Ingredients:

2 Rock Cornish Game Hens ( available at any grocer)

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1/4 lb. Pancetta – chopped + 4 slices Pancetta for top of hens

1 Medium Onion – shopped

1 Stalk Celery – chopped

2 Tbsp Fresh Parsley – chopped

1 Tbsp. Fresh Sage – chopped

1 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano – chopped

2 Tsp. Fresh Rosemary – chopped

1/2 c. Dried Apricots – chopped

1/2 c. Dried Cranberries

3 c. Italian Bread – broken into pieces – crusts removed – place in large bowl

1 Egg

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Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse hens and pat dry. Salt & pepper inside and outside of hens. Place in baking dish.

Cook chopped pancetta in oil until crisp – remove pancetta and set aside.

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In same pan, sauté onion, celery & herbs until tender.

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Add apricots & cranberries, salt and pepper and cook stirring about 3 minutes.

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Add the ingredients from the pan to the bread pieces. Combine and add crisp pancetta pieces.

Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Add egg and mix well.

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Stuff hens with as much as you can get in each cavity. Pack them well. This is just about exactly the amount needed for 2 hens.

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Stick pieces of butter between the legs and body and between the wings and body. Place pancetta slices on top of hens – 2 for each.

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Place hens in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Roast for about one hour and 20 minutes. The cooking time may vary with different ovens. This is only a guideline. Check your birds to make sure.

When finished, remove slices of pancetta from tops of hens . If you need more browning at the end of the cook time –  increase oven to 400, and put the hens back in the oven to finish. If needed, leave them until they are at the desired browning or for about 15 more min. The amount of time will depend on how brown they are, how brown you like them, and your oven.

Remove from oven and –IMPORTANT: let them sit for 20 minutes before cutting so they will re-absorb their own juices. Slice each hen down the middle to serve one half per person.

SAUCE:

Makes: About 1 1/2 cups – enough for 2 hens.

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 20-25 min.

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp. butter

1 Medium onion – chopped

1 Tbsp. Fresh Basil – chopped

1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme – chopped

1/4 tsp. Ground Cloves

1/2 Tsp. Ground Cinnamon

2 Tsp. grated Orange Zest

1/2 c. Red Wine  + 1 Tbsp Red wine for mixing cornstarch

1 c. chicken broth

1 1/2 c. Fresh Cranberries

3 Tbsp. Sugar

2 Tsp. Balsamic Vinegar

1 Large Spring Fresh Rosemary

Instructions:

Cook onion in butter until tender.

Add basil, thyme, spices, orange zest.

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Mix together and add wine – cook down a 3-4 minutes.

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Add chicken broth – Cook about 8 minutes

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Add cranberries, sugar, and vinegar. Cook about 10 minutes. Watch the cranberries burst and bubble!

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Add Salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from heat.

Dissolve 1 tsp. cornstarch in the 1 Tbsp. Red Wine and add to the sauce. Stir in – it should thicken immediately. If sauce needs reheating before you use it – do not let it boil as it will thin. Just heat on low.

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Serve over or under your hens  – whatever your preference.

To Serve: I love this dish! It easily makes a romantic dinner for two. At the same time, it is a stunning holiday or dinner party dish. It almost screams “Build me a fire!” Soft candlelight wouldn’t hurt either. You need very little else with this one – perhaps a simple green vegetable. For the vino, I like a Valpolicella or a Barbera with this both in the sauce and for drinking.

For that one perfect evening, put these Stuffed Cornish Game Hens & Cranberry Sauce on your table and you’ll own ‘em!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Makes Me Want To Cluck!

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THE ROASTED CHICKEN THING –

Buon giorno!

Don’t know about you, but every year when the weather changes and heads down the Autumn Road to Winter, I get this craving – hankering – whatever – for Roasted Chicken. Just “got to have it”! This is one of those times when I indulge my desire to salute the new season with a naked bird stuffed with something ambrosial from nature’s garden. I feel that first cold wind and see the leaves turning those beautiful earthy colors, and I long for a fire in the fireplace, a glass of good wine, and those appetite teasing aromatics from the oven when a well seasoned chicken is roasting there. So it is that we begin our adventure to satisfy my annual fall yearning with Roasted Chicken with Orange, Fennel, and Orange Pesto!

 Today my musings take us to the Grosseto area of Tuscany, an area rich in great recipes for roasted meats and poultry. Cooks from this area are known for their use of fennel seed with their Roasted Chickens particularly rubbed under the skin. I am such a fan of fresh fennel that I thought I might use it instead of the fennel seed. There is something about the power of that sweet anise aroma that seduces my senses when it permeates the house as it cooks. Yes, THAT and an orange just might do it!

To serve this lovely bird, I recommend making my easy and very fresh Orange Pesto that makes eating Roasted Chicken a new and more flavorful experience that will ZAP the tastebuds! Pestos, which are mainly Genovese (from Genoa) in origin, are vibrant in color and inherently full of fresh flavors. This pesto, with its sweet essence of orange, gets an added dash of excitement with a touch of Orangecello. The Orangecello is optional in both the chicken and the pesto and can be omitted if you like and substituted with orange juice. I like to use these sweet syrupy Italian liqueurs, like Orangecello as much as possible, as they add a subtle kick to the flavor of whatever you are cooking. In addition to the element of surprise with the addition of orange, this pesto can be used with so many other dishes. I plan to introduce other recipes later on, which will refer back to this particular pesto and offer new ideas to use it. Some of these dishes are meatless which will be of interest to my Vegetarian readers!

Now for the bird!!

ROASTED CHICKEN WITH ORANGE AND FENNEL

4-5 lb chicken (rinsed well inside and out and patted dry)

3 cloves garlic

1 Fennel Bulb

6 sprigs Fresh Tarragon

1 Orange

1/4 c. Olive Oil

1/4 c. Orangecello (or substitute orange juice)

Kosher Salt

Black Pepper – freshly ground

Place the chicken in baking pan. I always line with foil for easy clean up. Rub the chicken all over with 1 clove garlic – split in half. When finished, throw this garlic in the chicken cavity along with the other 2 cloves . Sprinkle a little Kosher Salt inside the cavity also.

Fennel: See photos for the ”step by step” on this. Slice off the stems and the hard bottom.

Cut the bulb vertically (lengthwise) into wedges, (You would slice the fennel crosswise for salads etc.) and remove center core.

Take a couple of the stems and lay them next to the chicken on either side in the pan. I am always tempted to take a bite out of the fennel while I am preparing it because it smells sooo good.

Stuff 3 sprigs of Tarragon inside the chicken and lay the remaining 3 on top of the bird.

Tuck the fennel wedges inside the cavity.

Cut the orange into wedges with skins on and stuff inside the chicken.

Drizzle olive oil on top of chicken and follow with a drizzle of the Orangecello or Orange Juice. Sprinkle a little Kosher Salt and fresh black pepper on the chicken.

Get ready for your home to fill with the intense aroma of fennel, orange, and tarragon! MMMMM!

Roast chicken at 400 degrees for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours til done. If chicken starts to brown too fast towards the end, you can tent it with foil. When done take the chicken out of the oven and immediately Tent it for 20 minutes. This is important as the chicken will continue to cook during this time and should bring it up to proper eating temperature. I take mine out when the temp. reads about 145.

Now for the pesto! This is EASY!

ORANGE PESTO

1 fresh garlic clove, quartered

Zest of 1 Orange

1/2 c. Toasted Walnuts

2 c. Fresh Basil

3/4 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 Tbsp Orangecello (can substitute orange juice for this)

2 Tbsp Orange Juice (use the orange you used for zesting – the juice is better fresh)

1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp Olive Oil

Put all of the above ingredients in a blender and process until smooth and bright green.

It will smell fresh and wonderful! If dry, you can add another Tbsp Olive Oil. Check for seasoning at the end. You will love this part as the fresh flavors burst on your tongue!

Slice the chicken and spoon the Orange Pesto over it and serve warm or cold! It is so delicious and the brilliant color is so attractive on the plate. Troppo Bella!

This Orange Pesto is also delicious on Grilled Sea Bass or Branzino, over a vegetable, or pasta!

I like a crisp Pinot Grigio with this or even Prosecco: Rustico would be my choice!

PARLA COME MANGI!

**Also: See the November RECIPE OF THE MONTH on LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE !

Food Photos by Tommy Hanks Photography

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