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Prized Recipe: Chicken with Polenta
Jul 27th, 2009 by
A made this for my cousins who visited me on a Maine Island this summer. However, the dish is a hearty one, best suited for autumn or winter.

A made this for my cousins who visited me on a Maine Island this summer. However, the dish is a hearty one, best served in autumn or winter. (Photo by Russell French)

This is one of my prized recipes. My grandmother, Bruna, used to make this and it was my favorite dish when I was a little boy.

I remember sitting at her kitchen table, with a glass of red wine mixed 50/50 with ginger ale (that’s what the kids got to drink). I’d pluck out the little black olives that were covered in a red sauce and stick them on all ten fingers, and then eat them one by one. My fingertips would be hot and then instantly cool as I ate each one.

Here’s the recipe from that memory:

Ingredients:

  • Chicken: I like to use a mixture of bone-in breasts and bone-in thighs. For this recipe, you could use four bone-in breasts; and four bone-in thighs to serve between 6 and eight people. You could also use a whole chicken, cut up, or even rabbit.
  • Two or three sweet Italian sausages
  • About 16 oz. of mushrooms
  • One can of pitted black olives
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cans of tomato paste (and about the same amount of water)
  • Two or three garlic cloves
  • A sprig of fresh sage or about a tablespoon of dried sage
  • A sprig of nepitella or about a tablespoon of dried nepitella. Can also substitute a combination of basil and mint. Optional.
  • About four or five tablespoons of olive oil
  • About 1/3 to 1/2 cup of red table wine
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of nutmeg

Ingredients for Polenta:

  • Three cups of corn meal
  • Seven cups of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

A good red table wine, such as a chianti or home-made zinfandel, goes nicely with chicken and polenta.

A good red table wine, such as a chianti or home-made zinfandel, goes nicely with chicken and polenta. (Photo by Russell French)

What I did:

Clean fat from chicken and soak in salted water

Boil sausage for about three minutes

Fry sausage with chicken, one clove of garlic (crushed), sage, salt and nutmeg in about one tablespoon of olive oil

Fry mushrooms in about one or two tablespoons of olive oil, with garlic clove (crushed), and nepitella. And then add to chicken.

Add red wine, pitted black olives, tomato paste and dissolve with water to make a sauce.

Heat in oven. If heating in oven immediately after cooking, set at 350 and heat for only about 15 minutes or so. If you’re not going to serve it for a while, turn heat down to 250 or even 200 just to keep warm. (Don’t overcook chicken as it gets tough.)

To make polenta:

Bring seven cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a boil over medium high heat. Gradually stir in three cups of corn meal in a slow and steady stream. Stir vigorously as you add the corn meal to avoid lumps. Continue to stir vigorously until polenta is a creamy, yet stiff, consistency.

Tip: Have boiling water on hand in case polenta gets too thick.

You can either spoon polenta onto plates in a small pile or you can dump the whole pot of polenta on a large wooden board and let it spread out and cool a bit before slicing into rectangles or squares.

Spoon tomato sauce from chicken dish on top of polenta when serving.

Some people like to eat lobster before a bright summer sunset. Others like to shake things up with chicken and polenta. (Photo by Mark Micheli)

Some people like to eat lobster before a bright summer sunset. Others like to shake things up with chicken and polenta. (Photo by Mark Micheli)

(Special thanks to professional food photographer Russell French for photographing this meal. His photos appear courtesy of Russell French Studio.)

Find more recipes in the Food section.

A Must-Have Wild Italian
Jul 7th, 2009 by
This herb grows wild in Tuscany and will grow wild in your backyard too.

This herb grows wild in Tuscany and will grow wild in your backyard too.

Nepitella completes the trifecta of Italian herbs that are a must-have in any Tuscan kitchen. You know about oregano and basil, but what is nepitella?

It’s an herb like no other and one I wouldn’t dream of living without. Some describe it as a cross between oregano and mint, but I believe it’s more like a cross between basil and mint. In reality, it’s in a league by itself.

So what do you use it for and where can you get it? Find out the answers to these questions and more.

More on nepitella at AllThingsTuscan.com

And try this recipe for Nepitella and Mushroom Spaghetti

(Photo by Mark Micheli)

Lenten Spaghetti
Jun 30th, 2009 by
Good Italian food isn't all about red sauce, as this dish proves.

Good Italian food isn't all about red sauce, as this dish proves.

This is a little different, but very good, simple and easy to make.  Pellegrino Artusi, in his famous 1891 cookbook, said that some might exclaim, “What a ridiculous dish!” But we both like it. It’s Romagnan and a little sweet.

Ingredients

2 1/2 ounces of shelled walnuts

1/2 cup of breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar

1 heaping teaspoon of spices (see below)

1 lb of spaghetti

Spices

  • The lenten spaghetti recipe calls for a mixture of spices that several other recipes in the Artusi use, so I made a batch of this that I keep in my cupboard. Called “Spezie Fini” or “Choice Spices” you “grind in a bronze mortar” (or chop in a mini foodprocessor; or however you choose to grind):
  • 2 whole nutmegs
  • 2 ounces stick cinnamon from Ceylon
  • 1 ounce (4 1/2 tablespoons) all-spice
  • 4/5 ounce (4 tablespoons) cloves
  • 2 tablespoons sweet almondsThen “strain the powder through a silk strainer” (or whatever) and store it in a glass bottle. It should keep for years with the same potency.
What I did:
Mash walnuts with bread crumbs, and add some confectioners’ sugar and a pinch of spices.
Drain the pasta, season it with oil and pepper, stir in the spices and serve it.
(Should serve five)
(Find more recipes in the Food section.)
Grilled Pork Chops with Peppers and Capers
Jun 18th, 2009 by
A good companion to the grilled pork chops and peppers dish is grilled artichokes (recipe follows).

A good companion to the grilled pork chops and peppers dish is grilled artichokes (recipe follows).

This was the first recipe I made out of my newest cookbook, Mario Batali Italian Grill, and the results were amazing. My wife Trish commented that she had a hundred flavors mingling in her mouth while she ate this. And although the recipe says it serves six, three of us finished it off as we all had seconds.

(Note: Recipe calls for pork chops to sit in brine overnight.)

  • Ingredients:
  • For the brine:
  • 4 1/2 quarts of water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
    —————————-
  • 6 pork rib chops
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into thin strips
  • 3 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into thin strips
  • 8 bulb onions, trimmed and quartered, or 2 red onions, halved and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 1/2 cup Gaeta olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons small capers, with their brine
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
It doesn't get more colorful or flavorful than this pepper, onion, and caper mixture.

It doesn't get more colorful or flavorful than this pepper, onion, and caper mixture.

What I did:

In a saucepan, combine 2 cups of the water, the salt, and brown sugar and heat over high heat, stirring, until the salt and sugar dissolve.

Pour into a large deep bowl or another container large enough to hold the pork and the brine.

Add the peppercorns, the bay leaves, and the remaining 4 quarts of water. Stir to mix well.

When brine is completely cool, add the pork chops. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, heat olive oil in large pot over high heat until very hot. Add the peppers, onions, olives, red pepper flakes, and capers and cook, stirring for 10 minutes, or until the peppers and onions are beginning to soften. Add the wine and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and set aside.

Drain the chops and pat dry with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

Place chops on hottest part of the grill and cook for 7 minutes, unmoved. With tongs, carefully rotate the chops 90 degrees to create nice grill marks and cook for 4 minutes more. Turn the chops over and cook for 5 to 9 minutes more, making sure they are cooked inside.

Transfer the chops to a platter, spoon the pepper mixture over it and serve.

This dinner was so good we had two pork chops each.

This dinner was so good we had two pork chops each.

Also, try the Grilled Artichoke recipe

Find more recipes in the Food section.

(Photos by Mark Micheli)

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