Pollo ai peperoni

After sour cream-rich waffles, ice cream-topped cobbler, and a pie made with zucchini and tomatoes, yes, but also a buttery pie crust, I thought it was time to shake things up in the Butter-Flour-Sugar Land this blog periodically becomes (sorry not sorry) with pollo ai peperoni, which contains meat, vegetables, and for extra points, also happens to be gluten-free (!!!)

But let's talk chicken, shall we?! It plays a big part in American cuisine, and Americans can't get in enough of it. You'll find it on every restaurant menu, in pot-pies and soups, in chicken finger form, served with pasta (no comment), on salads, and in soups, nestled among buttery dumplings, eaten fried, grilled, poached, or roasted. Italians, on the other hand, could take it or leave it -- I've found it plays a much smaller role in their cuisine. As far as the Italians are concerned, why go for the chicken when you could have veal (saltimbocca alla romana, cotolette alla milanese!) pork (guanciale, pancetta, porchetta) or beef (ragu alla bolognese, bistecca alla fiorentina)?! I've found that in Italy, a chicken breast is what one eats when one has been sick, or is trying to lose weight, and I can probably count on one hand the times I've seen it on a menu here. 

But there are exceptions to every rule -- there are a few classic Italian dishes made with chicken, and what they lack in number they make up for in flavor. There is pollo alla cacciatora, the classic pollo arrosto con patate, and the subject of today's post, pollo ai peperoni, a classic Roman dish with chicken and bell peppers as the stars, and tomatoes, white wine, and fresh herbs as the supporting actors. It makes the best of bell peppers -- late Summer is the start of their season -- and is packed with flavor, the sweetness of the tomatoes and peppers intensified with all the slow cooking, the chicken perfectly cooked and superbly juicy, the herbs waking the whole thing up and adding a little freshness. For me, it is Italian cooking at its best -- simple, straightforward, just a few ingredients required -- not to mention super easy, a matter of throwing everything together in the pan and letting it simmer away for a bit. What's not to like?! 

A couple of notes: If you're not a fan of oregano, you can also use thyme here. I forgot to pick up fresh herbs and used dried oregano, which worked fine in a pinch. Feel free to use a mix of different colored peppers -- some orange might have been nice here too. I used drumsticks because that's what I like, but feel free to use whatever other cut of chicken you want. Though you can use boneless and skinless chicken if you want to keep things healthy, bone-in chicken with skin on is the tastiest and works best in this recipe. As usual, I scaled this recipe down a bit as I was only feeding myself, with leftovers, so feel free to up the quantities if you're feeding a bigger group. Be sure as well to have a big enough pan to accommodate all your ingredients, with high enough sides -- if you have a Dutch oven, that's ideal here.

Looking for other chicken recipes? I've got this Pollo alla cacciatora in bianco, these Cotolette di pollo, and this Roast Chicken with Grapes and Olives. Want another Roman secondo? I've also got Saltimbocca alla romana.


POLLO AI PEPERONI

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound (500 grams) chicken pieces
1 clove garlic
2 large bell peppers (preferably different colors)
1 1/2 cups (250 grams) cherry tomatoes, sliced
3/4 cup (180 ml) white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste 
Fresh oregano, to taste (see notes)
1/4 cup water
Salt and pepper as needed

Directions:
Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and set aside. Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet with high sides over medium-low heat. Add the garlic clove and stir it around for a second to let the butter and olive oil get nice and garlicky. Next, add the chicken pieces to the pan, cut side down. Cook the chicken for 20 minutes, turning once about 15 minutes in. While the chicken is cooking, slice up your bell peppers.
 
 
When the 20 minutes are up, add 1/2 cup of the wine to the pan with the chicken, and let it evaporate, about 5 minutes. When the wine is evaporated, add the peppers and tomatoes to the pan, placing them around and under the chicken. Add the last 1/4 cup of wine to the tomato and peppers, and let that cook off for a minute or two. Finally, add the tomato paste and the oregano or thyme, and give everything a good stir and a season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan.
 
Let the pollo ai peperoni cook for about 45 minutes, occasionally removing the lid on the pan to stir the peppers and tomatoes. After 45 minutes the chicken should be ready, but depending on what pieces of chicken you've used, this could take up to an hour. Test if the chicken is done by cutting in to the thickest part of the chicken -- if the juices are clear and the meat isn't pink, you're good to go. 
 
Remove the chicken to a plate and turn your attention to the tomatoes and peppers. Add 1/4 cup of water to the pan and swirl around to loosen the sauce up. Let cook for another five minutes or so.
 
Fish the garlic clove out of the sauce and discard. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings if necessary, then transfer it to a platter and top it with the chicken. Eat the whole thing with bread on the side to not let any of the sauce go to waste. Serves 2.






















Corn, Tomato, and Zucchini Pie


This recipe wasn't supposed to make it to the blog. In fact this Pie came about because I had, with much anticipation, been planning to make Caramelized Corn with Tomatoes and Bacon (!!!) a summer-y, American side dish meant to showcase the season's tomato and corn, and the bacon, well that goes without saying. Bacon, as we all know, bestows its signature smokiness and saltiness and richness upon every ingredient it touches, and makes them all the better for it. In fact I'd estimate it makes everything aleast 10 times more delicious.

But when I was ready to make my Caramelized Corn with Tomatoes and Bacon (!!!) I couldn't find any bacon. This might seem obvious as I'm in Italy, where bacon isn't so common, but my local Carrefour supermarket actually carries good old American-style sliced bacon, they just seemed to be out of it (or perhaps hadn't bothered to order it lately?! I don't imagine Italians are as fond of it as I am). I rummaged among the mortadella, the guanciale, the prosciutto, but it wasn't them I wanted, it was bacon I was in search of, and it was nowhere to be found. I toyed with the idea of substituting pancetta, but I knew it wouldn't be the same thing, and plus it didn't feel right to put pancetta with corn or butter or in an American dish at all. I moped briefly in the cold-cuts section of the supermarket and then rallied. 

I had already found the other ingredients needed for my recipe -- the corn, tomatoes, and basil -- and I did have half an onion and a zucchini kicking around the fridge, waiting to be used, and fate would have it that I had some leftover sour cream, the usual large quantity of butter, and some newly purchased whole wheat flour at home, too. The result was this improvised, supremely Summer-y Corn, Tomato, and Zucchini Pie, or flaky, buttery, whole-wheat pastry wrapped around candy-like caramelized onions, juicy tomatoes, sweet corn, emerald green coins of zucchini, and lots of melted cheese, with a bit flowery basil thrown in for good measure. Its a cross between this Cherry Tomato Crostata and this Three-Cheese Zucchini Tart, one of those savory pies I love so much that wears many hats, excellent as a starter, a light lunch, or on your brunch menu, able to accommodate whatever veggies are in season or whatever you happen to have hanging out in your fridge. The leftovers were superb, too.

I'll be honest: I didn't even miss the bacon. 

I'll be back in a few days with some Italian recipes to balance out all the corn and waffles and sour cream we've been seeing on here lately -- in the meantime, have a good weekend everyone! 

A couple of notes: If you don't have any whole wheat flour, feel free to use (all) all-purpose flour. Use any cheese here you like -- I used mozzarella because its what I had on hand, but Gruyere would also be nice. Adjust the quantities of the vegetables in the filling as you see fit -- if you want more corn, add more corn! Less tomatoes? Add less tomatoes! Note that I made this while my sister was away on vacation and it was just me at home, so I made a smaller pie -- the quantities below serve about 4. If you want a bigger pie, feel free to double the quantities of the crust and filling. Finally, if you aren't up for making the crust from scratch, you could of course always use a store-bought pie crust, but I will say the homemade crust is pretty spectacular and comes together quickly. 

Looking for other savory pies? I've got this Butternut Squash Galette, this Three-Cheese Zucchini Tart, and this Cherry Tomato Crostata, plus this Torta Pasqualina. Looking for other dishes with zucchini, tomatoes, or corn? I've got this Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad, these Stuffed Zucchini, this Tomato Cobbler, this Spaghetti with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil, and these Savory Tomato Shortcakes.

CORN, TOMATO, AND ZUCCHINI PIE

Ingredients for the pie crust:
3/4 cup (98 grams) tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (65 grams) whole wheat flour
8 tablespoons (112 grams) butter, ice cold and cut in to cubes
1/4 cup (about 55 grams) sour cream or full-fat yogurt
1/4 cup (59ml) ice cold water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 egg for the egg wash

Ingredients for the filling:
1/2 large onion
2 tablespoons (28 grams) butter
1 medium zucchini, cut in to rounds and then the rounds cut in half
1/2 cup (100 grams) corn kernels
3/4 cup (about 110 grams) cherry tomatoes, larger ones halved
2 tablespoons of basil, chopped (or more or less to taste)
1 1/4 cups (about 140 grams) grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt

Olive oil, as needed 
Pepper
Basil to garnish

Directions:
To make the crust: Whisk together the flours and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle the cubes of butter over the dough and using a pastry blender (or your fingertips, if you don't have one) cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with the biggest pieces of butter the size of tiny peas. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter and flour mixture. With a wooden spoon, mix in the liquid in until a dough begins to form; be careful to not overwork the dough. If it seems too wet, add more flour a tablespoon at a time. Turn the dough out on to a floured work surface and form into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

To make the filling: Start with the onions. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet and cook the onion over low heat pinch of sugar, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes. Place the onions in a bowl and set aside. Add the zucchini, corn, and tomatoes to the pan where the onions were along with a little olive oil so they don't stick. Saute the zucchini and tomatoes for about 4-5 minutes, or until they're all slightly softened and the zucchini is light brown (note that the veg will continue to cook in the oven). Add the zucchini, corn, and tomatoes to the bowl with onions. Add the basil and stir to combine. Set the filling aside to let it cool slightly. When cooled, add the cheese and 1/4 teaspoon of salt, plus pepper to taste. Taste the filling and adjust the seasonings accordingly. 

Time to assemble your pie! Once the hour is up, take your dough out of the refrigerator. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 8-inch round. Transfer to an greased baking sheet (wrap the dough around the rolling pin to help you transfer it from counter to baking sheet) Alternatively, if your oven is small like mine and you can't fit a whole baking sheet, you can lay the dough out over a greased 9-inch spring form pan and use that.  

Spread the filling over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Fold the border over the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit (note that this doesn't have to be perfect -- see my photos). Brush the border of the dough with a beaten egg to make it shiny, and bake in the oven until golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven, and let it cool for a bit. Garnish with extra chopped basil. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm, or room temperature. Makes (1) pie, serving 4 generously.