Chicken with Tomatoes and Sweet Peppers (Pollo alla Romana con i Pepperoni)
The verb insaporire sums up an essential concept in Italian cooking. Best translated as “to let the flavor develop,” it refers to a process in which the ingredients of a dish take on a bit of one another’s flavor. In this recipe, the chicken and peppers are cooked separately and then come together at the end, when each absorbs something from the other, resulting in rich yet distinctive flavors. This dish was often served on Ferragosto, August 15, the main summer holiday. Sweet, ripe peppers were in season and meat—even chicken—was considered an indulgence reserved for special occasions.
- 1 chicken, about 3 lb., cut into 8 serving pieces
- 4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 oz. prosciutto, including the fat, coarsely chopped
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 can (14 oz.) plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with juices
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 Tbs. chopped fresh marjoram
- 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut lengthwise into strips 3/8 inch wide
- 1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut lengthwise into strips 3/8 inch wide
Rinse the chicken and pat dry. In a large fry pan over low heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the prosciutto and sauté until it starts to crisp, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken, increase the heat to medium-high and brown on all sides, about 15 minutes total. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the wine to the pan and cook until it evaporates, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, 1 garlic clove and the marjoram, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in another fry pan over medium heat, warm the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil. Add the remaining garlic clove and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic clove. Add the bell peppers and cook, stirring often, until they are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
When the chicken is done, mix the peppers and the pan juices into the chicken, reduce the heat to low and cook gently for 5 minutes to blend the flavors. Transfer the chicken and peppers to a warmed platter and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, Rome, by Maureen B. Fant (Oxmoor House, 2005).