Eating and drinking on a budget is rewarding but risky. You’re bound to make a few bad choices in your search for the best deal. This is never more clear than when buying wine. There are some great budget picks out there, but sometimes you get that $7 bottle that just tastes like…well, a $7 bottle, or worse.
For me last night, it was a Nostalgia Sauvignon Blanc 2007. Rather than choke it down, I flipped through the myriad recipes that would allow me to make the best of my poor decision. I came across an old favorite: Marcella Hazan’s Chicken Fricassee, Cacciatora Style. As luck would have it, the front page of my circular blared “59 cent chicken leg quarters.” With an investment of about $4, my ghastly wine became a delicious dinner for five.
Marcella’s recipe is after the break, and is best served atop a pile of polenta (cornmeal + water = the poor man’s dream starch).Chicken Fricassee, Cacciatora Style
from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
- A 3-4 pound chicken, cut into 6-8 pieces (or 4 chicken quarters)
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- Flour, spread ona plate
- Black pepperm ground fresh from the mill
- 1/3 cup onion sliced very thin
- 2/3 cup dry white wine
- 1 sweet yellow, red, or green bell pepper, seends and core removed and cut into thin julienne strips
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin disks
- 1/2 stalk celery sliced thin crosswise
- 1 garlic clove, peeeled and chopped very fine
- 2/3 cup canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, chopped coarse, with their juice
1. Wash the chicken in cold water and pat thoroughly dry with cloth or paper towels.
2. Choose a saute pan that can subsequently accommodate all the chicken pieces without crowding them. Put in the oil and turn the heat on to medium high. When the oil is hot, turn the chicken in the flour, coat the pieces on all sides, shake off excess flour, and slip them into the pan, skin side down. Brown that side well, then turn them and brown the other side. Transfer them to a warm plate, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Turn the heat back o to medium high, put in the sliced onion, and cook the onion until it has become colored a deep gold. Add the wine. Let it simmer briskly for about 30 seconds while using a wooden spoon to scrape loose the rowning residues on the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the browned chicken pieces to the pan, except for the breasts, which cook faster and will go in later. Add the bell pepper, carrot, celery, garlic, and the chopped tomatoes with their juice. Adjust heat to cook at a slow simmer, and put a lid on the pan to cover tightly. After 40 minutes add the breast and continue cooking at least 10 minutes more until the chicken thighs feel very tender when prodded with a fork, and the meat comes easily off the bone. Turn and baste the chicken pieces from time to time while they are cooking.
4. When the chicken is done transfer it to a warm serving platter, using a slotted spoon or spatula. If the contents of the pan are on the thin, watery side, turn the heat up to high under the uncovered pan, and reduce them to an appealing density. Pour the contents of the pan over the chicken and serve at once.