Mario Batali's Chicken with Cooked Wine
Actually, I prefer the Italian name: Pollo al Vin Cotto.
Mario Batali's cookbook, Molto Italiano, has been the perfect resource for me while holed away in my little Florentine apartment. I am devouring all the Italian references and seasonal nuances, loving everything from the Italian subtitles to the descriptions of pasta and types of Italian flour (I use "00" flour when I make focaccia).
I understand his affection for anchovies and capers, and instinctively nod when he refers to subtle---and not so subtle---differences between olive and grape growing regions across Italy. I see the seafood pile high in his recipes and notice how frequently he uses tomato sauce (remember one of my first posts on why I love talking about tomatoes?).
It has been constant Christmas-mornings-with-stockings-full for me, while reading his cookbook. What shall I make next? What do I want to focus on? Shall I go with familiar or unfamiliar? And all of a sudden I feel like his self-appointed apprentice, a student of culinary genre and mentality. Like Van Gogh copying masters works incessantly, trying on the styles of all his peers and predecessors.I am studying Mario. Learning about his technique, preferences, short-cuts, philosophy, habits and style. What makes him tick? What makes him successful? How does he relate to food? What is his story? Yes, I read HEAT. And yes, I live in Seattle and have stood in line at Mario's fathers's shop SALUMI on more than one occasion (with my kids in tow, even).
I have gone to culinary school (learning from qualified chefs), and studied the likes of Martha and Ina, read Jamie's, Marcella's and Giada's books and own many more. I don't agree with them all, or like all of their recipes; though some I adore and cannot get enough of. Regardless, I am learning tips, tricks, methodology and flavor profiles. And this latest study of Mario is a welcome companion.
I selected a number of Mario's poultry dishes. Largely because I wanted to keep practicing my poultry carving skills, plus whole chickens are budget-savvy and cooked right can be restaurant-menu worthy. So it begins.
I chose this recipe (here it is on the food network) and my family raved. Best chicken we have had... that is what they told me.
Here is what I am telling you:
- gather all of the ingredients, as if they are a group of friends having a conversation on your counter.
- I cut up one 3 LB chicken, but added a few drumsticks and thighs---as needed---for extra mouths (cooking with skin on is key)
- in my opinion, the olives/nuts/capers are helpful but not essential. If you are missing olives or almonds---'non c' e fretta'---don't worry about it (skip 'em).
- plan for time. I have made this more than once, and it is essential to let the entree develop. Allow for enough time for the wine to simmer, then later to let the vinegar/sugar simmer...
- in the end Mario tells you to sprinkle the chicken with black pepper, parsley, red pepper flakes, parsley... sure, you can do that. I threw in the same said seasonings sometime in the last 10 minutes and called it 'a day.' Actually, I cheated. The shops here in Tuscany (souvenir, butchers and otherwise) sell a token mix of herbs that includes parsley, red pepper and the like.
- by all means, serve with potatoes or risotto; this dish begs for a starch to soak up all the sauce.
- my family declared this a 'must' for our default dinner list!