Fricasseed Chicken Abruzzi-Style with Rosemary, White Wine, Cherry Tomatoes, and Olives

Pollo All’abruzzese Coi Pomodorini e Le Olive

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Small, ripe, thin-skinned, very savory cherry tomatoes have become extremely popular and widely available in Italy in recent years. They are destined for the salad bowl, but one can certainly cook with them, if one is careful about choosing a preparation where they will show to best advantage. If you are making a sauce in which you need a lot of tomato, it would be more efficient and economical to use the plum or round varieties grown for the purpose. But when I had this particular chicken, I thought I saw in it a good opportunity for the miniature tomato.

In the original dish there was tomato of conventional size cooked the necessary 20 minutes or more, and the taste was close to the familiar one of chicken cacciatora. It seemed to me that I could capitalize on the brief cooking time cherry tomatoes require to achieve flavor that was fresh and sprightly. Thus you will see that the tomatoes are put into the pan when the chicken is already done, and they stay no longer than is necessary for their skin to begin to crack. The resulting sweet and juicy taste is just what I was hoping for.

With that taste, olives similar to the strong-flavored ones of Abruzzi no longer seemed to be the most congenial ones to use, so I chose taggiasche olives, the small, mellow ones of the Italian Riviera. If you cannot find them, you can substitute French niçoise olives, which are similar.

I rarely have an occasion to mention how attractive an Italian dish is because presentation doesn’t get much attention from this cuisine. This chicken, however, whose nut-brown color is a rich foil to the red of the nearly intact whole tomatoes and the black of the olives, appeals no less to the eye than it does to the palate.

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Ingredients

  • A -pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 or 5 whole peeled garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary leaves, chopped very fine
  • Salt
  • Chopped hot chili pepper, ¼ teaspoon or to taste
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • Two dozen cherry tomatoes if no larger than 1 inch or proportionately fewer if larger
  • A dozen small black olives in brine such as Italian Riviera or French niçoise olives; see headnote

Method

  1. Wash all the chicken pieces in cold water and pat dry with kitchen towels.
  2. Choose a skillet or sauté pan that can contain all the chicken pieces in one layer without crowding. Put in the oil, garlic, and rosemary and turn on the heat to high. Add the chicken, the skin side facing down. When that side has been well browned, turn the pieces and do the other side. Sprinkle with salt, add the chili pepper, and with a wooden spoon turn over the contents of the pan three or four times.
  3. Add the wine and as it bubbles, scrape loose with the wooden spoon any browning residues sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Put a lid on the pan and turn the heat down to low. Cook for about 35 minutes, turning the chicken over from time to time. If you should find that the juices in the pan have become insufficient to keep the meat from sticking to the bottom, replenish them when necessary with 2 to 3 tablespoons of water.
  5. When the chicken is very tender—the meat should come easily off the bone—add the tomatoes and the olives. Continue cooking just until the tomatoes’ skin begins to crack. Transfer all the contents of the pan to a warm platter and serve at once.

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