Fricasseed Chicken with Bay Leaves

Pollo in Tegame con l’Alloro

Mara Martin and her husband Maurizio, owners of the restaurant Da Fiore in Venice, dispense what may be some of the most ethereal, purest seafood cooking in Europe. What their patrons don’t know is that Mara has a secret life. At home, for her family and friends, she cooks bold, earthy meat dishes. The chicken recipe below is one of them.

The foundation for the particularly spirited flavor of this chicken is the preliminary sautéing of onion, parsley, celery, and garlic in olive oil. It has to be performed vigorously, at lively heat, to cause the aromas to bloom and impregnate the oil. Take care, however, not to let the garlic get dark. When the base is ready, the chicken pieces are browned in it, together with bay leaves and wine; and once that flavor bond has been fastened, you can proceed to cook the bird at slower heat until it achieves complete tenderness.

You can presume that good ovens are not lacking in Mara’s kitchen, but you will notice that she, like me, cuts up her birds and cooks them on the stove top.

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Ingredients

  • A 3½-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup very finely chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ cup very finely chopped celery
  • 1 large garlic clove, lightly mashed with the handle of a knife and peeled
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Salt
  • Black pepper ground fresh
  • ½ cup dry white wine

Method

  1. Wash the chicken pieces in cold water and pat thoroughly dry with kitchen towels.
  2. Choose a sauté pan or skillet in which the chicken pieces can later fit in a single uncrowded layer, without overlapping. Put in the olive oil and the chopped onion, turn on the heat to medium high, and cook the onion, stirring frequently, until it becomes colored a light gold.
  3. Add the parsley, celery, and garlic and cook for about a minute, stirring frequently.
  4. Put in the chicken pieces with the skin facing down. Brown them well on that side, then turn them and brown the other side. Add the bay leaves, salt, and generous grindings of black pepper, turning over the full contents of the pan with a wooden spoon.
  5. When the chicken pieces have been deeply browned on all sides, add the white wine. While you let it bubble away completely, scrape loose with your wooden spoon any browning residues stuck to the pan. When the wine’s alcohol has completely evaporated—you can smell it going—put a lid on the pan and turn the heat down to very low.
  6. Turn the chicken pieces from time to time, and if the juices in the pan should become insufficient to keep the chicken from sticking, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water. Cook until the meat comes easily away from the bone, about 45 minutes. Remove bay leaves before serving. Serve piping hot.

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