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Oct 1, 2008 06:54 AM

October 2008 COTM Batali: Fowl

October 2008 Cookbooks of the Month:

Mario Batali’s Babbo, Molto Italiano, and Simple Italian Cooking.

Please post your full-length reviews of main course fowl recipes here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing and the book and page number, if possible, as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

Thanks for participating!

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  1. Spicy Sicilian Chicken (MI, p. 316)

    Used skin on/bone in chicken thighs instead of a whole cut up bird, and skipped the peppers, but other than that followed the recipe to a t. My hot chiles seem not to have been hot enough (he calls for 5 dried ones, but I started with 7 and still needed to add a bunch of red pepper flakes). I was skeptical about adding the olives and capers when I added the potatoes, thinking that by the time the pots were cooked the brininess of the other things would be gone, but I was wrong. This is a good solid dish, and we all enjoyed it on a sort of miserable gray day. Very good comfort food. I wasn't blown away by it, but it was easy and good. Served it with a little polenta on the side, which was totally unnecessary because of the potatoes. Oh, and I didn't taste the mint at all, so don't really think it is necessary to the recipe.

    2 Replies
    1. re: LulusMom

      It looks like a really good one-pot meal - nice picture! I went through the books last night and he has a lot of recipes using mint, fennel, or radicchio - unfortunately three things my husband doesn't like. Thanks for mentioning skipping the mint, I'll add this recipe to my list.

      1. re: Rubee

        I'm not crazy about mint in my savory food either, although on occasion I do think it makes a (good) difference. But this time around it is definitely skippable. And with fennel, if it is cooked a long time in with a bunch of other stuff it is often hard to taste - you get more of a celery thing from it. But I say that as a fennel lover - you'll know better how much your husband is able to take.

    2. Chicken Thighs with Saffron, Green Olives and Mint, Molto Italiano, Pg. 310

      I halved the recipe for two people...
      Boneless thighs are rinsed and patted dry (just thought I'd add that), seasoned with S & P, dredged in flour, then browned in EVOO and transfered to a platter. Chopped red onions and saffron are cooked till softened then chopped green olives and carrot are added with some chicken stock and brought to the boil. The thighs are returned to the pot and simmered for about 15 minutes. The pan cover is removed and the chicken is cooked for another 10-ish minutes. After removing the chicken to a platter the remaining sauce is seasoned to taste, mint leaves are added and the sauce poured over the chicken. This was a very nice, comfort food kind of dish and we liked it. The mint was hardly noticable but I suppose it did add that certain something to the over-all flavor. I served it with steamed butternut squash. I was toying with the idea of adding the squash directly to the sauce, but didn't want to corrupt the original recipe at first try. The combination on the plate was very tasty! Mario's Porcini Salad rounded out the meal.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Gio

        I have this down as a maybe on my list ... does the olive dominate? I'm having a hard time imagining olive/saffron/mint for some reason.

        1. re: LulusMom

          I know what you mean. Some of his combinations boggle this tired old mind.... but... It seems that neither ingredient overpowers the other. In fact, the saffron I used is fresh from a Penzey's store very near me and I was expecting a pop of that taste but that didn't happen. I have a feeling next time I make this I'll add , you guessed it, red pepper flakes. Just because.

          1. re: Gio

            Because what isnt' better with red pepper flakes! So you basically lose the taste of saffron, a not-so-cheap ingredient? Maybe skip that next time?

            1. re: LulusMom

              I'll either skip it or add a little more. Maybe my taste buds are fried. (>x<!)

        2. re: Gio

          I did not care for this one. But I didn't like the green olives that much either....and they did predominate.
          Not my cup of tea.

          I think if you LOVE green olives, you might like. I used "good" ones...maybe something from a can would have been better . . . gak.

          1. re: pitu

            Hi pitu..
            I used jarred Picholine marinated olives from France and they did not over power the dish at all. So sorry you didn't like the dish! Also, a day later when I had some of the leftovers for lunch I found the saffron had a more pronounced flavor.

            1. re: pitu

              pitu: Mr. Batali is nothing if not a purist about ingredients. I think he'd rather jump off a cliff into a vat of boiling Crisco than use canned olives.

            2. re: Gio

              Chicken Thighs with Saffron, Green Olives and Mint, Molto Italiano, Pg. 310

              I personally loved this recipe, I give it a 4.5/5, but I agree with my dinner-mates that it needs some tweaking.

              I was dubious about the olives at first, but they were really delicious. I bought good ones, that I had to pit myself.

              The saffron flavor was a little strong in mine, so I'd cut down on that a smidge. I think it calls for 1 tsp? Probably 3/4 would be better. Also, I think a good way to serve this would be to omit the saffron in the chicken thighs, but make saffron risotto to go on the side.

            3. Guinea Hen with Vinegar p. 336 Molto Italiano
              So, my SO brought home a guinea hen (there's an organic fancy farmer somewhere in the Carolinas selling air-chilled birds.) Thank you Mario for having a good recipe. I had one whole bird (not two) but it's a braise so I kept the proportions for everything else intact, except less balsamic vinegar, which you drizzle at the end. (Worked great.)

              Very straightforward prep, very tasty - black olives, capers, anchovies, tomato paste. I used smoked bacon for the prosciutto cotto.
              And the saucy glaze was great over mashed potatoes.

              I took a picture, because it was so weird to cook a guinea hen...I'll try to dig it up.

              19 Replies
              1. re: pitu

                That sounds yummy. I love guinea fowl (that's what we call them round these parts - I assume it's the same thing). My fallback recipe is to roast on a bed of potatoes (very delicious) but I might try and find this online. Thanks.

                  1. re: erica

                    Good find Erica. FWIW: I recognize some recipes from his Molto Italiano book, namely the Pollo Avellino which I'm making tonight....

                    1. re: Gio

                      Gio, I can't wait to hear about the pollo Avellino, since it's been on my list to make since the book came out. It has jalapeno peppers, and I want to know if it would be too spicy for people who don't like super-spicy food.

                      1. re: NYCkaren

                        I'm not sure Gio is the one to ask ... ; )

                        1. re: LulusMom

                          I love spicy food but my 10-year-old doesn't, and I'd hate to make a chicken recipe that she wouldn't eat. But I feel drawn to this recipe if only because my great-grandfather came from Avellino.

                        2. re: NYCkaren

                          Pollo Avellino, Molto Italiano, Pg. 324

                          This is another dish I just had to make because my paternal Grandmother's family came from Avellino and I can recall her making this in her own kitchen. I have the cast iron skillet she used!!

                          About 3 lbs. of chicken pieces(I used 1 whole chicken, quartered) are browned in hot oil then removed to a plate and set aside. Diced red onion, red bell peppers (I used 2), 4 jalepeno peppers , halved criminis (I used 2 small globe eggplants because I forgot to buy the mushrooms)are then sauted till golden. One cup of white wine and an equal amount of water is added, brought to a boil then the heat is turned down and the whole thing simmers for 30 minutes. The chicken is removed and at this point we let the sauce reduce for about 10 minutes then threw in a handful of chopped basil and parsley then added back the chicken.

                          Now, let me say this, there is no salt or pepper in this recipe and I was surprised to find I did not miss it but DH seasoned his serving. Also, Erica posted the Fine Living web site which lists many of MB recipes and the Pollo Avellino was one of them. In the on-line version he does not list a cup of water.... and although I followed the book, I now realize the water was totally unnecessary. I'm glad I had the presence of mind to reduce the sauce before returning the chicken to the pot. Lastly, In Re the jalapenos: he doesn't give any prepping directions but I cored & seeded them and sliced them in thin strips. All the other vegetables are finely diced. I did not add whole jalapeno to the top of the serving.

                          This was a tasty dish , not very spicy at all. I'm sure I'll be making it again, but I definitely will play with the seasoning ...and definitely will use the crimini mushrooms.

                          1. re: Gio

                            What? No salt is called for at all in the recipe??!! That seems strange...

                            1. re: Carb Lover

                              I must have read that recipe 10 times because I could not believe he didn't list S & P. It's not in the on-line version either:

                              But, as I said, I didn't miss it. There's so much going on that the flavors seem to compensate.

                              1. re: Gio

                                Gio I'm so glad you reviewed this recipe as I'm making it this evening and was grateful for your observation about the water being excluded from the online recipe for this dish.

                                I see that the Cooking Channel has now taken over the Fine Living site so I'll paste a new link to this recipe here:


                                I also found it interesting to note that MB doesn't include any garlic in the online recipe . . . is that even allowed????!!!! Surely not at our house!!

                                I'm debating whether to serve this w pasta, rice or roast potatoes. If anyone sees this and has some thoughts pls weigh in.

                                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                  BC: In cooler weather I make a creamy polenta to go with this chicken. Perhaps Mario's grilled polenta would be a good idea for Summer?? I also serve a simple mixed greens salad after the main dish.

                                  1. re: Gio

                                    Gio thanks and you're so right, polenta would pair perfectly. Unfortunately mc bc can't stand polenta (or any cornmeal dish for that matter). He has a textural issue and after having him try so many iterations at home and, when dining out, I've given up and polenta is one of those dishes I savour when we have guests or, I'm dining alone. I'll definitely take your suggestion on the greens . . . great idea!

                            2. re: Gio

                              Did you use the cast iron skillet to make this?

                              1. re: yamalam

                                Pollo Avellino Parte Due

                                I made this Saturday night and my husband loved it so much he (1) ate a lot that night; (2) ate another large portion last night AFTER we returned from dinner with friends at a Turkish restaurant; and (3) took the rest to work this morning.

                                This dish is going into the favorites bin.

                                As Gio did, I subbed some of the ingredients because I hadn't planned on making this til the last minute.

                                Instead of red onion, I used several small onions that came in our CSA box. Instead of 8 small peppers I subbed a couple of spoonfuls of the Universal Condiment (chopped red and green chilis preserved in salt which I'd made several months ago and is A REALLY GOOD REASON TO BE ALIVE). I had no basil but there was some penne with pesto in the fridge from a few days earlier. I also used a cup of homemade chicken broth to sub for the water.

                                This dish was really good. The heat from the chilis and the tang from the bell peppers (actually Gypsy peppers from the CSA box) was just right. I often find that the taste of peppers are just too strong and overpower all other flavors in a dish.

                                I made some fidellini (sp) and poured the chicken and sauce over. Boyoboy was this good.

                                Gio, did you serve it with "one hot pepper atop each portion"? I didn't even notice that instruction until just now.

                                1. re: oakjoan

                                  No, I did not serve the lone jalepeno on top of the dish. Enough already with the jalapenos. OTOH... weren't you surprised there was no S & P?

                                  As I have said about other cuisines and as Mario himself has stated frequently on his various shows... it's all about either having the ingredients at hand or finding the perfect seasonal ingredients in the market on the day you're going to make a certain dish. You adjust accordingly and go from there. Or what your culinary experience has taught you. Or what you remember from your childhood. Or what you want to experiment with.... ad infinitum.....

                                2. re: yamalam

                                  I didn't use my Grandmother's skillet for this dish. . But I did use a 12" heavy skillet that was used in my uncle's restaurant waaaayyy back in the 50s. I have several pieces of cookware my family passed on that I use with loving memories and very proudly.

                                3. re: Gio

                                  Pollo Avellino – Chicken From The Town of Avellino – p. 324

                                  Our turn w this tonight and thanks to Gio, I had all the right information to help make this dish a success. No need to cover the prep as Gio’s done that perfectly above.

                                  Per the Cooking Channel/Fine Living version, I omitted the water and, didn’t need to add any wine beyond the initial 1 cup as there was plenty of liquid from the veggies and the chicken. Instead of 10 cloves of garlic, I used 5 and, approx 1 cup of chopped garlic scapes since I had them on hand from the farmer’s market. I had yellow and orange bell peppers, not the red called for and, my mushrooms were Portobello vs cremini. Finally, I removed the skin from my chicken pieces.

                                  We quite enjoyed this dish. I noted the comments above regarding the absence of salt and, though we’re not “salt people” I did taste the sauce/broth prior to plating. The flavours were good however, I felt that salt might elevate them somewhat so I did season to taste w some Kosher salt and pepper. Even then, for my taste, I felt the dish could have used something more. I’m just not quite sure what . . . . somehow it was a little “one note”.

                                  I ended up serving this over some gnocchi and, the Misticanza salad from MB’s Molto Gusto. I’d make this chicken again as we liked the dish, I’ll just have to think about what I might add next time. Tomatoes maybe?...

                                  1. re: Gio

                                    I made this Avellino chicken a couple of months ago, to use a gift of red bell peppers. (We loved it, had it with buttered thin spaghetti.)

                                    This may be a small thing, but is there anyway to avoid that grey color that comes with cooking red onion in a dish ?

                          2. The Devil's Chicken (Pollo al Diavolo, MI, p. 319)

                            Over all, a good dish. You roast a chicken at 400 for about 40 minutes (mine was bigger than called for, and I roasted it for 30 minutes, as I find that recipes tend to over cook chickens, and I'm tired of dry chicken), and then slather on a paste of 1/4 cup ground pepper, 2 T Dijon mustard, a pinch of salt, and 1 T olive oil. Now, 1/4 of ground pepper sounded like an awful lot to me, but I went ahead with it. I may not have ground the pepper finely enough - I used my coffee grinder - but I still think it is a lot and the paste was very thick. There was no "brushing it on" - I used my hands as best I could. Then cooked it for another 30 minutes, and then it rested for about 30 minutes, as my husband was late. I'd made the Spicy Oil a couple of hours early (you are supposed to let it sit over night, which I'd missed). I tossed the cherry tomatoes, sliced red onions, sherry vinegar. olive oil and salt and pepper about 30 minutes before serving, which I'm glad I did as it took the edge off the onions.

                            Putting it together - scraped off the pepper crust (you are not supposed to do that) sliced the breast, put the salad on the platter, added the chicken legs and sliced breast, drizzled on pan juices (avoiding the pepper), and some strained chile oil. The instructions say to arrange the chicken on the serving plate, drizzle, then put the salad on top, which struck me as odd. The photo shows a whole uncarved chicken on top of the salad, and, if you look closely, you can see red pepper flakes on top of the chicken, which is odd, since you are supposed to strain the oil. (OK, I must be cranky today!).

                            Upshot - the chicken itself was delicious and juicy, we loved the salad, and there was some heat, but not too much. I'm wondering if the quantity of black pepper is an error - if you look at the photo, there are some pretty coarse chunks of pepper on there.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: MMRuth

                              MMR: Do you think the pepper paste would be more brushable if you used a little more olive oil? It doesn't look as if that'd make any difference in the flavor and it'd obviously be brushable.

                              Patting it on with your hands sounds like an irritating chore to me. They certainly DO show the salad under the chicken. Maybe the photog made them change it so the buyer of the book could see what the chicken looked like?

                              I really want to try the grilled squab (prob would use chicken cause I can't stand those small squabby things) with pomegranate molasses next. Sounds wonderful.

                              1. re: oakjoan

                                I think I did try adding one T of oil more than was called for. I really think maybe it should be 1/4 cup of mustard, and 2 T of pepper. Maybe I can email Mario and ask!

                                In terms of the photo -- they show the salad under the whole chicken, as opposed to under the cut up chicken as I did it, as opposed to on top of the cut up chicken as described in the instructions.

                              2. re: MMRuth

                                The Devil's Chicken (Pollo al Diavolo), Molto Italiano, p. 319

                                I agree completely with everything MMRuth reported on. Actually, one of my pet peeves with this book are the liberties they took with pictures (for example, the polenta terrine on p. 114 looks nothing like the layered terrine with crumbled sausage the recipe describes).

                                I made sure to grind the pepper fine and even doubled the olive oil, but it still made a too-thick paste, which I used a butter knife to spread on. If I made this again, I would brush the olive oil/Dijon on the chicken and then sprinkle with the black pepper, though that also would look nothing like the picture. For the salad, I used the same ingredients (tomatoes, parsley, sherry vinegar, red onion) but in ratios to taste, and served it alongside the chicken, drizzled with Spicy Oil which I made the night before (olive oil, jalapenos, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, heated and strained).

                                As MMRuth says, it was overall a good dish and the chicken was nicely seasoned and juicy. I was hoping for a bit more spice since the black pepper just made a crust which fell off, so I crumbled it on top of the chicken and liked it that way. It also made a nice stock - I took the meat off and put the bones in a crockpot overnight with the pepper crust, onions, carrots, bay leaf, and celery.

                                My husband's comment was that it was good but his favorite is "the one you make with butter and lemon", and I knew right away he meant the delicious Lemon-Thyme Roast Chicken from "Flexitarian Table".

                                Recipe link for pollo al diavolo:

                              3. From the "Molto Italiano" cookbook, I made the Turkey Cutlets Bolognese Style the other night. Trader Joe's always has nice turkey cutlets at an excellent price. This recipe calls for a fresh truffle shaved over the top, which of course I left out. He specifically says not to use truffle oil, so I did without. I also skipped the breading this time. I didn't have any fresh bread for crumbs, and didn't want the crispness of panko for this dish. So I simply dredged the cutlets in seasoned flour, browned in a bit of butter, and then assembled the dish: a few curls of shaved parmesan on top of the cutlets, followed by a slice of prociutto, and then some asiago (he calls for pecorino toscano). I put this all in a 450 oven until the cheese was melted and the turkey was cooked through. I really liked this preparation quite a bit. It was a lot like veal/chicken salimboca which I make a lot, without the sage and with a bit less frying. Not that there is anything wrong with that of course, but we are watching our fat & cholesterol intake around here a bit.
                                This was definitely a keeper, as leftovers were still very good - even cold!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: ErikaK

                                  Thanks very much for your report of the Turkey Bolognese.... TJs recently opened a new store a short drive from us. Gotta look for the turkey cutlets. What did you serve as a side dish, If I may ask?

                                  1. re: ErikaK

                                    I made this just because I saw turkey cutlets at the store.

                                    I followed the recipe except I left out the truffle. Also, it is very important that if you cannot find young Pecorino Toscano, do NOT use Pecorino Romano to substitute, as it's too salty and strong. Provolone or something similar would be fine.

                                    It's not exactly healthy, but it's really good.

                                    I served it with the Root Vegetable Mash with Orange Zest (p. 417)