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Praise for Michael Chiarello's Tomato Braised Chicken

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For me, a once yearly must-have recipe is my version of Michael Chiarello's long-cooked hen in tomato sauce. I have had this dish at least once for each of the past 7-8 years now. It takes a bit of work, but the recipe is almost foolproof and I am always impressed with the great flavor. The following is my take on his wonderful creation.

Serves 4, with sauce for days

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups diced onion
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced celery
4 minced garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
4 tbls kosher salt
2 cups dry red wine
6 cans (28 ounces each) whole tomatoes, pulsed in a blender or Cuisinart
5 tbls freshly ground black pepper
1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds
1/2 cup minced fresh basil
1/4 cup minced fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Preheat your oven to 325ºF. At the same time, preheat a large Dutch oven on the stove top over high heat. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat. Add the aromatics (onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaves) and 1 tbls salt.

Saute the aromatics, stirring occasionally, for approximately 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking for another 20 minutes until the vegetables are caramelized. This caramelization process is an important step as it contributes a great depth of flavor. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen any flavorful stuck-on bits. Let the wine simmer for 3 minutes.

Add all of the tomatoes, the rest of the salt and the pepper. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. It is important to add enough salt and pepper now, so that the chicken seasons as it cooks. You won't be able to taste the sauce once the chicken goes in the pot.

Place the chicken, breast side down, in the sauce, and bring the sauce to a simmer on the stove top. Transfer to the oven. Cook, uncovered, until the chicken is very tender, about 2 hours, spooning the sauce over the chicken from time to time.

Remove the pot from the oven and let the chicken cool a little in the sauce for 10 minutes. Remove the chicken, carefully as it is still very hot, and place on a cutting board. Stir the basil and parsley into the sauce and allow to cook in the sauce while you carve the chicken.

Generally I serve the chicken and a few spoonfuls of the sauce over a bowl of creamy polenta, but I had some fregola in the pantry so I used that instead. The nuttiness of the small pasta worked well. And the best part, there were about two quarts of that delicious pasta sauce left over.

The pasta can be frozen into different containers for easy dinners on other nights. The possibilities are limited only by your creativity.

Note: I have always used a standard supermarket bird for this recipe, but I want to try an actual stewing hen the next time I try it. According to Chiarello, his grandmother's used her own homegrown hens. "They were tough and sinewy," he says, "but they had excellent flavor, and the slow cooking in tomato sauce tenderized them."

For photos and more, click here: http://nochoiceatall.blogspot.com/200...

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  1. This sounds wonderful. I'm wondering: with all the sauce this recipe makes, do you think it's possible to cook 2 chickens at once?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Missyme

      If you have a pot that is big enough I am sure you could do it. You would need to extend the cooking time some, but that timing issue could easily be solved with an instant read thermometer.

      I think I have the 9-quart Le Creuset dutch oven and it fills it pretty close to the top as you can see from the photo on my link above. If you have a 15-20 quart stock pot it just might work, but you would want to make sure that it fits in your oven before you get it all the way filled up and simmering. I don't think a 20-quart pot would fit in mine.

    2. Thanks for the recipe and feedback and jfood is a big fan of Chiarello.

      This looks like his take on a California-ized Cacciatore. Jfood agrees that having all this work for 1 chicken is better served with two. Have you thought about cutting chicken into pieces to be more efficient in the pan?


      1. Dear Hobsons Choice, as I was putting this dish together, I realized I couldn't follow your recipe exactly because I don't have a cooking dish large enough to hold a chicken and 6 28-0z cans of tomatoes! I used 3 35-oz cans, reduced wine to 1 cup and reduced black pepper to 1 tbsp. Used full amount of aromatics. It was VERY DELICIOUS - but VERY, VERY PEPPERY. So I thought I'd check - do you really use 5tbsp?????

        1. Clarification!!! do you really use 5 tbsp of black pepper?

          1. 2 Tablespoons of salt is a lot of salt, even if it's Kosher salt.

            1. This is a massive amount of salt, pepper and tomato. Is it really 4 servings, or is there a misprint?

              2 Replies
              1. re: IsoFungi

                The idea behind the variation from the original is to make a large volume of sauce out of one braised chicken - and it definitely works. So the chicen serves four and you have 2 quarts of sauce to freeze. But even so, the salt and pepper amounts are massive - I didn't use them - but was curious as to whether that's what Hobsons Choice had in mind.

                1. re: jns7

                  I made this some time ago, like last winter 2010, and was surpirsed when the thread popped up again.

                  I can't say if that's the measurement of salt and pepper the OP had in mind; I do believe it's a serious typo, and I adjusted it down to about a 1 tbsp salt and 2 tsp pepper, to start, then adjusted seasoning at the end, and I thought it was necessary. A bit more salt but no more pepper was needed, as it turns out. I seasoned the chicken lightly with salt and pepper, and stuffed a cut lemon and a couple cloves of garlic in it before adding it to the sauce as well. I added an eyeballed heaping tsp of crushed red pepper to the sauce as well, and doubled the garlic and bay leaf to four smallish ones, but that's just me.

                  I usually make a similar type sauce in a large batch and freeze it. This version, well, since I made some small ingredient changes, my version of the sauce, was quite good and great with the chicken, like a good modified chicken Cacciatore. The leftover sauce stood us in good stead for more than a few meals.