Let’s make a chicken dish. This one is a bona fide Italian dish, and it’s an ItalianAmerican one as well. Fantastic. However. You will probably find a million versions of this so let me explain what makes a chicken dish “CONTADINA”. Take the word itself, it means the Farmer’s Wife. Many Italian dishes are named romantically or literally after the type of person who “invented” the dish. Invented in quotes because we seldom REALLY know where these dishes actually came from. Part of the fun with cooking is piece together bits of national tradition and food culture to find a genesis for a dish. POLLO ALLA CONTADINA is a term used to describe Chicken made in the fashion of a Farmer’s wife or Peasant or Country style. Cut pieces of whole chicken are seared then simmered with pieces of sausage, onion, herbs, wine, mushrooms, lard (or olive oil), peppers and tomato. To make it easy, think of this as the famous Chicken Scarpariello with Crushed Tomato added. Most dishes are interelated. A specific change creates something new. I’ve seen recipes for this with cream as well. I prefer no cream. My modern version of this dish utilizes Boneless breasts. Unlike the Farmer’s wife who was chained to her kitchen and home duties all day I’m not, so I often have less cooking time than 10 hours to prep a meal. You can get this done in under 1 1/2 hours. Comes out even better when you use boneless thighs with the skin on them but my family isn’t a fan of the dark meat. So I’d be lying if I gave you that recipe…lol. But feel free to use Bone in /Skin on pieces of chicken or the boneless skin on /skinless thighs instead of the boneless breasts. Remember, they need longer sear and cooking times so adjust accordingly. See??? Something for everyone is what A FOOD OBSESSION likes to give you!! Historically Chicken is not very Italian in the kitchen and the dishes that are traditional usually are whole birds or in pieces because they were old. Old and Stringy, the young chickens were too valuable to eat as they gave eggs to the family with was way more important a food. And cheap and available to all. ItalianAmericans created most of the cutlet intense Chicken dishes. I say that with love, not as it being a bad thing. It’s wonderful when a cuisine creates a new cuisine. Honor both!!! Enough of my babble…time to cook.
TIME: 1 1/2 HOURS SERVES: 4-6
1 1/2 LBS WHOLE BONELESS CHICKEN BREASTS CUT INTO CHUNKS OR STRIPS
1/8 CUP SEASONED FLOUR
1 LB. SWEET ITALIAN FENNEL PORK SAUSAGE
1 DICED ONION
4 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC
3/4 LB SLICED OR QUARTERED BUTTON MUSHROOMS
1 SLICED RED PEPPER
1/4 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE
1 28 OZ CAN ITALIAN PLUM/SAN MARZANO TOMATOES CRUSHED WITH YOUR HANDS
1/8 CUP WATER OR CHICKEN STOCK
1 BAY LEAF
PINCH FENNEL SEEDS
ENOUGH FRESH THYME OR ROSEMARY TO MAKE 2 TBS. CHOPPED
KOSHER SALT AND FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER
Start by lightly seasoning the chicken then coating it with the flour. shake off the excess. In your largest, widest, heaviest pan or Dutch oven, heat 1 tbs. of olive oil and cook the sausage until they are well browned on all sides. Takes about 10-15 minutes. Remove the sausage. Now add more olive oil if necessary and brown the chicken on all sides, in batches if necessary adding more oil as you go (again, if needed). When done deglaze the pan with the wine scraping up all the delicious bits on the bottom. Pour this over the sausage you already have put to the side. Add more olive oil to the pan and saute’ the onions, peppers, and mushrooms, seasoning as you good. When they are soft (don’t rush it…you want them soft before you go to the next step, give this 15 minutes on medium, stirring or shaking the pan/pot from time to time.). Add the garlic and saute in for 2 minutes then add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Add 1/2 the chopped herbs and the bay leafand fennel seeds. Season with salt and pepper. Now reduce to a simmer. Add the Sausage, Chicken and all the collected juices. Add the water/stock. Let this simmer for 45 minutes and reduce the liquid by almost 3/4. Stir occasionally, do not cover!!! You want the liquid to evaporate and leave a deliciously concentrated sauce around the meat and vegetables. I like to let it almost completely evaporate. Up to you. Realize though the longer you cook it the more you need to pay attention since you don’t want to scorch/burn that tomato in the dish. So many rules LOL.. Let sit for a bit before serving. Most of all, enjoy every part of cooking. Especially the smiles on everyone who is lucky enough to enjoy your meals! HAPPY COOKING!!
This looks good, I will tweak it a little bit. I love your recipies, it reminds me of the food I grew up with. I like your descriptions and how you make allowances for food preferances. Keep up the good work.
Greetings From Mumbai, India.
I am an Indian Christian Guy of Portuguese Descent who totally digs Classic Italian Cuisine.
I plan to cook Creamy Chicken Contadina on Monday Evening in Mumbai, India.
I love your site a lot as it has helped me to appreciate Italian Cooking which is heavenly in more ways than one.
My Favourite Go To Italian Classic Chicken Dish is Chicken Cacciatore which is so sumptuous and to die for specially when it is had with a glass of Chianti Red Wine or Sangiovese for that matter.
I have 2 Cooking Blogs where I am constantly cooking mostly Unknown Mughlai Chicken Curries like Kadai Chicken, Afghan Chicken Curry, Zafrani Chicken Curry which is Persian – Afghan in Origin etc etc.
In The New Year I plan to cook Classic French Chicken Dishes such as Basquaise Chicken which is from the Basque Region of France as well as Dishes connected to Indian Cuisine that one not normally hears about.
My Other Favourite Classic Italian Chicken Dishes are Chicken Parmigiana and Chicken Marsala.
My Two Cooking Blogs are My Kitchen and I love Eating Chicken.
Cheers From India.