From Adriatico: Stories and recipes from Italy’s Adriatic Coast by Paola Bacchia
(Smith Street Books, September 2018 – AU$ 55, NZ$ 65)
Sugo di gallina
1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large brown onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1.2 kg (2 lb 10 oz) chicken (preferably a whole broiler), washed, patted dry and cut into 12 pieces
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
½-1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 small rosemary sprigs
125 ml (4 fl oz/ ½ cup) dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
80 ml (2 ½ fl oz/1∕3 cup) boiling water
grated parmesan, to serve
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20–30 minutes until soft and starting to fall apart (don’t let it brown), then add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
Meanwhile, place the chicken pieces in a bowl and toss with the paprika, pepper and about 1 teaspoon of salt. Rub the spices into the chicken pieces. Add the chicken pieces to the onion mixture, increase the heat to medium and cook for a few minutes until browned. Flip them over and cook for a few more minutes until nicely browned all over. Add the rosemary and half the wine and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine has evaporated. Add the remaining wine and cook for another 10 minutes or until the wine has evaporated again.
Dissolve the tomato paste in the boiling water, add to the pan and stir to combine. Cover and simmer for 1½ hours (or 1 hour if you are using thighs and drumsticks), stirring regularly. The chicken should release quite a bit of liquid, especially if you are using thighs and drumsticks, but feel free to add a bit more water if it looks dry. Taste the sauce and add salt if needed.
The sugo is ready when the meat is tender and falling off the bones. Remove any smaller bones from the chicken pieces (especially if you are using a chopped whole chicken), then serve topped with grated parmesan.
Plump breasts and meaty thighs are what we have come to expect when we eat chicken, but there is much to be said for cooking with an older chook – the ones sometimes called broilers, which have passed their egg-laying prime and are lean and flavoursome from running around the barnyard. I would buy this type of chicken from the Slovenian butcher at the market in Trieste. He’d bring the chickens down from the Carso, and sell them whole or halved, chopped into pieces if you like. They only had a small amount of meat but it was deliciously tender when cooked at length, the skin and bones packing a tasty punch in a broth or a sugo.
Sugo di gallina does not traditionally have a lot of meat in it, and what is there is so tender it’s barely hanging onto the bone. If you can’t find a lean broiler chicken, use a combination of chicken thighs and drumsticks, bones intact. If you do this you may need to reduce the cooking time by 20–30 minutes so the meat does not dry out. This is best served with your favourite pasta or gnocchi, finished with a good sprinkling of parmesan.