When it is cold and blustery, I like something stewed and saucy with a bit of spice. That's why I chose to make Chicken Stewed in Fragrant Tomato Sauce with Thick Pasta (or Kotopoulo Pastitsatha Apo Tin Kerkyra) from the Glorious Foods of Greece by Diane Kochilas for this month's Weekend Cookbook Challenge, which invites us to share "comfort food" recipes from our favorite cookbooks.
I've made this dish at least once a year, and, judging from the dates I've jotted in the margins, only in the winter months. My recipe notes have the title word "fragrant" underlined (twice), have comments on how it would be easy to make low-fat and still keep the flavor and that it worked well in the pressure cooker, and a note how very tasty it is. Note: When I can't find the pasta called for I've used penne or rigatoni. Drain the pasta well before using so no extra water gets in the sauce.
Kochilas says this dish was a traditional Sunday meal of the Island of Corfu and was made with free-range chicken or turkey. It's the nine spices -- allspice, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, nutmeg, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper -- that give it an authentic flavor.
Don't let the long list of ingredients fool you, this is a dish that maximizes taste and minimizes effort. It's great for homey family meals and company meals when you need to please, not impress.
Chicken Stewed in Fragrant Tomato Sauce with Thick Pasta
page 92, The Glorious Foods of Greece
William Morrow, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Makes 4 to 6 Servings
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
One 3 to 3 1/2 pound chicken, cut into stewing pieces (fat trimmed and skin removed, if desired. I have also made this with a little less than 3 pounds of boneless, skinless parts. The chicken cooks down a bit more into the sauce, but it is still delicious.)
3 cups coarsely cut red onions
4 finely chopped garlic cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Cayenne pepper to taste
2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes (canned ok)
1 cinnamon stick
4 to 6 allspice berries, to taste
Salt to taste
Water to cover (see below)
2 tablespoons tomato paste diluted with 2 tablespoons water
2 to 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pinch of sugar
1 pound of tubular spaghetti, like bucatini
Grated kefalotryri or any hard yellow cheese (Parmesan worked fine, too.)
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium high heat and brown the chicken pieces on all sides. Do this in batches if need be not to crowd and steam the pieces. Remove from the pot and drain well on paper towels.
Add the onion, reduce heat to medium low and saute until wilted. Add the garlic, cumin, nutmeg, paprika, cloves and cayenne and stir for a minute, just until they become fragrant. Add the chicken back to the pot and add the tomatoes, cinnamon stick, allspice, salt and enough water to cover the chicken. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the chicken is tender, about 40 minutes. (About 20 minutes before the chicken should be done, start the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain well when done.) Stir in the diluted tomato paste and add 2 tablespoons of the vinegar and the black pepper. Taste the sauce. If it is not tart enough, add a bit more vinegar. If it is too pungent, add a bit of sugar.
Remove the cinammon stick before serving. Serve chicken and sauce over pasta. Garnish with minced parsley and/or some kalmata olives. Pass the grated cheese.
To check out what other food bloggers have reached into their cookbook shelves for this month's topic, click on over to Weekend Cookbook Challenge. The round up is due to be posted on February 3rd.
Weekend Cookbook Challenge Chicken Greek Food