An Italian chef’s tasty way to cook chicken – just like his Venetian granny did

Kitchen Cabinet: Enrico Fantasia’s braised chicken in white-wine sauce with polenta

Braised chicken with polenta.

Braised chicken with polenta.

 

I spent a great part of my childhood in my granny’s kitchen in Venice. She was an amazing cook, and definitely my passion for food came from there. Her cooking was quintessentially Venetian, and so there was very little pasta on the table, but rice and polenta were.

There is a distorted idea that Italian food is all about pasta and tomato sauces, but this is only a small percentage of it. Back home, slow cooking was used a lot both for fish and meat, and always with a copious amount of sauce/gravy to be soaked up with polenta.

So that’s why, if I think of something comforting for the soul and the body, that would be braised chicken (pollo in tecia in Venetian), with polenta. It’s easy to make, incredibly tasty, and if you have any leftovers, toss some tagliatelle in and you have another meal.

With this dish, it’s all about simplicity and good ingredients: use the best chicken you can put your hands on. I get mine from Ennis Butchers in Rialto, and the veg from Jenny McNally, or anywhere I can find organic veg.

Enrico Fantasia is co-owner of Piglet Wine Bar in Dublin.

Venetian braised chicken in white wine sauce with polenta

Serves four

Ingredients

1 chicken (free range) cut in eight pieces, or a mixture of legs, thighs and drumsticks
1 medium onion
1 carrot
2 sticks celery
3 glasses white wine
1 ltr chicken stock (or veg stock, or boiling water)
4 sage leaves
2 bay leaves
Dried spices (a small pinch each of cinnamon, coriander, cardamom)
3 tbsp olive oil
75g butter
Salt and pepper

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For the polenta:

1 ltr water
250g coarse polenta flour (not the instant one!)
Salt

Method

1. For the chicken: Chop the onion, carrot and celery in very small cubes (mirepoix) and sweat them, together with the sage and bay leaves, with extra virgin olive oil in a heavy casserole over low heat, until translucent.

2. Melt the butter in a frying pan, season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper then fry them until golden brown.

3. Add the chicken pieces to the casserole with the vegetables. Increase the heat and add one large glass of white wine and boil until no liquid remains. Repeat the same with the second glass of wine. Drink the third...

4. Add the boiling stock, and the spices, reduce the heat and cover with a sheet of grease proof paper. Let it gently simmer for about 90 minutes. If it dries out too much, add some boiling water. You should end up with a generous quantity of slightly thick sauce.

5. For the polenta: In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil, then add the salt.

6. Reduce the heat, and slowly add the polenta, stirring continuously with a whisk. Avoid any lumps.

7. Keep stirring until you reach the texture of a soft porridge. Cover with a lid, lower the heat to the minimum and let it slowly simmer for at least 30 or 40 minutes, stirring regularly.

8. To serve: On a warm plate, put a large spoonful of polenta, arrange two pieces of chicken on top and cover generously with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Tip: For an even better result, once the chicken is cooked let it sit overnight in its own juices and reheat it the following day.

Kitchen Cabinet is a series of recipes from chefs who are members of Euro-toques Ireland who have come together during the coronavirus outbreak to share some of the easy, tasty things that they like to cook and eat at home #ChefsAtHome

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