Mushrooms once scared me. I feel accomplished that I can say once, although you should believe me that I tried to like them. A few early experiences with mushrooms — resembling bland, tasteless sponges — left me feeling uncomfortable with them, but I revisited the ingredient on a regular basis. Over time, I developed a better understanding of them, and recently, I began exploring mushrooms in my own cooking adventures. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to say I love mushrooms, “all on their own,” but I continue to appreciate more varieties and means of cooking them.
Earlier this month, I decided I wanted to make a chicken dish featuring mushrooms as a star ingredient. I didn’t have many requirements: a new recipe, something Italian, with a sauce that was not too buttery, yet somehow decadent. I decided on (Top Chef’s) Fabio Viviani’s Pollo Ubriaco, Drunken Chicken, which had a deliciously rich sounding sauce featuring red wine, mushrooms, carrots, onions, garlic and just the right amount of butter. Click here to view the recipe on Fabio’s site. There are many goodies under the “Recipeasy” section. See how I made Fabio’s user-friendly recipe with a few minor changes:
1 whole chicken, ~2 lbs., skinless and broken down into pieces — you may also use a variety of skinless chicken thighs, breasts, etc.
1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
12 slices pancetta
2 medium yellow onions, diced
1 lb. mushrooms, oyster or button (I used a blend with both of these and baby bellas), coarsely chopped if large pieces
4 carrots, diced
1 c. chicken broth (I always keep Pacific Organic free range chicken broth and/or Imagine on hand in my pantry — both wonderfully homemade tasting when you can’t make homemade)
1 c. red wine
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp. butter
- Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and coat in flour.
- In a large skillet (or braiser or Dutch oven), fry diced pancetta until crisp; set aside.
- In the same skillet, brown the chicken in 2 tbsp. of melted butter; remove to a plate.
- Add onions and mushrooms to the skillet and cook until onions are tender.
- Return chicken pieces to skillet (or large oven-proof baking dish); add all remaining ingredients, including pancetta bits.
- Cover and simmer for about 1 hr., or until chicken is tender.
- Skim off excess fat before serving.
A few notes…I added a little more pancetta to the original recipe because my husband noted that the bits got lost in the first version. (This was so yummy I made it again a week later for a crowd.) I also added another garlic clove to help keep some of that flavor strong in the simmering sauce.
While you’re cooking, I recommend you check on the sauce once or twice during that hour it’s simmering. You’ll notice the beautiful browning and thickening of the sauce. It will smell irresistible. You might want to turn your skillet around at some point, especially if you’re using a gas stove. I just notice this rotating trick helps ensure even cooking throughout the chicken and the sauce. Furthermore, if one corner of your skillet seems to be bare or drying up from the sauce, move a little sauce over there. Adding to those areas keeps the skillet from turning your welcome browning into burning.
This wonderful dish got the approval of everyone from my husband to my parents to my 13-year-old cousin. I’ll certainly be keeping it in my rotation. Bravo, Fabio!