I’m a big fan of Bravo’s TV show “Top Chef,” and I was disappointed last week when one of my favorite All-Stars, Fabio Viviani, was sent home. He was hands down my favorite All-Star to watch because of his comedic and playful approach to cooking. The episode for restaurant wars where he works the front of the house was his best performance yet. He showed strong leadership, appreciation to the customers, and his admirable love for everything to deal with food. I thought it would be fitting to pick something from Fabio’s recipes for a special dinner at home to honor my fave All-Star and I wanted something Italian to prepare.
Normally, Lorenzo and I, do not celebrate the festivities of Valentine’s day. We call it the anti-holiday of the year because I don’t need a box of chocolates, overpriced flowers, fancy jewelry, or anything lovey-dovey because we have that every day of the year. (I’m a lucky girl!) Also, because the only holidays we really celebrate and buy gifts for each other are birthdays and anniversaries. Lorenzo went all out this year for my birthday, and bought my fancy DSLR camera that I have been coveting for the past 2 years. Of course, I wanted to thank my love with a wonderful home-cooked meal just because it was Monday and not a stinking lovey-dovey holiday.
This dish was every bit scrumptious and Top Chef worthy. More importantly, it was definitely the perfect way to say I love you and thank you for everything special that you have given to me.
Chicken Cacciatore with Pecorino Polenta
Adapted from Fabio Viviani
8 chicken legs (about 2 pounds)1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes2 red onions, sliced2 cups red wine8 ounces shitake mushrooms, sliced1 cup capers1 cup manzanilla olives, sliced¼ cup fresh oregano4 tablespoons olive oil3 to 5 sprigs of thyme, chopped6 to 10 garlic cloves, minced4 cups half and half2 cups pecorino cheese, grated2 cups polenta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large dutch oven, add a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Add the tomatoes, onions, red wine, mushrooms, olives, oregano and let cook for 45 to 60 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the chicken legs on a large jelly roll pan. Cover with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, a couple tablespoons of chopped garlic and thyme. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until no longer pink.
Add the baked chicken in the tomato mixture, and let soak overnight.
When ready to serve, pressure cook the chicken in tomato sauce for 20 minutes.
Prepare the polenta while the chicken is in the pressure cooker. In a medium dutch oven, add a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and sauté the garlic for 1 minute on medium heat.. Add the half and half, pecorino cheese, and bring to a boil. Slowly add the polenta (cornmeal) in and whisk frequently to prevent clumping, the mixture should come together, reduce the heat to a simmer. Polenta should look smooth. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper. Add the 2 tablespoons of butter before serving, and mix until combined.
Serve the chicken cacciatore with pecorino polenta. Garnish with chopped thyme and grated pecorino cheese.
Review: Wow…this was truly a delicious Italian meal and full of bold flavors. Simply delicious. My husband and I ate every single bite, the chicken was falling off the bone tender and paired with the tomato-wine mixture melded beautifully together. The pecorino polenta was simply luscious and smooth with each bite. Definitely a Valentine’s dinner that we enjoyed together. Maybe we’ll have to venture to visit Fabio at his restaurant and try more of his tasty Italian dishes.