Impressed with our first chicken recipe Pollo alla Birra, from Lidia Bastianich’s cookbook Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine, we looked forward to spending another Sunday afternoon with the little lady. And the recipe preceding the beer chicken caught our attention: Pollo alla Scarpariello. The name scarpariello is “shoemaker” in Italian. Here, “shoemaker’s” chicken may refer to Neapolitan shoemakers making delicious food in the little time they had at the end of the day.
Lidia mentions that young chickens, poussins that weigh about one pound each are great for this dish, and you would make a lot less cuts. But they are not easy to find so we went with our intuition and purchased a 4-pounder. Yes, it had to be cut down into many pieces, but we like having the leftover parts for our freezer “body bag” where we stash poultry parts until we need to make another batch of homemade stock. Another option is to use bone-in thighs, little-to-no chopping necessary.
Russ cuts down the chicken, first removing the backbone:
A few things concerned us in Lidia’s recipe. First, in Step 8 she says to place the roasting pan in the oven for 10 minutes. That did not seem anywhere long enough to us, and sure enough, the chicken wasn’t done until 18 minutes had passed. Second, there was no way the sauce was getting thick and sticky. We reduced it for a while, but it was still quite thin, although extremely tasty.
And finally, who in heck is going to pick out 10 cloves of finely chopped garlic from the sauce?? And why would you even want to?? So I just simply removed that instruction from the directions below. Be forewarned that the cherry peppers add a nice kick but you don’t want to overdo it. The amount of sweet sausage we incorporated was closer to a full pound because that’s how it came packaged.
Four hot cherry peppers are cut in half, stemmed and seeded.
All-in-all we loved the dish and thought our pairings of creamy polenta and roasted Brussels sprouts with garlic made for perfect accompaniments. You definitely want to serve with something to help sop up the flavorful sauce such as polenta, mashed potatoes or rice.
- 2 small broiler chickens (about 2½ pounds each, preferably free-range) OR 1, 4-pound roaster cut into pieces
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup olive oil, or as needed
- ½ pound sweet Italian sausage (preferably without fennel seeds), cut into 1-inch pieces
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
- 4 pickled hot cherry peppers, cut in half, stemmed and seeded
- ¼ cup red-wine vinegar
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
- ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- Cut (each) chicken into twelve pieces. Wash and pat the chicken pieces dry, then season them generously with salt and pepper.
- Preheat oven to 475F degrees.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add to the skillet as many pieces of chicken-skin side down, and starting with the leg, thigh and wing pieces-as fit without touching. Cook the chicken, turning as necessary, until golden brown on all sides, about 8 minutes.
- Remove the chicken pieces as they brown, and drain them briefly on paper towels. Place the drained chicken pieces in a roasting pan large enough to hold all of them in a single layer.
- Repeat with remaining chicken, adding more oil to the pan as necessary and adjusting the heat to prevent the bits that stick to the pan from over browning. As room becomes available in the skillet after all the chicken has been added, tuck in pieces of sausage and cook, turning until browned on all sides.
- Remove all chicken and sausage from the pan, add the garlic, and cook until golden, being careful not to burn it.
- Scatter the cherry peppers in the skillet, season with salt and pepper, and stir for a minute. Pour in the vinegar and bring to a boil, scraping into the liquid the browned bits that stick to the skillet, and cook until the vinegar is reduced by half, about 3 minutes.
- Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Pour the sauce over the chicken in the roasting pan and stir to coat. Place the chicken in the oven and roast, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and sticky, like molasses, about 10 minutes. (Our sauce did not get thick or sticky, plus we had to cooke the chicken 18 minutes in the oven.)
- If the sauce is still too thin, place the roasting pan directly over medium-high heat on the stovetop and cook, stirring, until it is reduced, about a minute or two. Once the sauce is thickened, toss in parsley and serve.
We reduced the sauce down for about 12-15 minutes.