From Bergamo. Polenta e cüní. This is the most common Sunday lunch in Bergamo, and is one of the dishes I miss from my time living there. The are many variations on the recipe. This one comes from Slow Food Italy. Serves 4
Polenta cuni ingredients
1 rabbit, cut into portions
50g lardo, guanciale or fatty pancetta
2 glasses of dry white wine (Slow Food recommends Valcalepio)
4 sage leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
Put the rabbit in a pan large enough to contain it in a single layer. Place over a high heat for a few minutes to completely dry out the pieces.
Polenta cuni lardo
Reduce the heat a little and add the lardo, butter, clove and sage. Brown the meat.
Polenta cuni browning the rabbit
Add the wine and let it evaporate, stirring from time to time.
Polenta cuni with wine
Reduce the heat to low, cover and continue cooking until the rabbit is tender. There shouldn’t be a lot of liquid while it’s cooking, but if it looks like drying out, add a little stock. The cooking time will vary according to the rabbit, but it will be at least two hours, maybe longer.
About five minutes from the end of cooking, add the remaining butter and the chopped rosemary. The rabbit should be quite dry, almost crispy on the outside, and moist on the inside.
Serve it with polenta made according to the instructions on the packet. If I don’t have a polenta machine available to stir it, I usually use the quick cooking variety. A lot of Bergamasci regard this as a heinous crime though 🙂
Pollo alla cacciatora. It is very common to find versions of this dish outside of Italy, especially in the United States, however they often bear little resemblance to dishes found here. Even the spelling has been changed, possibly reflecting a dialect spelling originally used by Italian immigrants to the States. The name translates as hunter’s style chicken. I am a bit unsure why as I am unaware of anybody hunting chickens 🙂 You can also prepare rabbit in this way so maybe that was the original recipe. There are many versions in Italy, but the common factor is the chicken is cooked with white wine and tomatoes. This version is from Liguria. As always, if you can find a really good free range, or at least corn fed chicken it will improve the dish no end. Serves 4-6.
1 chicken cut into cut into 6 or 8 pieces
2 cloves of garlic
1 onion, chopped
Half a celery stalk, chopped
A sprig of rosemary
2 fresh sage leaves
A bay leaf
A glass of white wine
6 fresh tomatoes, peeled and deseeded (or an equivalent amount of tinned)
Chicken cacciatore ingredients
Brown the onions, the celery and the garlic in a large pan.
Chicken cacciatore browning the onions
Add the chicken pieces, rosemary, sage and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes over a reasonably high flame.
Chicken cacciatore browning the chicken
Lower the flame and add the wine and cook until it has almost evaporated. Add the tomatoes, stir and cook until the chicken is done. About 45 minutes. Serve directly from the pan.
Some people like to add a little chopped parsley at the end
You can also add sliced fresh or reconstituted dried porcini mushrooms along with the chicken.
Coniglio alla Cacciatore or Huntsman’s Rabbit. When I lived in Bergamo the Sunday lunch was usually roast rabbit with polenta. I was regularly woken at seven in the morning by my neighbour grinding his polenta under my bedroom window. I’m sure he did it on purpose (we didn’t get on that well 😉 ) I see that rabbit is coming back into fashion in the UK, so I thought I’d share this recipe. It’s not roast rabbit, but another common Bergamasco dish. You can use any type of mushroom, even porcini if your bank balance will stand it. Serves 4
Rabbit with mushrooms ingredients
1 rabbit cut into portions
400 g mushrooms
100 g passata
1 stick celery
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp flour
100 ml chicken stock
1 glass dry white wine
5 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Chop the carrot and celery into small strips and thinly slice the onion.
Add to a pan with 3 tbsp of olive oil and cook over a medium heat until the onions start to go translucent.
Add the rabbit pieces and brown. Sprinkle them with the flour.
Thinly slice the mushrooms and sautè them in a separate pan with the rest of the olive oil and the whole, lightly crushed clove of garlic. Cook until they are well coloured and start to give off their juice.
Add to the pan with the rabbit and add the wine. Cook over a high heat until the wine has reduced by half.
Add the passata and stock, season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for about and hour over a low to medium heat.
Coniglio in fricassea. There are many recipes for rabbit in fricassea but this is the simplest and most straight forward I could find. It’s basically rabbit served with a sauce made from egg yolks and lemon juice. Serves 4.
Rabbit fricassee ingredients
1 medium rabbit — cut into portions, washed and dried with kitchen paper
2 egg yolks
the juice of a Lemon
1 whole Chilli – fresh or dried
1 knob butter
Lightly dust the rabbit with flour.
Fry the pieces in a little olive oil to which you’ve added the knob of butter.
When the rabbit is nicely coloured, season with salt, add a ladle of water and cook over a low heat for around an hour and a half. If it looks like drying out, add a little more water.
When the rabbit is done remove to a serving plate and keep warm.
Beat the egg yolks together with the lemon juice and add the mixture to the cooking liquid left in the pan. Stir rapidly until you have a smooth sauce.
Top the pieces of rabbit with the sauce and serve.
Petti di pollo in carpione. I got this recipe from the English translation of il cucchiaio d’argento –The Silver Spoon. This book is I think on the whole a clever marketing trick. It is a 1950s cookbook with a few modern recipes tacked on the end. Add to that an appalling translation, don’t trust any measurements! The recipes still appear in the original Italian alphabetical order even though they have been translated into English. I have met some people who have heard of it here, a bit like the good housekeeping books in the UK, but I have yet to find anybody who has used it. It can be useful for ideas if you already know what you are doing. The following recipe is in fact very nice 🙂 Serves 4
Soused chicken breasts ingredients
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast portions
80 g breadcrumbs
25 g butter(or use all oil)
5 tablespoons olive oil (I usually use much less)
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 celery stick, thinly sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
350 ml white wine vinegar
100 ml dry white wine
4 fresh sage leaves (or a teaspoon of dried)
2 garlic cloves, sliced
salt and pepper
Beat the chicken with a meat mallet until evenly thin.
Beat the egg with a pinch of salt in a dish, add the chicken and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Spread out the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish. Drain the chicken and dip in the breadcrumbs to coat.
Heat the butter and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a pan, add the chicken and cook over a medium heat, turning occasionally, for about 10 minutes until golden brown on both sides.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in another pan, add the onion, celery and carrot and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, add the vinegar and wine and bring to the boil, then immediately remove from the heat and add the sage and garlic.
Place the chicken in a dish, pour the hot marinade over it, leave to cool, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.
As it’s so important to use good stock, I thought I’d include a recipe.
1 cooked or raw chicken carcass
2 celery sticks — roughly chopped
1 large onion — roughly chopped
2 carrots — roughly chopped
1 handful parsley stalks
½ head garlic
Put the chicken carcasses into a stockpot, cover with 2½ litres water and bring to the boil. Using a large metal spoon, skim off any white scum from the surface.
Add the vegetables, parsley and garlic to the pan. Return to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook uncovered for 2½ hours, skimming occasionally.
Strain the stock through a colander lined with wet muslin into a large, heatproof bowl. Discard all the debris. Reduce the stock for a stronger flavour, if desired. Cool, chill and use the stock within 3 days or freeze in portions. I reduce the stock as much as I can, and then pour it into ice cube trays.
Quaglie alla cacciatora. Have you ever seen quail in the supermarket and wondered what the hell you are supposed to do with them? I finally decided to have a go cooking them. An Italian friend gave me this recipe and it was a piece of cake to make. It would work well with chicken pieces as well, if you don’t fancy the quail.
70 grams butter
1 glass white wine
2 tablespoons flour
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon parsley — chopped
salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a pan and add the quail and the bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper and fry until the quail are done, turning frequently so they are evenly coloured, about 15 minutes. Remove to a warmed serving dish.
Sprinkle the flour into the pan and stir with a wooden spoon, making sure there are no lumps. Add the wine and stir rapidly until the sauce is smooth. Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes.
Pour the sauce around the quail, sprinkle on the parsley and serve.
This dish looks quite tricky to prepare but is actually very easy. It’s been a favourite of mine for a while now. It turns an ordinary chicken leg into quite a show off dish. Serves 4
Stuffed Chicken Leg ingredients
4 whole chicken legs — leg and thigh
4 slices parma ham
50 grams bread crumbs — freshly ground
1 tablespoon parsley — chopped
1/4 whole nutmeg — grated
75 grams mortadella — chopped
1 clove garlic — chopped
Bone the legs. This is a bit fiddly but not too difficult. You should get one roughly rectangular shaped fillet from each leg.
Mix together the eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, mortadella and nutmeg to make the stuffing. Season with pepper. Don’t add salt because both the mortadella and the parma ham are quite salty.
Place 1/4 of the mix along the centre of each leg fillet.
Fillet with stuffing
Roll up to form a sausage shape and then wrap with a slice of Parma ham. If the slices are quite small then you might have to use two. It is easiest if you place the ham flat on a chopping board, place the chicken on top and then roll up.
stuffed chicken leg ready to cook
Place on an oiled baking tray and roast for 20 minutes at 200°C 400°F or gas mark 6
Allow to rest for a few minute and then slice into thick rounds.
Stuffed chicken leg finished dish
Note. The is my version of a recipe by Antonio Carluccio. The original used back bacon instead of Parma ham. If you use bacon you will probably have to tie the fillets with kitchen string. You will also need to brown them in olive oil before roasting
Finally something other than pasta 🙂 This is another really simple dish which tastes great. My attempt to recreate a dish I was served in a university canteen last week. I’m still trying to get my head around the idea that it doesn’t seem to be possible to eat badly here, even in a student canteen!
In the original version the chicken was beaten into a steak, but I prefer it au natural 🙂 It works best with salted capers but it’s still good with pickled. You must soak either variety first though.
If you can’t find unwaxed lemons, you can wash the wax off in hot water.
4 chicken breasts without skin
flour for dusting
50 grams butter
1 tablespoon capers — preferably salted
1 large lemon — unwaxed if possible
salt and pepper
Dust the chicken breasts with flour
Soak the capers in cold water for a few minutes and drain. Squeeze and zest the lemon.
Fry the chicken breasts in the butter until golden brown. About 15-20
minutes depending on the size.
Remove the chicken and keep warm.
Deglaze the pan with the lemon juice.
Add the zest and the capers and stir well.
Season with salt and pepper.
Pour over the chicken breasts and serve.
Ps I was in an artistic mood when I took this shot. Didn’t really work though 🙂