Monday, July 23, 2012

Crispy Chicken Halves with Caponata

Hi there long lost friends! I have been MIA for a while but hope to be better about updating my journey in the kitchen. Today we're talking about caponata. Caponata is an Italian condiment of sorts, and every region in Italy has its own version and recipe. I would describe it as a sweet and sour vegetable stew that is delicious and versatile. For this recipe, we're pairing it with a really juicy and tender chicken preparation with an amazing crispy skin. I really prefer using chicken with bones still in it because it helps keep the chicken moist and full of great flavor. It's out of this world!

1 (2-3 lb chicken) halved OR 2 already halves of a whole chicken
1/4 cup soften butter
5-6 fresh thyme sprigs, stripped off stems
1 lemon zested
3 large garlic cloves minced or zested
1-2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper

1 small to medium eggplant, half the skin removed and cut into cubes
3 stalk celery, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
5-6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 small zucchini, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 generous handful golden raisins
1 3.5 oz jar capers, drained
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
10 basil leaves, torn or finely shredded

I know this looks like a lot of stuff but it's super easy once you get going. I believe you can do this!
The key for the caponata is doing everything in layers from hardest veggie to softest and seasoning each layer to fully develop everyones flavor.

In a large dutch oven, coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil and turn the burner on high. First throw in your onions, celery and carrots. Sprinkle in salt and pepper and let veggies sweat until slightly soft. Next throw in your peppers, garlic and zucchini. Season with salt and pepper and let those veggies get soft as well all the while stirring the pot to incorporate everyone. Next add the eggplant and season with salt and pepper and stir into the mix. Let the eggplant get soft and then add tomato paste and enough water to loosen the mixture. It should look very stew like. Add the capers, raisins, vinegar and sugar and let simmer for 20 minutes or longer. At the very end of cooking turn off the heat and add the basil.

For instance, the large pot you're currently cooking your caponata in!
...a large pot like the one cooking your caponata!
For the chicken heat a well seasoned cast iron skillet on high for at least 3-4 minutes or until smoke is coming off the pan. In the meantime, make your compound butter by mashing butter, lemon zest, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper together and generously massaging the birds. Place chicken skin side down in the pan and either use another cast iron skillet or a very heavy pot to weight down the chicken. This is how you will get the golden brown crispy skin that is so delicious.

Preheat your oven to 375 in the meantime. The chicken will cook for about 10 minutes or until the skin is golden. Once the skin looks good, flip the bird over and put the skillet in the oven for about 20 minutes or until a thermometer reads 150 degrees. Pull the chicken out and let rest for at least 5-10 minutes.

Plate with a crusty piece of bread and the caponata and DIG IN!


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