Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chicken Napolitana

One of the great joys and challenges of being an actor is travel. While I love to experience the local food and culture of each new locale, I miss home and, in particular, home-cooked meals. So imagine my delight to not only stay in a household in the heart of one of the best “foodie” areas of Philadelphia, the famed Italian Market, but with a host who owns one essential piece of cookware that made me feel right at home: a large Guardian Service Chicken Fryer.
After feasting on some must-have local cuisine (pork scrapple from Reading Terminal Market, cheese steaks at the 70-year-old Jim’s Steaks on South Street, and the fresh and indescribably scrumptious cannolis from the century-old Isgro Pasticceria) I wandered into Molly’s Books & Records yesterday (right around the corner from my temporary home) and found a 1st edition of Craig Claiborne’s 1963 “An Herb and Spice Cook Book," and therein a simple Italian recipe that not only draws upon the choicest ingredients within two blocks, but is ideally suited for the Guardian Service fryer.

I jotted down a list of ingredients and made the rounds right after work today: 

  • An organic, free-range chicken — Esposito’s Meats (1001 S 9th St).
  • Oregano and Bay Leaves — The Spice Corner (904 South 9th Street).
  • Tricolore Fusillone, canned Italian plum tomatoes — Claudio’s (926 South 9th Street).
  • Mozzarella — Di Bruno Bros. (930 S. 9th Street).
  • Assorted produce from the fruit and vegetable stands along 9th Street.

Chicken Napolitana
(adapted from Craig Claiborne’s “An Herb and Spice Cook Book,” Harper & Row, 1963)

3-4 lb. 
Broiling Chicken, cut into serving pieces
3 Tbsp.
Olive Oil
2 cloves
Garlic, finely chopped
Onion, finely chopped
1 tsp.
Freshly ground sea salt
1 tsp.
Fresly ground black pepper
Mushrooms, sliced and cooked in 1 Tbsp. butter until wilted
2 tsp.
Bay leaves
28 oz.
canned Italian plum tomatoes
thin slices Mozzarella cheese
¼ cup
Pinot Grigio (or cooking wine)

chopped Parsley (optional)

  1. Prepare Chicken: wash, cut into serving pieces, pat dry with paper towel and rub with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat olive oil in Guardian Service fryer over medium heat and brown chicken pieces on all sides. Add the garlic and onion, cover and cook briefly.
  3. Add sautéed mushrooms, oregano, bay leaves, tomatoes and wine. Cover and simmer until chicken is tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. 15 minutes before chicken is done, preheat the oven to 400°F.
  5. When chicken is tender, uncover fryer and arrange the slices of mozzarella on top of the chicken. Place in the oven only long enough for the cheese to melt. Serve immediately, sprinkled with chopped parsley. Optional: serve on a bed of pasta (Fusilli, Fusillone, Penne, etc).