Pollo Contadino is an outstanding casserole of Italian comfort food. I’ve made this dish several times over many years. Each time I lift a forkful to my mouth, I wonder why I don’t make it more often. Such an arousing smell of tender, juicy chicken thighs roasted with onions, carrots, sweet red bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, capers, and rosemary served with its juices over a fluffy bed of hot rice.
Yep, Pollo Contadino is a perfect meal for cozy cold weather days. You know those rainy cold days that make you want to curl up under a blanket to get all snuggly and warm? And if you want to smell the casserole cooking all day, put the ingredients in a crockpot and let it simmer until you can’t stand it anymore.
This recipe was published in “The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian” in 1993. I bought Jeff Smith’s cookbook a few weeks ago just for this recipe. ($6 used from Amazon). Money well spent. I can’t wait to sift through the pages for other Italian treats.
Here’s how it works
Pollo Contadino takes a little time to put together but is well worth the effort. I used bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs because we like dark meat and skin helps to keep the meat moist. Drumsticks would be a good substitute. But it can also be made with boneless, skinless chicken breasts if that’s what you prefer. There’s no hard and fast rule.
Don’t leave out any of the vegetables. They all play well together. And be sure to add the capers that add a nice vinegary taste and smell to the finished dish. I can’t imagine the casserole without capers!
The last time I made Pollo Contadino, I didn’t have rosemary in my spice pantry. So, I used a few shakes of pasta sprinkle which is a combination of rosemary, basil, parsley. It worked just fine!
Let’s make some, shall we?
Pollo Contadino, Italian Roasted Chicken Farmer Style
Tender and juicy chicken roasted with onions, carrots, tomatoes, and capers served over a bed of hot fluffy rice. Cibo di comodità - true Italian comfort food.
Author: The Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith
Recipe type: Main Dish
4 large chicken thighs, skin-on, bone-in 1-1/2 pounds OR 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 medium carrots, peeled and julienned OR use 1 cup of julienned carrots from the store
1 - 2 large sweet red bell peppers, julienned
1 large yellow onion, peeled and julienned
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
6 large baby portobello mushrooms, cut into thick slices OR 1-8oz package of sliced mushrooms from the store
1-2 teaspoons capers
6 ripe plum tomatoes, diced, OR 1-15oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary OR 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
¼ cup dry white wine
Heat oven to 400F degrees.
Remove chicken pieces to paper towels and pat dry. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Put flour in a medium-sized bowl. Dredge the chicken pieces one-at-a-time, shake off any excess flour and place in the oil in the skillet.
Brown the chicken on all sides. Remove to a 2-3 quart roasting pan, like Pyrex, a cast iron skillet, or an enameled cast iron pan or pot
Drain off the oil in the frying pan. Return to the stove. Add the remaining ¼ cup olive oil over medium-high heat.
Add the carrots and sautee for 3 minutes.
Add the red pepper and onion. Sautee until the onions are barely translucent.
Add the garlic, stir. Sautee just until you can smell garlic. Be sure not to let it burn.
Place the vegetables over the chicken in the roasting pan.
Return the frying pan to the stove. Over medium-high heat, add the mushrooms, capers and tomatoes, rosemary and wine. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 5 minutes. Pour over the chicken and vegetables in the roasting pan.
Cover roasting pan with aluminum foil. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
Remove the foil and return to oven for 15 minutes.
Serve over fluffy hot cooked rice or spaghetti.
Pollo Contadino is a comfort food best served on colder days. You can also put ingredients, in order on the recipe, in a crockpot on low for 3-4 hours or high for 2-3 hours. You can use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or drumsticks or any combination of chicken pieces.
Jeff Smith included 12 medium black Italian or Greek olives, and one green pepper and one red pepper to compliment the colors of the Italian flag. I changed it up just a wee bit.
Here’s an image to PIN!
Copyright, At Mimi’s Table 2013-2018, All Rights Reserved
It can’t get easier than this. Use leftover turkey or roasted chicken and transform it
into a creamy, steamy biscuit-topped casserole.
Wait – It gets easier! I cheated when I prepared this dish. I had some chicken breasts in the freezer and poached them. And then I used frozen peas & carrots, country-style diced frozen hash browns, frozen chopped onions, and a box of commercial biscuit mix for the luscious dumpling-like topping. This is not my normal style, but what the heck. I wasn’t looking forward to chopping a bunch of vegetables this particular day. It was an easy way out. It was so easy in fact that I’m sure I’ll utilize more frozen prepared vegetables in the future, for sure! And it tasted just as good as if I’d made it from scratch, even the biscuits.
I still like to make my own white sauce rather than canned cream soups. My husband and I need to watch our salt intake, and it’s one way I can control the amount I use in a recipe.
Here’s a Thanksgiving leftover tip! Substitute turkey to build these fabulous sandwiches! YUM!!
Star of the Show! Pickled Red Onions with Jalapeno
Pickling fresh vegetables seems to be all the rage these days. And there’s a good reason. Pickled veggies don’t take a lot of time. The ingredients are cheap and simple. A small sweet and tangy crunchy bite for almost anything. And you can make pickled veggies in small batches.
It only takes 10 minutes to put everything together. And if you make a large batch, Pati says these delicious pickled onions will last in your refrigerator for two weeks.
Tangy and sweet pickled red onions add a flavorful crunchy bite to any sandwich, taco, salads. Whatever your little heart desires!
Author: Patti Jinich
Serves: 2 cups
¼ cup each grapefruit juice, orange juice, lime juice and white distilled vinegar
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon kosher
1 large red onion thinly sliced, about 2 cups
1 jalapeno charred
2 bay leaves
Place the grapefruit juice, orange juice, lime juice and vinegar in a mixing bowl along with the black pepper, allspice, and salt. Mix well.
Add the red onions and bay leaves.
Char or broil the banana pepper in the broiler, on the grill, on a hot comal or dry skillet set over medium heat or directly on an open flame, for 3 to 6 minutes. Turn it once or twice, until its skin has lightly charred.
Add to the onions.
Toss well in a canning jar and let the ingredients pickle at room temperature from ½ hour to 2 hours
Put the jar in the refrigerator. Pickled Red Onions will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.
This Chicken Pibil Sandwich is one of my favorites from Pati’s Mexican Table. Spicy chicken topped with crunchy pickled red onions and slathered with avocado crema is a satisfying bite. It’s a quick sandwich to put together, too.
Let’s make a batch!
Chicken Pibil Sandwich with Pickled Onions and Avocado Crema
Nicely seasoned chicken or turkey topped with tangy, sweet pickled red onions and slathered with avocado crema. Quick, easy, and very yummy!
Author: Pati Jinich, Pati's Mexican Table
Recipe type: Sandwich
Serves: 4-5 servings
½ pound ripe tomatoes
¼ red onion outer layer removed
3 cloves garlic unpeeled
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups low sodium chicken broth, divided
2 tablespoons canola oil
¼ cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup white distilled vinegar
½ teaspoon dried oregano
⅛ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons achiote paste chopped (the paste that comes in a bar, not a jar!)
6 cups cooked shredded chicken from homemade broth or rotisserie chicken (may substitute turkey)
Pickled Red Onions a la Yucateca
Preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet or roasting pan with foil. Place the whole tomatoes, onion and unpeeled garlic cloves on the foil and set under the broiler, 3 to 4 inches from the heat. Broil for 4 to 5 minutes, until charred on one side. Flip over and broil for another 4 to 5 minutes, until the skin is blistered and completely charred. The tomatoes should be very soft with the juices beginning to run out. Remove from heat.
Once cool enough to handle, quarter the tomatoes and place in a blender jar along with any juices from the baking sheet. Peel the garlic cloves and add to the blender along with the onion, salt and 1 cup of the chicken broth. Puree until completely smooth.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a casserole or soup pot until hot but not smoking. Pour in the puree and cover partially, as the sauce will sizzle and jump. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the sauce thickens and darkens considerably.
Meanwhile, combine the grapefruit juice, orange juice, lime juice, vinegar, oregano, cumin, allspice, pepper, chopped achiote paste, and the remaining cup of chicken broth in the blender and puree until completely smooth.
Stir the puree into the tomato sauce and bring back to a simmer. Simmer 5 minutes, then add the shredded chicken. Mix together well and continue to cook, uncovered, until the chicken has absorbed most of the sauce, about 5 minutes. The finished dish should be very moist but not wet or soupy.
To serve, scoop about 1 cup of the chicken pibil onto the bottom half of a bun. Top with avocado crema and a few pickled red onions.
Avocado Crema: 2 ripe avocados; ½ cup Mexican crema;1 minced clove garlic;1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice; ½ teaspoon kosher salt or to taste. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
Who doesn’t have a love affair with fried chicken? The Midwestern super Sunday supper. Piping hot from the fryer. Crunchy on the outside. Moist and steamy on the inside. Perfect picnic fare. Ever go the Indy 500? They won’t let you in without a bucket and a cooler of cold beer.
I LOVE fried chicken. When I lived in Billings, I joined a church discussion group. Everyone went around reminiscing their favorite meal. Montana is beef country, so most folks talked about steak, which I admit is fabulous. However, when my turn came, I proclaimed “fried chicken.” “Hmmmmm,” they responded, dreamily remembering their own fried chicken dinner love affairs.
My daughter and son-in-law can’t get enough of the stuff. So, when I want a favor, I fry up a batch or two. Sometimes I do it just because I love them. We’ve had fried chicken for Christmas dinner on more than one occasion, for cryin’ out loud. We’re fried chicken junkies, I admit. I am a card carrying member of Fried Chicken Anonymous.
As many times as I’ve put a scald on a bird, I’ve used as many different techniques. I can’t seem to settle on one recipe, except for the dredge which has evolved but remains basically the same over the years. I know you’re thinking, “What on earth? It’s flour, salt, and pepper, moron.” Aha – wait for it.
And I’ve experimented with different frying techniques. I’ve used a cast iron skillet, voted the numero uno fry in the world, no argument from me. I’ve tried deep Les Cruset pots, but I can’t keep the oil temperature consistent, which is important. I have an electric skillet with a thermostat and a lid, but it’s just not quite right. I’ve used combinations of lard, shortening, canola oil, and peanut oil. Oven fried without the vat of oil, which really isn’t fried chicken, by the way, but I get why some folks go this route.
Sometimes perfect. Sometimes not. I tried until I got it the way I wanted it. Today was my day!
The Proper Frying Vessel
After watching many chefs and cooks do fried chicken in a commercial deep fat fryer, I decided that was the best method for me. The one I chose came unexpectedly in an Amazon email of daily deals. The T-fal Ultimate EZ Clean fryer. Take a look:
It’s great and just what I wanted. The fryer holds 3/4 gallon of oil – more than enough to submerge large pieces. Chicken pieces are bathed in hot grease on all sides at once, which allows for even cooking. See that plastic container underneath? It an oil reservoir. After all the frying is done, flip the switch on the front and the oil is filtered and drains into the container for storage. (Oil must cool for at least 2 hours before draining.) GENIUS!
The thermostat goes up to 374°F. The lid has a see-through window and a steam vent.
Equipped with a submerged heating element that maintains a proper oil temperature.
Generously sized frying basket with a handle. The basket can be raised and rested on a stop inside the fryer to allow food to drain.
The basket, oil reserve, and lid can all be put in the dishwasher. Cleaning up after a serious fry isn’t the neatest of tasks, but the T-fal Ultimate EZ Clean fryer makes the job less messy.
Normally, I buy whole chickens and dissect them into pieces. Eight meaty pieces from one bird, ten if you cut the breasts in half. I learned from my mother, who could take down two chickens in the blink of an eye. If you’re intimidated by the process or are partial to certain parts, I’d go ahead and buy pieces with skins on them. This recipe is for two birds and 4-6 more thighs. Serving lots of little kids? Substitute drumsticks for the chicken thighs. I make sure there’s enough for a meal and more leftover for lunch or a picnic or sandwiches.
My Grandma Smith swore by 3 1/2 pound chickens as the only size for frying. I agree as do others. I’d love to find a fresh fryer less than 5 pounds. They’re growing hens big these days, and breast pieces are particularly large which means no one is going to go hungry if you cut the breasts in half. Of course, I don’t do that, because my daughter LOVES large chicken white meat parts.
Here’s a tip! Don’t throw away the backs, necks and giblets. Put them in a plastic bag and into the freezer to make chicken stock later. With chicken, everything has a purpose but the “cluck.”
Why brine the pieces in buttermilk? The lactic acid in buttermilk makes the chicken moist and tender. Recipes frequently recommend that pieces are brined overnight, either in buttermilk or salted ice water. I’ve used both methods. My mother preferred buttermilk, so that’s my preference, too.
I layer the parts into a large plastic container. Between each layer, I pour 1/2 cup of buttermilk, and season with salt and pepper. You could add a squeeze of siracha or a sprinkle of cayenne, too. Continue the chicken tower inside your container making sure the last layer is buttermilk. On goes the lid and into the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, so overnight is best.
Drain and Bring to Room Temperature
The next day and 30 minutes before I begin the fry, I remove the pieces from the brine onto a rack over a sheet pan. First of all, the chicken needs to be brought to room temperature so the cooking oil stays hot and pieces cook evenly. Secondly, the brine needs to drain from the meat. You’ll thank me come breading time.
The Dredge and The Bath
Flour, Seasoned Salt, Freshly Ground Black Pepper, and Cinnamon
Prepare the flour dredge. You know, one of my problems is that cooks use way too small vehicles for egg wash and flour dredge. We’re left with egg goo and flour goo all over the counter. A 9″x13″ pan is great. I like to use a big flat bowl with high sides that gives me lots of room. I have my mother’s Pyrex bowl, the green one with white flowers. It has handles and it is perfect.
Into the bowl, add one cup of all-purpose flour for each chicken. In this recipe, I used
2 1/2 cups of flour, because I had two whole chickens and four thighs. Add 1 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt for each chicken, so that makes 4 1/2 this time, extra for the chicken thighs. And 1 teaspoonful freshly ground black pepper; 3 teaspoons this time.
And the SECRET INGREDIENT; ground cinnamon. Not a lot, maybe 1/3 teaspoon per chicken; 1 teaspoon in all. Yes, cinnamon. I’ve read over the years that cinnamon is what’s used in Maryland Chicken. However it came about, the spice lends a pleasing smell when frying, and some added complexity. I love using it in fried chicken.
Some legs taking a nice soak.
So, three whole eggs beaten with one cup or so of milk in one of your big bowls. It doesn’t make a difference what kind of milk you use. After all, we’re making fried chicken. This is not a calorie counting meal. Use 2% or skim milk, but whole milk will do the trick, too.
Breading and Frying
One by one, put the pieces into the egg wash to coat. Lift and drain off excess. And roll in the flour dredge. Put the pieces on a wire rack over a sheet pan and let the pieces dry off for 10 minutes.
Oil Temperature is Important!
While the chicken pieces are drying, it’s time to heat up the oil: 350°F to 360°F is ideal. If you don’t have a fryer with a thermostat, use a large dutch oven and a deep fry thermometer. There’s no shame in using a cast iron skillet, either. The trick with proper frying is to maintain an even oil temperature. As soon as you lower pieces into whatever frying vessel, the oil temperature will lower.
As the pieces begin to fry, the temperature will recover, but you may have to monitor the heat on the stove to make sure it doesn’t drop too low. Low frying temperatures will cause the pieces to be too greasy. If the temperature is too high, the outside will cook too quickly and the inside will not completely cook or even be raw. This is why I like my T-fal deep fryer; I don’t have to constantly fiddle to maintain the oil temperature.
The trick with proper frying is to maintain an even oil temperature. (I’ve said that before I know, but it bears repeating.) As soon as you lower pieces into whatever frying vessel, the oil temperature will lower. As the pieces begin to fry, the temperature will recover, but you may have to monitor the heat on the stove to make sure it doesn’t drop too low.
And I use peanut oil because it is known for a high smoke point. Other options are canola oil, vegetable oil, or solid vegetable shortening.
When you’re ready to put the pieces into the fryer, give them another whirl in the flour dredge. Shake off the dredge back into the bowl and lower the chicken into the fryer.
Breast pieces take the most time to cook. Whole ones will take 16-18 minutes. Thighs 10-12 minutes; drumsticks and wings 8-10 minutes. If in doubt, use a food thermometer to make sure the inside has reached 165°F.
As the chicken pieces come out of the fryer, drain them on a wire rack over a sheet pan, and keep warm in a 225°F oven until ready to serve. Draining on paper towels will soften the breading and you want fried chicken crunchy.
Happy, Happy, Happy!
What’s happier than a heaping plateful of crunchy, hot, perfectly fried chicken? At this moment, I can’t think of another thing!
Wow! I had no idea. I’ve made this recipe several times, but am always amazed by the taste of a simple curry. This recipe is not difficult. It’s easy and quick. It’s inexpensive. It has become one of my and my husband’s very favorites.
Bored with the same old chicken dishes, I found this one at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. An awesome find that widened my culinary palate in a huge way. What a gift, seriously.
Adding vegetables, simple and traditional or non-traditional, only adds to the nutritional data. The coconut milk may be a bit of a nutritional reach due to fat content, but what the heck. Some dishes are worth savoring, and Simple Chicken Curry is certainly one.
This recipe also calls for Asian fish sauce. You can buy fish sauce at any Asian grocery, or perhaps some forward thinking, amply stocked stores will carry it. You don’t need much at all, so a bottle will last for a good long time. It’s cheap. If you’re running in the Asian cuisine lane, you’ll need eventually to buy fish sauce. It’s salty and is disgusting smelling, but, trust me, you won’t regret the couple of bucks you spend.
You’ll also need to buy a curry powder. Now, curry powder is like chili powder or Italian seasoning. It comes many different ways. You can make your own, which I desperately wish to attempt, or buy this sweet curry from Penzey’s Spices. There are other curries available, but this is the friendliest for this dish.
So, let’s look at my fascination with curry at the beginning. “Adams Rib” starring Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. A mid-Century movie in black & white, it’s the story of two married-to-each-other attorneys. One represents the state, the other, the defense. It’s funny, simple humor with adult relationships – I simply love it, as did my 70’s college friends. Take a look at the trailer:
In the beginning of the movie, Hepburn & Tracy come home after a long day’s work looking for something quick to make for dinner. They decide on lamb curry. (Like, who has a cooked leg of lamb in the fridge? It’s the 50’s OK? Who knows?) In the clip, it hints at what they’re preparing, but the dish is easily identified when Hepburn cracks a fresh coconut over the kitchen sink dressed in a becoming bathrobe. Seriously, as a junior high school student, I was wondering what the hell was lamb curry? What was curry at all?? Although I was well versed in leg of lamb. Gee, was this an epicurean epiphany?
According to her blog, Mel at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe has a great Asian Indian friend, Sujoo. It is this woman who, I might say, expanded Mel’s palette, as she has done mine. Thank you, Mel & Sujoo.
Gosh, this stuff is great. Yes, I added some unconventional veggies, but it rounded out the meal. We do have leftovers, and my husband and I fight over who gets the biggest portion. Guess who wins??
Shall we travel together to the land of Asian culinary mystique? Let’s begin.
If you've never tried curried recipes before, this is your introduction to the Asian flavor palette. If you're a seasoned expert, Simple Chicken Curry with Veggies won't disappoint. Move over and let a new Asian dish into your recipe box.
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 can (13.6 ounce) coconut milk. regular fat or low fat
½ tablespoon light brown sugar
½ tablespoon fish sauce
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch (optional)
¼ - ½ cup chopped cilantro
Hot, cooked rice or quinoa for serving
In a large, 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until hot. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds, until it starts to smell fragrant.
Sprinkle in the curry powder, coriander and cumin. Cook for another 30 seconds, stirring to prevent burning.
Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes (it doesn't need to be cooked all the way through quite yet).
Stir in the coconut milk, brown sugar, fish sauce, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
If you would like the sauce a bit thicker, whisk together the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cold water in a small bowl. Once combined, stir the mixture into the simmering curry. Simmer, stirring constantly, for a minute or so until the sauce thickens a bit.
Stir in the cilantro. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Serve the curry over hot, cooked rice, quinoa or whatever else you might like (or it can be served on its own).
I'm not sure what vegetables to serve. I opted for microwaved Green Giant frozen Brussel sprouts, and carrots slivered into strips and sauteed in 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter and 1 teaspoon brown sugar.
I did not alter Mel's Kitchen Cafe recipe, except to use whole fat coconut milk. Rather than add cornstarch slurry, I just simmered the dish down for a bit for the desired consistency, which Mel offers as an alternative.