Sunday, February 15, 2009


It's a chilly evening, but the fire is blazing in the hearth, and there's a one-pan Italian dinner bubbling away on the range.  Polla alla birra.  Chicken with beer, but actually with much more than that.  Please note that this is Italian Italian, as opposed to the menus of those, in this part of the world, who believe that "eating Italian" involves main course plates of pasta (with copious sauces) five evenings a week. (Yes, I know, I haven't written that column yet.  It's all a matter of confidence - and fear!)

Tonight's meal has its origins in the cold mountain communities of North East Italy, bordering on what used to be called Jugoslavia.  Tough communities, great people. I've been there, albeit covertly. It is a peasant dish, and so perfectly suited to my kitchen, and my social status right now.

Take the best and freshest chicken pieces you can find.  Quarters and legs etc.  Now on a Sunday in Bridgehampton that restricts ones options, but we must all do our best.  Southampton?  Even worse!  Hampton Bays?  Well, under cover of darkness you might raid your neighbor's coop - but please don't get caught.  They take a dim view of such things in Hampton Bays, as they do of most things, come to think of it. Now - where was I?

2 Carrots

2 Sticks of celery

I Leek

I Onion

Chop them all up into tiny bits.  Get the biggest pan you have. I have a 14 inch (3 inch deep) All-Clad pan, but improvise with whatever.   Pour yourself a large glass of white wine - this is your cooking drink.  This evening I slurped on a white Burgundy.  Relax!  Now start to cook...

Put the chicken pieces in the pan.  Throw the chopped vegetables on top.  Salt and pepper, plus some dried thyme.  Then pour two bottles of the best beer over it all.  I used Southampton Brewery's Altbier, but don't tell Don Sullivan as it might go to his head!

Boil up and then simmer for 45 minutes.  Remove the chicken, keep warm, then reduce the sauce to a minimum, then stir in a tablespoon of unsalted butter.  Plate up the chicken, pour the sauce over , and serve with brown rice (Yes!  That is very Italian.  Remember we're in the mountains with this meal!)  Now drink buckets of Chianti! 

Buon appetito!

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