Chicken scarpariello. It's one of those seminal Little Italy dishes, or at least an Italian-American restaurant dish, no matter where the restaurant is. Except that the restaurant can't be in Italy, because I'm sure no one there has heard of it.
I think the first time I tried scarpariello, it was at one of the classic joints on Mulberry St. Maybe at Benito 1...or was it Benito 2? Maybe it was at Luna, some late night after one too many drinks out - but now that I think of it, was there even a restaurant called Luna? Could be I wasn't even in Little Italy. So forget about where I first tasted scarpariello - suffice to say, it stuck in my memory and for years I'd wanted to make it just the way I had it that night...wherever the hell it might have been.
So I looked through a couple of my Italian cookbooks to find a recipe. No such luck because it's not really an Italian dish, so there. I thought it might be found in my copy of Molly O'Neill's New York Cookbook, but it's not in there. Fortunately (so I'm told), we've got the internet. Use your google and BAM...instant 1,000,000 scarpariello recipes. That's a lot of recipes, and having just taken a glance at 10 of them, most of them don't look like what I want - not at all. Skinless, boneless breast - no thanks, Rachael. Recipes without hot, pickled cherry peppers; actually, no peppers of the vegetable variety at all - please, Carmine's.
In my mind, scarpariello has to have certain ingredients in it, no matter what. And those would be chicken on the bone, white wine, chicken stock, bell peppers, cherry peppers and their juice, onion, garlic and parsley. Anything else is improv and though there's nothing wrong with that, I'd be staying away from potatoes and mushrooms (make 'em a side dish) and sausage as well - it just gets in the way of the chicken.
In the version I recently made, which Significant Eater loved, the addition of a few chopped tomatoes that I had on the counter almost moved it to cacciatore country, but not quite. As mentioned before (and if you start listening, your chicken dishes will be better), get a good chicken or the dish will suck. Thighs and leg/thigh quarters are quite acceptable, and you'll run less of a risk of overcooking by using the dark meat. Reheats great, too - as opposed to the breast, which can tend to dry out.
Often, I'll hack the chicken up with my Chinese cleaver. Into small pieces - cut the thigh/leg into 4 or 5 pieces, say. But I was lazy, and I basically cut a whole bird up into 2 breast halves, 2 thighs, 2 legs and 2 wings. And it was fine. First, salt & pepper and then brown that chicken well in the oil - but you already knew that...
Remove browned chicken to a plate and add your cut up peppers, onions, garlic, etc. to the skillet. Let 'em soften and then add the wine and reduce it down. Now, add your stock (or water) and pepper juice, bring it to a boil and you'll have this...
Once it's boiling, add back the chicken pieces, turn the heat to a simmer, cover and let cook, turning the chicken pieces every 10 minutes or so...
Total cooking time shouldn't be more than 25 - 30 minutes, and here's a tip...as soon as the breast is cooked through, after about 15 minutes, take it out and let the dish finish cooking without it - that way, you're assured of not overcooking. Take off the cover and let the sauce thicken a bit before adding back the breast pieces. Taste for seasoning - and if you like it more tangy, add a few squeezes of lemon...you'll be glad you did. Here's what the finished dish looked like...
Not bad for a guy that can't remember when or where I first tasted chicken scarpariello. I'll bet you can't, either. But now you can go make your own.
1 - 3 lb. chicken, cut up into 8 -12 pieces, or just legs and thighs
3 T olive oil
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot or small onion, chopped
3 - 6 hot pickled cherry peppers, seeds removed and sliced -add juice to stock
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup chicken stock (or water)
2 T chopped parsley
salt & pepper to taste