I love cookbooks. I collect them. I trawl them for inspiration and meditation before hosting stressful family occassions. I indulge in them when I am trying to avoid indulging in a mid-afternoon slice of toast. I’m not a great cook but I’m a superb follower of instructions. Over time, the very best recipes become amalgamated into the weekday repertoire and I forget where they came from. So it is with this one; Pollo pizzaiola, the pizza-makers chicken. There is nothing better you can do with a chicken fillet. Honestly, if you need a crowd-pleaser, if you need a day when no-one complains, if you just need a win, try this one.
Ingredients for 4.
For pizza sauce:
- 2 tins of tomatoes.
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed.
- 2 mean tsp of brown sugar.
- 2 tsp dried oregano or a small bunch of chopped, fresh oregano.
- pinch of salt.
- olive oil.
- 4 chicken fillets.
- 50 ml vermouth or white wine.
- 1 cup of black olives.
- 1 cup of cherry tomatoes.
- 2 balls of mozzarella.
First, make the pizza sauce.
Put a drizzle of olive oil and the crushed garlic in a wide frying-pan with the pinch of salt. Cook on a gentle heat for about 30 seconds, just until you smell cooked garlic. Add the tomatoes, sugar and oregano and bring to a simmer. Cook, without a lid, until the sauce reduces by a third or so. (If you want to make pizza, reduce by half or more).
Next, put another drizzle of olive oil into a heavy, oven-proof pan. Brown the chicken fillets on both sides. I used to flatten out the chicken to make a bigger, flatter fillet but, now that there are six of us, they wouldn’t fit on the pan. This is a flexible recipe.
Use the vermouth or wine to deglaze all the tasty bits that inevitably stick to the pan. Divide the pizza sauce around the chicken fillets and top each one with torn mozzarella. Toss in the olives and cherry tomatoes to fill the gaps. Clamp a lid on (or cover with foil) and bake at 180 celcius for 25 minutes.
Pasta seems the obvious choice of starch but we prefer rice. We have mostly switched to brown rice so that needs to go on as soon as the chicken is in the oven (1 large mug of rice, 1.75 mugs of water, pinch of salt; simmer with a lid on until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender). A bit of green salad is nice on the side but I had asparagus to use up and it worked really well with the tomato sauce. I saw a chef last week demonstrating a nice trick where you just bend the asparagus stalk and it naturally snaps at exactly the point where the woody stalk becomes edible.
I have no idea if that is true but it’s a very satisfying exercise anyway. Hey, my kicks are small but inexpensive. I gave the odd-sized stalks a quick rub of olive oil and squished the lot unto the griddle pan.
I didn’t take any photos of the finished plates. My lovely children are quite amused by Mum’s escapades in Blogland and they are very likely to get a fit of giggles if they catch me holding a camera over a plate of dinner. Trust me, it looked good. Make this and bask in the warm glow of appreciation.