Well, seems like this is turning into an all-Mario weekend for us. Last night we had some friends over and served Pollo al Vin Cotto, fennel custard, and potatoes roasted in duck fat, all recipes found in Mario Batali's Molto Italiano. Tonight, it's fried cotechino with custard from the same book.
The Pollo al Vin Cotto was really fabulous. Everyone loved it, including my wife who is not much of a fan of chicken. It came out beautifully, even though I did not end up following the recipe too closely. Through inattention, I left out the blanched almonds and the olives and I never got the sauce reduced to a glaze, as stated in the recipe. I used currants instead of raisins. But really, the core of this dish lies in the chicken cooked in the vin cotto. Vin cotto is "cooked wine" (or mulled wine, if you prefer) that can be purchased if you want, but can easily be made at home. As Mario states in the intro to the recipe, it's "a great way to use up those less-than-acceptable wine gifts from your enologically challenged friends". It gives the chicken a sweet, spicy flavor that's irresistable.
I would recommend making more of this than you think you'll need. The flavor is such that people will not want to stop eating it.
Mario’s Pollo al Vin Cotto
To make the vin cotto:
4 ½ c. red wine
½ c. honey
2 cinnamon sticks
Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1 cup, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Remove cinnamon stick and cloves before using.
For the chicken:
¼ c. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
One 3-lb. chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces, rinsed and patted dry
1 large onion cut into large dice
2 carrots, diced
½ c. green olives, such as Sicilian, pitted and chopped
3 T. raisins
1 T. capers, rinsed and drained
1 T. pine nuts, toasted
3 T. blanched almonds, toasted
1 c. red wine vinegar
½ c. sugar
fresh-ground black pepper
cracked black pepper
1 T. hot red pepper flakes
¼ c. finely chopped Italian parsley
In a 10-12 inch sauté pan, heat the olive oil until very hot but not smoking. Season the chicken with salt, add skin-side down to the pan, and brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and carrots, and cook, stirring, until a deep golden-brown. Add the olives, raisin, capers, pine nuts, and almonds to the pan, stirring well. Add ½ c. of vin cotto to deglaze the pan, stirring up the browned bits on the bottom, then boil until reduced by half. Add the remaining ½ c. of vin cotto and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the vinegar and sugar. Add to the pan and cook, stirring, until the liquid has reduced to a glaze. Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer the chicken to a warmed serving platter and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper, the red pepper flakes, and the parsley, and serve.
Letterman asked Zevon if his condition had taught him anything about life and death. ''How much you're supposed to enjoy every sandwich,'' Zevon answered. (From a 2003 NYTimes article on Zevon by Jon Pareles.)