This article was originally featured in The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter on Thursday, March 30, 2006.


INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

6 to 8 chicken thighs (or a frying hen cut into pieces)
Black pepper
1/2 of a large, sweet onion
1 carrot
1 stalk celery
1 fresh tomato or two canned tomatoes with their juice
1/4 cup Sherry
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
4 ounces farfalle or other short pasta


1. Salt and pepper the chicken thighs and put them skin-down in a large, preferably nonstick, skillet big enough to hold them in a single layer. Turn heat to medium-high and cook them, turning occasionally, until they're well browned. (There's no real need to use additional oil, as the chicken skin will quickly render more than enough fat.)

2. While the thighs are browning, chop the onion coarsely; peel the carrot and chop the carrot and celery into small dice. Peel and seed the fresh tomato, if using, and coarsely chop the tomato, reserving the juice.

3. When the chicken pieces are browned, take them out and keep them warm. Saute the chopped onions, celery and carrot in the same skillet until they soften and start to brown, using all or most of the rendered chicken fat. (You can pour off and discard some if there's more than you need.)

4. Splash the Sherry into the pan with the vegetables, stirring to "deglaze" the pan as it reduces to a thick syrup. Put the chicken pieces and any accumulated juices back into the pan, turning them once or twice. Put in the chopped tomatoes, chicken broth and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken pieces are very tender.

5. Take out the chicken pieces and let them cool until you can handle them. Remove and discard the skin, bones and gristle, and tear the meat into shreds. Using a stick or stand blender, buzz the pan liquid into a thick, textured sauce. Put the chicken shreds back in, taste to check seasoning, and continue to simmer for another half-hour or so until the sauce and meat reduce to a thick ragù. Add a little more broth or water if it thickens too much and threatens to stick and burn, but this shouldn't happen if you keep the heat very low.

6. Boil water and cook your pasta following standard technique. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and serve in warm bowls with the chicken ragù. If you have Mario's number, invite him over for dinner.

WINE MATCH: At Mario's Babbo, we enjoyed the oxtail ragù with an excellent Lombardy red from a favorite producer, Bruno Verdi 2001 Oltrepò Pavese ($62). At Robin's Trattoria, I accompanied the chicken version with a much more modest red from another Latin country, Las Rocas de San Alejandro 2004 Calatayud Garnacha ($10), a fruit-laden Spanish Grenache.

Mario Batali's "The Babbo Cookbook" is available from in hardcover for $25.20, a 37 percent discount. Purchases made using this exact link,
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