Of course, if the idea of cooking is not an appealing one for you, the ‘easiest’ fallback recipe is when someone else cooks for you … but needs must on occasion that even the most reluctant cook has to rustle up something for the evening meal and I am sure that a recipe such as this one would offer a modicum of consolation. Another boon is that it is best eaten on the following day – at roome temperature at that, hence, drum roll, it can be prepared with utmost calm with music playing in the background and a steady heart beat. It is a typically Roman summer dish and reminds me, don’t ask me why, of the the dinner we had with my cousin Teresa the night before she delivered her baby boy. And yes, it was in July twenty plus years ago.
Her husband Mimmo is a retired cook and we spent a few weeks together in July this year near the seaside town of Sabaudia. Here they are, leaving the beach hut on the motocycle.
Teresa and Mimmo love their food and wine just as much as we do, and I have to say that I would never be able to spend too long a time with anyone who didn’t. This said, Mimmo tends to go AWOL in the kitchen when on holiday and likes to cook as little as possible, and as simply as possible (although he did spend quite a few mornings making jam, using the delicious ripe fruit we found locally chez Luciana’s). The other factor was that this, the summer of 2015, has been an infernally hot one, hot and sticky … and naturally perspiring over a hot stove wasn’t going to be too appealing for anyone. People thought I was mad when I insisted on frying fiori di zucca (mozzarella stuffed courgette/zucchini blossoms) but then, I am a fried-food-fanatic and they are such a crowd pleaser. For the rest, salads and charcuterie and mozzarella loomed large on our dinner table. The only dish that was worth cooking on a daily basis was pasta – and yes, we are Italian and that’s what we do, eat pasta even when the temperatures soar.
Anyway, I apologise for this detail in chronicling but the point I am about to make is an important one: Mimmo is a professional chef, number one, number two, he wanted to cook something most delicious with the minimum of fuss and effort. He made the pollo con peperoni for us one evening and it was delicious, really really delicious. So I asked him how he made it. And here is what I remember of what he told me. So i think we should call this Pollo con i Peperoni alla Mimmo.
Here is chopped chicken, with the skin on. The chicken will cook in a saucepan/skillet with some evoo and some garlic cut into very thin slices. So thin that they will ‘melt’ into the sauce later on. Here are some red peppers/capsicum that have been sliced and trimmed of any ‘white’ linings they might have had on the inside. The red peppers are going to be stewed in a saucepan with some onion and some evoo. If you have red onion, even better. Sprinkle a little sugar over the onions. Can you see? Two saucepans, one with garlic on the left for the chicken and one with onion on the right for the peppers.Turn the heat on.
Turn the heat on. Sprinkle some salt over the peppers. When the chicken has almost cooked, say about 20 minutes later (this will depend on how much chicken you are cooking at any one time) … Find the tastiest tomatoes you can get hold of and dice them up. Add them to the chicken, sprinkle salt over the tomatoes, and carry on cooking until the tomatoes turn into a sauce. The peppers are cooked (almost tender). The chicken too has cooked. Now it’s time to put the two together. Cook them over a medium-high heat for about five minutes giving them a chance to really come together in gastronomic matrimony. When the pollo con i peperoni has cooled down, you can transfer it to a glass container and stick it in the fridge, to be eaten the following day. Or even the same day, a few hours later on. Make sure, in either case, that the dish is served at room temperature. So remove from the fridge well ahead of the meal (2 hours at least). I stuck this huge sprig of basil in the middle of the dish and it looks silly …but it’s to give you the sense that you can add a little bit of basil, now, or even some finely chopped parsely.Also, it’s very important to have plenty of crusty bread to mop up the plate at the end. The sauce is very more-ish.
It was lovely for us to be able to get our fruit and veg from Luciana, whose farm is in Bella Farnia near Sabaudia and is open every day at all times of the day!