Easy/Fancy Chicken

One of my sanity- and time-saving dinner strategies is to use a block of time for prepping several days’ worth of dinners. Because as much as I enjoy cooking, I enjoy doing other things too. Also, when you are hungry is NOT the time to start some recipe you’ve never made before. 

This Pizza Chicken, by Melissa Clark (a food genius, IMHO) looks and tastes fancy, but really couldn’t be simpler (comes together in less than an hour) — and if for whatever reason you want to omit the cheese, go ahead! The cheese-eaters won’t know and everyone stays happy. I make it easier on myself by prepping the pancetta and all of my “throw in’s” (the collection of spices and flavors for the sauce) ahead of time, so that when I’m ready to cook, it comes together even quicker. Key point: Paper towel dry your chicken thoroughly before placing it in the pan, AND leave plenty of space between chicken pieces. If you ignore this, you will steam your chicken instead of browning and crisping. Anyway, brown the chicken on the stovetop and finish cooking it in the oven — set the timer and walk away. Enjoy your wine and company — or bathe your toddler (I opt for version A).

Pizza Chicken

— Melissa Clark

  • 3 ½ pounds bone-in chicken pieces of your choice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 ounces pancetta, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 anchovy fillets or a healthy squeeze of anchovy paste
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes
  • 1 large basil sprig, plus more chopped basil for serving
  • 8 ounces bocconcini, halved (or use mozzarella cut into 3/4-inch pieces)

Instructions

  • Heat oven to 400 degrees. Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.
  • In a large oven-proof skillet, warm oil over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer pancetta to a paper-towel-lined plate.
  • Add chicken to skillet. Sear, turning only occasionally, until well browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large plate. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon oil.
  • Add garlic, anchovy and red pepper flakes to skillet; fry 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and basil. Cook, breaking up tomatoes with a spatula, until sauce thickens somewhat, about 10 minutes.
  • Return chicken to skillet. Transfer skillet to oven and cook, uncovered, until chicken is no longer pink, about 30 minutes.
  • Scatter bocconcini or mozzarella pieces over skillet. Adjust oven temperature to broil. Return skillet to oven and broil until cheese is melted and bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes (watch carefully to see that it does not burn). Garnish with pancetta and chopped basil before serving.

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