Sausage and peppers - that's a gimme - I'm not sure that I have ever disliked any sausage and pepper dish. But, I can honestly say that I've only had sausage and peppers slapped on a bun watching some sporting event, wishing I had extra napkins as the sausage and pepper juice is causing structural failure of the bun and I am paralyzed because I have sausage and pepper juice running down my face, hands and arms.
What I'm saying is sausage and peppers with a fork and knife is not exactly part of my food vernacular.
This recipe combines the pan-roasted chicken and sausage with the recipe for peperonata rustica. Let's get going with the chicken:
I started with breaking down a small chicken into the eight piece cut that is very well illustrated in the book and placing the pieces in a brine. This is the famous Keller lemon chicken brine that has made many a foodie swoon over his fried chicken dish. The brine contains salt, honey, garlic, lemon, bay leaf, peppercorns and parsley and made far more than I needed for this recipe so I put the extra brine (non-chicken-y) in a freezer bag and into the chest freezer for use at a later date.
While that was brining, I got to work on the peperonata rustica - a cooked pepper dish that contains several fresh peppers and some dried peppers as well. The peppers cook in a chicken stock base and since I was running low on chicken stock I made the recipe from the book.
Chicken stock, for the longest time, was an ingredient that I used to never make at home (I was a Swanson low sodium box broth guy) but after discovering Michael Ruhlman's technique for making stock, I now exclusively use homemade. I keep a bag of chicken bones in the freezer and once the bag gets full, I make stock. The AHaH version is a very light (in color and flavor) stock that I would probably not replicate for my everyday stock uses. I like to make darker stock from roasted bones rather than a lighter stock like this one. Keller concedes that this is a light stock by design and he offers suggestions for making the stock stronger, but this technique is much more complicated than the Ruhlman way to which I have become accustomed.
Maybe complicated is the wrong word, perhaps intricate or labor intensive would be more accurate. The Keller way has one rinse the bones, simmer the stock slightly off the burner (to create a convection that naturally gathers the impurities - a great tip), pour ice into the stock to congeal the fat and make it easier to remove, add the veggies (carrots, leeks, onions), simmer, skim, skim, skim, ladle gently through a conical strainer, and chill rapidly. That's a lot different and a lot more attention than roast bones, cover with water, put in low oven for howeverlong add veggies in the last hour, strain, chill.
Now, all the steps in Keller's version will result in a clean, clear stock, trust me - but I'm just not that picky in general. I would use such a technique for a special recipe or occasion (or if I was having a all-you-can-cook kind of weekend) but not on a consistent basis.
Onto the peppers. They are tossed with oil, salt and pepper and roasted in a 375 oven. They are removed, peeled and torn into strips.
After the red and yellow peppers are roasted, peeled and torn they are combined with piquillo peppers (if you haven't had these little guys, you are missing out; they are like a jacked-up steroid injected roasted red pepper in a tiny little package), soffritto, the chicken stock from above and piment d'Espelette.
Frying the tomato for the soffritto
The mixture is combined and simmered for thirty minutes to soften the peppers and also to allow the flavors to meld. Back to the chicken. The chicken is patted dry and sauteed. The book suggests a saute time of between thirteen and fifteen minutes - I found this to be way too long based on the sugar content of the brine. As you can see from the picture below, I was getting some deep color on the chicken and these were turned after about seven minutes. Clearly all cook tops vary - so one can't strictly adhere to the recipe; had I done that, I would have had what looked like Kingsford briquettes for dinner. However, if a nice representative from Wolf or Viking would like to contact me about trying out their product for the next thirty years or so because I have a glass top range that I hate, hate, hate - drop me an email and we'll chat because I loathe my range.
Whoooo. I feel better. Back to the chicken... Dry it:
Saute it and add the sausages (I got some great sweet sausages without fennel seeds from Giacomo's):
Mix in the peppers and put in the oven to finish cooking the chicken:
The verdict? Damn good. The porky richness goes great with the juicy, briny chicken and the peperonata rustica had it's own sweet, tart note that rounded out the dish perfectly. It was a very satisfying, almost light dish. There is no heavy sauce, nothing that sits heavy in the stomach. I would say that I was surprised that this combination worked so well - I didn't know that the chicken would work with the sausage and pepper classic combination. Hell, I didn't know if I would be able to eat sausage and peppers with a fork and knife. But I did, and it was good. I mean, look at these plates! It looks like a pack of wolves ate dinner at my house:
The other nice part about this dish? Left over peperonata rustica to make Eggs Flamenco (in the book at the end of the peperonata rustic recipe).
Cook the eggs in the peperonata with a little extra stock to moisten the mixture and re-warm the sausages: