Ischia Style Chicken

Pollo all’ischitana (Ischia-Style Chicken)

In Campania, secondi piatti, summer by Frank27 Comments

After last week’s look at gnocchi alla sorrentina, Sorrento’s classic gnocchi dish, let’s travel across the Bay of Naples to the lovely island of Ischia. During our years in Rome, Ischia was one of our favorite spots for a getaway from the city. A bit less touristy and more rustic than its more famous “sister” island of Capri, it doesn’t lack for charm or scenic beauty with its gorgeous beaches and medieval Aragonese Castle

The original dish, coniglio all’ischitana, is made with rabbit, but I’ve adapted it here for easier-to-find chicken. Like last week’s gnocchi, Ischia-Style Chicken is brimming with the sunny flavors of fresh tomatoes and basil so typical of Campania. You will no doubt notice more than a passing resemblance to chicken or rabbit alla cacciatora, and, in fact, the dish is also sometimes called coniglio alla cacciatora di Ischia. This cacciatora is simpler, with most versions eschewing the usual soffritto, getting their savoriness from the use of lard, the traditional cooking fat of Campania. Don’t be afraid of lard—besides the delicious flavor it lends to the dish, it has less saturated fat than butter, and it browns meat like no other fat.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6 people

  • 1 young chicken (or rabbit) cut into serving pieces
  • 250g (1/2 lb) fresh tomatoes, cut roughly into chunks (or more, if you like)
  • Several large sprigs of fresh basil, leaves removed and torn into pieces
  • White wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lard

Directions

Melt a good dollop of lard in a sauté pan or braiser large enough to hold all the chicken pieces in one layer. When the lard is melted and hot, add the chicken pieces and brown them well on all sides. Season the chicken pieces well with salt and pepper on all sides, turning them as you go. Now add a good glug of white wine and the tomato.

Let the chicken simmer uncovered in the wine and tomato over moderate heat, turning them from time to time, until the meat is quite tender, about 30-45 minutes, depending on the size and age of your chicken. By the time the chicken is cooked, the tomatoes will have melted and the wine will have reduced down to glossy sauce that should cling nicely to all the chicken pieces. Just a few minutes before the chicken is done, add the fresh basil and mix well.

Adjust the seasoning and serve right away, napping the chicken with any sauce that is left in the pan.

Notes

There are a few variations on Ischia-style chicken (or rabbit). Some versions call for browning garlic in the lard before adding the chicken and some call for a sprig of fresh rosemary; some use olive oil rather than lard. Many versions suggest some hot pepper as well. My own feeling is that the garlic,  rosemary and olive oil are nods to modern Italian cooking conventions (although, I have to admit,  I don’t have any proof of this) and that the hot pepper, while probably traditional, takes away from the ‘fresh’ taste of the sauce. For the same reason, I have tweaked the usual recipe by having you add the basil at the end of the cooking; traditional recipes have you add it with the wine and tomatoes. But, of course, these things are all very subjective.

If you want to make this recipe the original way, with rabbit, bear in mind that rabbit is tougher and leaner than chicken so it will take a little longer and needs to be covered to keep the meat moist, so cover the pan and let it simmer 45 minutes to an hour, or until tender. If there is too much liquid left in the pan, raise the heat to reduce the sauce.

Any dry white wine will work nicely for Ischia-Style Chicken, but in keeping with the spirit of the region, I’d look for a Falanghina or a Greco di Tufo.

Pollo all’ischitana (Ischia-Style Chicken)

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: Serves 4-6

Pollo all’ischitana (Ischia-Style Chicken)

Ingredients

  • 1 young chicken (or rabbit) cut into serving pieces
  • 250g (1/2 lb) fresh tomatoes, cut roughly into chunks (or more, if you like)
  • Several large sprigs of fresh basil, leaves removed and torn into pieces
  • White wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lard

Directions

  1. Melt a good dollop of lard in a sauté pan or braiser large enough to hold all the chicken pieces in one layer. When the lard is melted and hot, add the chicken pieces and brown them well on all sides. Season the chicken pieces well with salt and pepper on all sides, turning them as you go. Now add a good glug of white wine and the tomato.
  2. Let the chicken simmer uncovered in the wine and tomato over moderate heat, turning them from time to time, until the meat is quite tender, about 30-45 minutes, depending on the size and age of your chicken. By the time the chicken is cooked, the tomatoes will have melted and the wine will have reduced down to glossy sauce that should cling nicely to all the chicken pieces. Just a few minutes before the chicken is done, add the fresh basil and mix well.
  3. Adjust the seasoning and serve right away, napping the chicken with any sauce that is left in the pan.
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FrankPollo all’ischitana (Ischia-Style Chicken)

Comments

  1. Vicki Bensinger

    This sound delicious and I’m certain I’d b making this with chicken.

    When we were in Italy we went to Capri as well. Very crowed and touristy but enjoyable your little vacation spot sounds wonderful. I will have to remember that next time we return.

    1. Author
      Frank

      Thanks, Vicky! Ischia is worth a visit. It’s also touristy (mostly Germans) but not quite as intense as Capri, especially in the off season.

  2. Rowald

    Hey Frank,
    Tried your suggestion and worked like a charm. I only have myself to feed, so I usually end up with leftovers in fridge and freezer, hence my question.

    The microwave will do for some dishes still, but beauts like this one will go straight to the pan. The chicken came out juicy as the first time around.

    Again: Amazing stuff. Will certainly try to make this with rabbit the next time.

  3. Maria

    I can’t cook without measurements, is there any way u could provide that for people like me. I would love to try many of your recipes including zuppa Di pesce but there aren’t measurements.

    Iam lost.
    Thank u
    Maria

    1. Author
      Frank

      Maria,

      Some of the older recipes, it’s true, have few if any measurements, the traditional Italian manner. I’ve been “translating” those recipes little by little into a more traditional format, but it takes time! The more recent recipes have measurements for key ingredients, but I do use rather loose terminology for some ingredients, especially basic liquids, like a “good pour” of white wine in this dish, or “a good dollop” of lard. As a rule of thumb, for a dish like this, use a cup of white wine and enough fat just to cover the bottom of your pan, say 2 or 3 Tbs.

      I plan to do a post about measurement very soon, which I hope will help those like you who are not comfortable with this approach.

  4. Rowald

    Hey Frank,
    Just finished making this dish and it was simply the best meal I had in weeks. I’m very surprised at how tender the chicken turned out and it’s amazing how simple this dish is to prepare.

    I had a question for you though: what do you consider the best ways of reheating this dish? I’m a bit hesitant about freezing the leftovers and I’m hoping to keep the great taste the second time around. The microwave seems an obvious choice, but I was hoping you could tell me what your favorite way is for this type of dish.

    Love the way how the new website turned out and I’ll keep digging for more recipes. Nana’s cookies are up next!.
    Thank you so much,
    Rowald

    1. Author
      Frank

      So glad you liked the dish, Rowald! I have to say I very rarely have enough leftovers to justify freezing something. Actually, we rarely have any leftovers, period, around our house. Make of that what you will… ;=) But here’s what I’d do: defrost the leftovers slowly, in the fridge if possible, and then rather than the microwave, bring the chicken back to the simmer in a braiser over gentle heat, with a bit of water to moisten things up again, until it is just heated through. You might try adding a few fresh ingredients to the mix to liven things up—a bit more tomato, a few more fresh basil leaves, perhaps a drop more oil.

      Happy cooking,
      Frank

  5. Josée Oliver

    Finally, the weather is cooler and I’ve decided to try this recipe tonight. The tomato harvest has started here in Québec and I’ll use the basil from my herb garden. Cannot wait for dinner!!

  6. Adri

    What a great dish, Frank. It is simple, yet full of flavor. I’d go for the chicken over rabbit, but that’s just Adri the Picky Eater at work!

  7. Nancy/SpicieFoodie

    My husband would love the rabbit version, and I chicken. But they both sound delicious. I’m adding this to my list to try. Thanks for sharing another great recipe Frank!

    1. Frank Fariello

      Thanks, Nancy! They are both delicious, although I’d go for the rabbit, too, if I had the choice. Not always possible as rabbit is a “controversial” meat in our house…

  8. ciaochowlinda

    Frank – I’ll always choose rabbit if there’s a choice between it and chicken, but I know I’d love this dish equally well either way. Can you believe I never visited the castle when I went to Ischia? I guess that means I need to return. Of course, you know I love your platter.

  9. Chiara

    conosco bene la costiera amalfitana ma a Capri ed Ischia non sono mai stata purtroppo….Ottima alternativa al coniglio, ti consiglio altri due vini bianchi della zona molto buoni, spero che tu possa trovarli negli Stati Uniti..sono il Coda di Volpe e il Fiano d’Avellino , buona settimana Frank, un abbraccio !

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