Chicken Scarpariello

Columbus Day Special: Chicken Scarpariello

In Italian-American, secondi piatti by Frank44 Comments

Memorie di Angelina is a blog about the home cooking of continental Italy. But as our regular readers will know, every Columbus Day we feature an Italian-American favorite. This year our feature is the mysteriously named Chicken Scarpariello, or “Shoemaker’s Chicken”. While there is a traditional Neapolitan dish that goes by the same name, that dish is an utterly different quickly-made pasta with tomato sauce. The Italian-American Scarpariello is made with chicken, braised in wine and broth along with bell peppers, onions, garlic and—in a very Italian-American touch–oregano and pickled cherry peppers. Culinarily, it’s much closer to the Roman dish pollo coi peperoni (Chicken with Peppers).

Whatever the origins of Chicken Scarpariello, it’s plenty tasty. Although there is no actual cream in it, as the sauce simmers it turns beautifully creamy. The cherry peppers melt into the sauce, lending it color and a pleasant tang.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • 1 medium chicken, cut up into serving pieces and well-dried
  • 250g (1/2 lb) ‘sweet’ Italian sausages
  • 2 bell peppers, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) white wine
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) chicken broth
  • 8-10 pickled cherry peppers
  • A pinch of oregano
  • A few sprigs of fresh parsley, finely minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil

Directions

In a large Dutch oven or sauté pan, brown the chicken pieces in abundant olive oil. Remove the chicken and set the aside. then add the sausages to the pan and brown them, too. Remove the sausage and them set aside.

Add the bell pepper and onions to the pan and sauté gently for a few minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the minced garlic and let it sauté for just a few moments, then add the wine and broth.

Bring the wine and broth to a simmer, then add back the chicken and sausage, along with the cherry peppers and a pinch of oregano. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes. Then remove the lid and continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes more, or until the chicken has cooked through and the liquid has reduced into a sauce that clings to the chicken pieces.

Add the chopped parsley at the last minute and serve hot.

Chicken Scarpariello

Notes on Chicken Scarpariello

Like any classic dish, there are innumerable variations of this dish. For example, not all recipes for Chicken Scarpariello call for sausage. I think it lends a nice savory touch to the dish, though. The classic Italian-American option would be those ‘sweet’ Italian sausages with fennel seed. For today’s Chicken Scarpariello, I used the long, spiral-shaped luganega sausage—the kind I remember for New York street fairs when I was a kid—cut into lengths.

Some recipes tell you to add a bit of vinegar (about 1/4 cup) along with the wine and broth. Personally, I’m not a big fan of acid tastes, and it seems to me that the pickled cherry peppers add enough acidity on their own. Not all recipes add onion and bell pepper (this one from Lidia Bastianich is a case in point) while the amount of cherry pepper varies from recipe to recipe, as does the amount of garlic. (Lidia’s recipe calls for 10 cloves!)

In the Italian-American manner, you can serve Chicken Scarpariello with pasta as a side dish if you like. Orzo, known in Italy as risoni, is a favorite choice. And like most braised dishes, Chicken Scarpariello is even better when you can make it ahead and reheat it the next day.

Why this dish took the name Scarpariello remains something of a mystery. One unlikely story has it that the bones sticking out of the chicken were reminiscent of shoe tacks sticking out of a shoemaker’s mouth. Another story goes that the dish can be ‘cobbled together’ quickly with the humble ingredients that even a shoemaker could afford. This second story is the same one told about the original Neapolitan pasta dish of the same name. My guess is that the dish was named after the pasta dish—surely first-generation Italian-American immigrants from Naples still remembered it—for the same reason. Or maybe just because they liked the name…

Chicken Scarpariello

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: Serves 4-6

Chicken Scarpariello

Ingredients

  • 1 medium chicken, cut up into serving pieces and well-dried
  • 250g (1/2 lb) 'sweet' Italian sausages
  • 2 bell peppers, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) white wine
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) chicken broth
  • 8-10 pickled cherry peppers
  • A pinch of oregano
  • A few sprigs of fresh parsley, finely minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil

Instructions

  1. In a large Dutch oven or sauté pan, brown the chicken pieces in abundant olive oil. Remove the chicken and set the aside. then add the sausages to the pan and brown them, too. Remove the sausage and them set aside.
  2. Add the bell pepper and onions to the pan and sauté gently for a few minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the minced garlic and let it sauté for just a few moments, then add the wine and broth.
  3. Bring the the liquid to a simmer, then add back the chicken and sausage, along with the cherry peppers and a pinch of oregano. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes, then remove the lid and continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes more, or until the chicken has cooked through and the liquid has reduced into a sauce that clings to the chicken pieces.
  4. Add the minced parsley at the last minute and serve hot.
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Comments

  1. Hi Frank, this looks so delicious that I decided to make it tonight! They only had the jars of hot pickled cherry peppers and I put in 4 and OMG it is very very hot so I’m glad I stopped before putting in 8 🙂
    A couple of stupid questions: I added too much salt and I’m worried I’ve ruined it. Any tips on how to fix this problem? Also, I think I will serve it with orzo but wondering: I have only made orzo by browning it first, boiling it in chicken broth and then adding basil and parmesan near the end so its delicious but probably too much for this dish. Do you just boil it in water (ie make as directed) and serve it plain underneath?

    1. Author

      Well, my best guess would be the cherry peppers were very salty. They can vary depending on the brand you buy. I’d try cutting down on them (and on the added salt of course) and see how that goes. And even if you like a plain orzo, I’d still suggest a drizzle of olive oil or some butter. But it’s a matter of taste…

  2. Frank – so sorry to be so behind on my comments! This chicken dish looks wonderful – and I have a real soft spot in my heart for Italian-American cuisine because my mother’s sister married into a wonderful immigrant family from Sicily. By the time my generation came along, the family had been there for a couple of generations and the foodways were fully Italian-American by then.

    1. Author

      It’s interesting to see how the cooking changes from generation to generation, isn’t it, David? I do count myself lucky to have been in on the first generation’s cooking. I guess I’m old fashioned that way, but I still think it was the best.

  3. This sounds wonderful, Frank! As luck would have it, I bought an organic chicken yesterday and have quite a few jars of pickled cherry peppers. (My garden was exceptionally kind this year.) Looks like I’ll be giving your recipe a try sooner rather than later. Thanks!

    1. Author

      Sounds like you’re ready to go, John! And with garden-grown cherry peppers, I bet your results will be particularly nice. If you do try it, let us know what you think.

      1. Came back to let you know … I’ve just prepared and enjoyed your recipe, Frank. This year’s cherry peppers were hotter than they’ve ever been so this dish threw some heat -and I enjoyed every bite! Chicken Scarpariello is sure to become a regular guest at my table. Thanks!

        1. Back yet again … I posted a pic of my preparation of your recipe on the Bartolini Kitchens’ Facebook page with a link back to this post. Thanks again!

  4. I have a variety of peppers that keep on giving so will be doing this over the weekend. I love a chicken-sausage combo. Our eves just got chilly enough for some comfort food – sans cream.

  5. I’ve had similar recipes to this and I’ve even seen this dish in a restaurant or two, but I never knew the origins of it (love the shoemaker’s tacks and bone reference). Looks great, Frank!

  6. I had this exact dish sometime ago but couldn’t remember the name of it. Now I know it’s an American-Italian dish! I agree this definitely makes a hearty family meal. Can’t wait to try this at my next dinner party. Thanks.

  7. I’ve eaten this dish only once, and never made it, but after seeing your photos, I am going to put this on my menu. As always, your explanations and side comments are terrific, Frank.

  8. This dish is new to me as well. The combination chicken + peppers, however, is not, as my mother used to make “pollo coi peperoni” when bell peppers were in season. I like what I see in the photo!

    1. Author

      Thanks, Simona! I love that dish, too. Perhaps surprisingly, this one actually tastes quite different, due to the pickled peppers, and the way that the wine and broth are added together at the end to create the sauce. For me, both are good in their own way.

  9. Hey Frank! I’ve made the Italian version and it’s really good…

    Happy to see you keeping up the Italo-American tradition of Columbus Day. Your chicken looks absolutely delicious!

  10. I love your stories and explanations. I’ve never heard of this dish but after reading your story I definitely have to make it. The ingredients are so interesting. I can’t wait to try this.Thank you Frank, another great recipe.

  11. Two types of pickled peppers, sweet and hot. Which is appropriate for this dish?

      1. Just finished a most delicious meal. We used the Mezetta (California) Sweet Pickled Peppers. My wife is just not a fan (her loss) of heat. A very fine preparation. We used Orzo. Thanks for your dedication in bringing the taste of Italy to the World. Leftovers tomorrow.

  12. Talk about memories, family dinners at our local Italian American restaurant in NJ featured Chicken Scarpariello. The cherry peppers in vinegar added just enough acidity for my taste. Wonderful post, I think I shall make it when back in the old country i.e. NJ this November.

  13. una ricetta piana di sapori ,colori e profumi mediterranei,mi viene voglia di farla presto ! Buona settimana Frank

    1. Author

      I bet your homemade version would be better than anything you’ve tried in a restaurant, John.

  14. This looks great and will try it tonight as I have the ingredients on hand.
    fyi: I am assuming that the (c) is to mean ©, if so then in word, go to insert, then select symbols and scroll through the options until you find it.

  15. Yes, I’ve never heard of it either (in Montréal). Only the Italian dish of the same name. Would you have any idea where it developed?

    It sounds good, and easy to make. I wouldn’t add vinegar either, however a bit of lemon juice might be a nice touch.

  16. This dish didn’t make it to Canada. I’ve never heard of it, but is sounds good! Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving. Ciao, Cristina

    1. Author

      Worth a try, Christina! Personally it is not really “my kind of thing” but definitely worth a try.

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