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Chicken with Tomato-Pancetta Sauce and Mashed Potatoes

This dish brings back memories of my folks coming to visit me when I lived in Bologna, Italy.  Far away from home, it was a real treat to be able to show off my language skills and the city to them.  Of course, the other benefit was that we got to eat out at places that were normally beyond my grad school student budget.  One of those was the venerable Ristorante Diana, which has been around since the 1920s and has served just about everyone.  Yes, at this point it is quite touristy, and although it does a good job with la cucina bolognese, it isn’t really the first place I’d send people looking for the classic cuisine of the city.

Go down Via Independenza to get there

At the same time, however, I did have a dish there that night that I immediately tried to re-create in my own kitchen a few weeks later: Chicken with Tomato-Pancetta Sauce and Mashed Potatoes.  It would have been useful if I had written down exactly what I had done more than ten years ago when I first cracked it, but, of course, I didn’t.  Two countries, four cities, and I’m not sure how many moves later, and I decided that I needed to try this one again.  I’m not sure if I got it quite the way that I had had it in Italy, but I think this is a close approximation.  It is a meat and potatoes dish with an Italian flare, and it came together quickly on a week night.  During these dreary winter days, it also had me dreaming of the inviting tangerine and papaya hues of Bologna, which is never a bad thing.

Chicken with Tomato-Pancetta Sauce and Mashed Potatoes

This is one of those dishes where several pots and pans are going on all at the same time.  That is one of the reasons it works well as a week night supper, as it comes together very quickly.  Read the recipe through all the way to get the hang of the sequence of these steps and to see how several things are timed to cook together.

Serving Size: 2 portions

Prep Time: 30-ish minutes

Ingredients:

1 medium Potato per person, peeled and cut into chunks (I used a variety called Nicola that was nice and buttery.)

1/2 tsp Olive Oil

1/2 tsp Butter

Salt

Pepper

2 Chicken breast halves

4 slices Pancetta, cut into medium-sized pieces

1/4 tsp. Olive Oil

1/2 c. Tomato Purée (I used Pomi strained tomatoes.)

2 tsp. Tomato Paste

Pepper

1/4 c. Green Peas

2 Tbsp. Butter

1/4 c. Whole Milk

1 pinch Nutmeg

More Salt

More Pepper

Assembly:

Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.  Put potatoes into pot.  Fill with water until it just covers the potatoes and stick it on a back burner to cook away over medium heat.

In shallow oven-proof pan, melt butter and olive oil together.  You can pick one or the other of these if you like, but this is really one of my favorite combinations of fat in which to cook chicken.  Sprinkle salt and pepper on each side of the chicken breast halves and place them in the pan when the butter has melted into the olive oil.  Cook on each side until lightly brown and then place the pan into the oven to continue cooking thoroughly.

Chicken cooking away on the stove

While the chicken is browning in the pan on top of the stove, put the pancetta into a saucepan with about 1/4 tsp. of olive oil and cook over medium to low heat until it is brown and crisp.  Set aside on a paper towel to drain.  Pour the tomato purée and tomato sauce in the saucepan and stir it to combine the leftover fat and bits from the pancetta.  Season with a few grinds of fresh black pepper.  Add the peas and stir to mix everything together.  Stir in the pancetta.  Let this simmer over low heat while the rest of the dish comes together.

Tomato sauce with the peas, pancetta to be added

Test the potatoes.  By this point, if you insert a knife or fork into the potato chunks, they will break apart.  At that stage, turn of the stove, drain the potatoes in the pot, and toss in the butter, milk, some salt (1/4 tsp. or so), and some pepper (1/8 tsp. or so).  Mash up the potatoes with a fork or potato masher and mix everything together.  Taste.  Add nutmeg and potentially some more salt and more pepper.

Mashed potatoes

Put the potatoes on each of two plates.  Remove the pan with the chicken from the oven and test the chicken to make sure that it is cooked all the way through.  Place the chicken on eat of the two plates.  Pour some of the tomato-pancetta sauce over the chicken.  Serve.

O.K., so this time I might have gotten a little carried away with the sauce

Buon appetito!