Saturday, September 1, 2012

Mario Batali's Chicken Thighs with Snap Peas and Agliata

When I read Mario Batali's recipe for Chicken Thighs with Snap Peas and Agliata, I knew I had to make it.  Mario describes the recipe as follows: "[t]hese chicken thighs are coated with a garlicky bread crumb mixture and cooked slowly over the cooler part of the grill so you end up with juicy meat and toasted herb crust."  Put another way, garlicky bread mixture + indirect cooking = juicy meat + toasted herb crust.  A great calculation in my estimation!

The only question was when would I have an opportunity to make this recipe.  The opportunity presented itself when Clare and I hosted a wine dinner for our Wine Club.  We decided that the theme would be based upon Mario Batali's cookbook, Italian Grill.  I immediately had the main course selected.  And it was the Chicken Thighs with Snap Peas and Agliata.

I bought the chicken thighs and snap peas, but I got to wondering what is "agliata."  As it turns out, "agliata" is a garlic sauce that dates back to the Middle Ages.  The sauce is very easy to make, having only three ingredients: garlic, bread crumbs and red wine vinegar.  Mario Batali's version of agliata includes a lot of garlic.   Twelve cloves!  (I have to admit that I used only nine cloves out of concern that some guests may not like an overpowering garlic flavor, which I really like.)  Mario also uses bread crumbs; and, instead of vinegar, he uses anchovy paste and olive oil to provide the agliata with its sauce-like characteristic.  (Once again, I have to admit I that omitted the anchovy paste, but that is because I did not have any on hand and could not find it at the store).  Mario also adds flat leaf parsley to his agliata.  Although the Middle Ages version of agliata did not include parsley, Mario Batali's use of this herb adds a lot of character -- along with brightness and color -- to the sauce/bread crumb mixture.  That is something that I've come to expect from a chef like Mario Batali, who is himself a bright and colorful character. 

In the end, this recipe worked out very well.  I think all of the guests enjoyed this dish and, at least for me, it now ranks as one of my favorite chicken thigh dishes.  Although I say this a lot, I definitely plan on making this recipe again.  And I mean it!

Recipe by Mario Batali and available in Italian Grill, pg. 141
Serves 6

12 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup, plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 cups of fresh bread crumbs
12 boneless, skinless, chicken thighs
3 shallots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 teaspoon of anchovy paste
1 pound snap peas, blanched in boiling water until
     bright green, chilled in an ice bath and drained
Olio Piccante for drizzling

1.  Prepare the bread crumb mixture.  Combine the garlic, 1/2 cup of the oil, the anchovies, parsley and bread crumbs in a food processor and zap until smoothish. 

2.  Prepare the chicken thighs.  Put the chicken thighs in a large bowl and sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture, turning to coat well.  Arrange in a single layer on a platter and put in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. 

3.  Grill the chicken.   Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for indirect grilling.  Place the chicken thighs skinned side up on the cooler part of the grill, cover the grill, and grill, turning once until the chicken is cooked through, about fifteen minutes per side.

4.  Finish the dish.  Meanwhile, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a 10 to 12 inch saute pan over medium heat.  Add the shallots and anchovy paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the snap peas and cook, stirring, just until heated through.  Transfer the snap peas to a platter and set aside.  

5.  Plate the dish.  Arrange the thighs on top of the snap peas and serve with a drizzle of olio piccante.


As I noted above, I made this dish for a wine dinner.  The couple who brought the wines paired the Chicken Thighs with Snap Peas and Agliata with a Chilean Pinot Noir.  The wine was the Ona Anakena Pinot Noir (2010) from the Leyda Valley of Chile.  The wine is a deep cherry red in color, with a good balance between the fruit and the oak.  This wine pairing worked extremely well with the dish, pairing a lighter red wine with the garlicky chicken, which provided an experience where the wine tamed the herb and garlic flavors of the grilled meat.    


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