Poussin Cacciatore with Creamy Polenta
Barbara Lynch | Yield: 4
Poussins are basically small, baby chickens that take well to roasting and braising, as in this cacciatore with sweet and hot peppers, garlic and dry red wine. Serve this hearty dish over creamy, mascarpone enriched polenta.
- 2 Whole Poussins
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
- 2 hot Italian peppers, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
- 5 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- Coarsely-ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- fleur de sel
CREAMY MASCARPONE POLENTA
- 4 cups milk
- 1 cup coarse cornmeal
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
- A generous 1/2 cup mascarpone
- Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the hens into 6 bone-in pieces each: breasts, legs, and thighs. Remove the thighbones, if you like, though it’s fine to leave them in for a more rustic dish. (Use what is left over—wings, backbones, and possibly thighbones—to make the stock, if you like.)
- In a large deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and place the chicken skin side down in the pan with some space between the pieces. Cook on one side until nicely browned and then turn the pieces over to brown on the other side, 6 to 8 minutes total. Remove the chicken from the pan.
- Lower the heat to medium and add the onion, bell pepper, hot peppers, and garlic to the pan. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft and just lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and wine to the pan, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine has reduced by about half, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, start the polenta. In a large saucepan, bring the milk to a gentle boil. Pour the cornmeal slowly into the milk, whisking all the while to prevent clumping. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Add 3 tablespoons of the butter, season with 2 teaspoons salt and a few good grinds of pepper. Let the polenta cook, until it is thick and the cornmeal is tender, about 45 minutes.
- Return the chicken to the pan and continue cooking until the wine has reduced a little more. Add the broth, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, and cook until the chicken is cooked through; the breasts should cook through in 6 to 7 minutes and the thighs and legs in 8 to 9 minutes. Remove the meat as it’s cooked and reserve it.
- Continue cooking the liquid in the pan until it has reduced by about half; this should take about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and return the chicken to the pan briefly to reheat.
- Finish the polenta. Stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons butter and then the mascarpone. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- To serve, divide the polenta among four wide shallow bowls. Spoon the cacciatore sauce over it and then top it with the chicken pieces, evenly dividing them among the bowls. Finish with the chopped parsley and a sprinkle of fleur de sel.