Pollo al Tartufo

October 24th, 2011
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Pollo_al_tartufo

It is a bit disappointing that by the time mid-October rolls around, La Romita has usually closed her doors for the year. Disappointing because some amazing Umbrian delicacies come into season in fall, chief among these the black truffles of Norcia.

Truffles are the “fruit” of a fungus that grows on the roots of forest trees, particularly oak and hazelnut.  Up the Valnerina (Valley of the Nera River) to the northeast of Terni,  three rivers pass through forests of these trees around the town of Norci and create the perfect environment for tartufi neri. The best ones are gathered starting in the fall, with the season peak marked by the Mostra Mercato del Tartufo Nero truffle festival in February. Even out of season, recipes “al tartufo” are so common in the area that one can easily forget the truffle’s luxury-item status in the rest of the world!

As is typical of Italian cuisine, preparations with tartufo are simple and highlight the ingredient. The recipe below is a simple chicken dish that offsets the earthiness of the truffle with the sweetness of tomatoes.

Spezzatino di Pollo al Tartufo

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 – 3lbs chicken, cut up for frying – a young free-range or organic fryer chicken is best
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 16 oz of crushed tomatoes (choose the best canned tomatoes you can find)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • black truffle, thinly sliced (see note)
  • sea salt and pepper

Directions:

Pat the chicken pieces dry and season well with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high and carefully add the chicken pieces. Cook them until lightly browned on both sides (4-5 minutes per side), reduce the heat and cook them until they reach an internal temperature of 160F (residual heat will take them up to 165F). The white meat pieces will probably reach temperature before the dark meat.

Remove the meat to a warm dish and lightly tent with foil while you make the sauce.

Discard most of the fat reserving 2 tbsp in the pan. Return the pan to a medium-low heat, add the garlic and onion, and cook until the onion is translucent. Deglaze the pan with the white wine making sure to scrape up “the brown bits” and reduce well. Add the crushed tomatoes, and simmer for another few minutes.

Return the chicken to the pan and let it soak up a bit of the sauce and come back to temperature. Then transfer the chicken onto a serving dish, cover with thin slices of black truffle, and finally spoon the rest of the sauce over the dish. Serve!

Note: Truffle can be both hard to find and expensive in the States. While not the same, some thinly sliced mushrooms,  well browned in a pan with a little olive oil, are an adequate replacement – as you can see in the featured picture!