Let’s face it; family meals can be a challenge, especially with a spring break re-entry. We’ve all had those nights of trying something new and the four-foot tall critics weigh-in with mixed reviews. Um, thanks so much children. That is why I’m very excited to share this Chicken Romano recipe, with flying colors, it passed the test with all the plates around our dinner table.
My inspiration for the dish came from my friend Mollie Ahstrand from Tratoria Mollie here in Montecito. From time to time she will feature a dish similar to this on her specials menu. From that starting point I got to work in my kitchen and this was the tasty result.
This dish is a winner for so many reasons — it’s beautiful, easy to make and delicious, it’s a great weeknight meal but special enough to serve for entertaining on the weekend. Another bonus is that it tastes even better if it’s made in advance, so make it in the morning (or even the day before), and refrigerate. When you’re ready for dinner, simply heat it up and enjoy.
My kids love the chicken and veggies served over spaghetti al oilo, but the grown-ups eat it up just as it’s listed here. To keep it gluten-free, I didn’t use flour to dredge or thicken the sauce and it worked just fine. The addition of the romanesco and kale keep this Roman dish true to it’s roots, added great color, flavor and texture (not to mention upping the veggie content). If you can’t find romanesco, feel free to use broccoli or cauliflower.
Chicken Romano with Lacinato Kale and Romanesco
Serves 4 with leftovers
Note: Lately, chicken breasts at the market seemly huge. Here, we cut split breasts in half across the breastbone, so you can portion the right amount for each person
3 large chicken breasts halves with bones and skin
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons salt divided, plus more for the chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 yellow onion, fine chopped
1 rib of celery, fine chopped
2 fresh bay leaves (or 1 dried)
3 cloves of garlic
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 large yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup white wine
1 26 ounce can/box of San Marzano tomatoes
3 cups romanesco florets
2 cups black kale, ribs removed and torn
1 teaspoon fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
First, get the sauce started by heating a large Dutch oven on medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, onion, celery and bay leaves. The longer you cook this starting mixture the tastier the sauce will be. Keep some water handy to add in if things get a little brown too quickly. After about 10 minutes add the garlic, bell pepper and one teaspoon of salt and pepper (or to taste). Continue to cook an additional 10 minutes. Add the wine and stir up any bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Now, add the tomatoes, breaking them up with your spoon. Stir in the remaining salt. Taste for additional seasoning, cover and continue to simmer while you finish searing the chicken.
Cut the chicken breasts halves in half, so you end up with quarter pieces. You’re going to cut perpendicular to the breastbone through the middle of the breast bone (see photo). You’ll need a sharp knife to slice through the bone. You can have your butcher do it for you (if you’re lucky enough to have a real live butcher). Salt and pepper the breast quarters. In a frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sear the chicken on all sides until golden brown — depending on the size of your pan, you may have to do this in batches.
After the all the chicken is browned, nestle it into the sauce, bone side up. Cover chicken completely with sauce, spooning it over so all of the pieces are covered.
Cook in the oven 45 minutes. Then, flip chicken pieces over and add the romanesco and kale. Cover and return to the oven for 15 minutes.
To serve, portion out the chicken and sauce into shallow bowls — if you’re entertaining, you might want to remove the breastbone from the chicken prior to serving. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.