Chicken with Pancetta, Sage, and Zindfandel

I’ve come to realize the parallels between cooking and everyday life. For example, I believe cooking is very much like dating—trying new things out, living and learning, being put off at times, getting burned on occasion, and other times finding something very delicious. Marriage, I believe, is more like baking: the ingredients have to be more precise–it’s much more finicky; one wrong move and it could haunt you forever. But if you get it right, it is the most scrumptiously sweet thing in the world. More on that later.

I think recipes are like relationships in general. Everyone brings with them a different set of ingredients. And much like on Top Chef, those incredibly different—and sometimes seemingly disharmonious pieces-–can either turn disastrous or amazingly and surprisingly wonderful. I think this is part of what makes relationships and recipes so interesting and worthwhile: to see how different ingredients meld together and to reveal, with pleasure, what the final dish looks like. It’s exciting. And I think the trick to life is to not to take a poorly constructed dish, or maybe not bringing the best of your ingredients (freshest, if you will?) at times, get you down. It’s fine if sometimes meals don’t work out, and it’s fine if you don’t harmonize with everyone. As long as we are confident in what we bring to the kitchen table, and as long as we are open, willing, and accepting—even if the meal doesn’t look beautiful—it is still a beautiful thing to try your hardest (and to laugh at the results). I think we can find harmony within other people’s differences, accepting ones that don’t work at all (and maybe leave a bad taste in your mouth), knowing that all you can do is try your best; everyone will continue to mix and brew with others, until they find the most amazing combinations for themselves, which enrich their lives, warm their heart, and fill their bellies.

Some recipes we have to let go of. They will never work. And that’s ok. There are so, so many out there that will feed your body and soul, make you see the world, yourself, and others differently—in a better way than when you first began.

This recipe is harmonious, delicious, and elegant—a relationship full of spice, love, depth, and wine. I can’t think of anything better.

Chicken with Pancetta, Sage, and Zinfandel

About 4 servings

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces, or 2 packages chicken drumsticks from Trader Joe’s (3 ½ pounds)

1 container cremini mushrooms, 8 oz

1 container minced pancetta, 4 oz (I got mine at Trader Joe’s)

*2 large garlic cloves

1 tablespoon minced fresh sage

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup good, spicy Zinfandel (one that you like!)

1 can (14 ½ oz) plum (Roma) tomatoes with juice, pureed in a blender

1 ½ tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley

Finely ground sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

**If you have IBS or a sensitive tummy, leave the garlic out. You won’t even miss it!

Instructions

Rise the chicken pieces, pat dry with a paper towel, and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven or frying pan over medium-high heat and cook the chicken, skin side down until browned (about 8 minutes), turning heat down to medium after the first minute or so.  Brown the other side for about 8 minutes as well, and then transfer to a plate for later.

In the same pan, over medium-low heat, add the pancetta and cook for about 1 minute. Then add the garlic (if using) and sage. Cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add the wine, and stir, scraping the browned chicken bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes and mushrooms and bring to a gentle simmer, and cook (uncovered) for 15 minutes (adding water if it becomes too dry. Mine was fine).

Return the chicken to the pan with the sauce, cover, and simmer gently (turning once) until tender and cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Place the chicken in a serving dish, spoon the sauce over it, and sprinkle the parsley over the top. Serve with the Zinfandel you used for the sauce. Enjoy!

I served mine with polenta. To make it very easy, I just bought the tube at Trader Joe’s, sliced it, and fried it quickly in a frying pan with some olive oil, salt, and pepper for a few minutes. Easy, perfect.

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This amazing recipe (with a few modifications) is from the Williams-Sonoma San Francisco cookbook.