Pollo Glassato Val Camonica
September 15, 2007

Excerpted from The Italian Country Table: Home Cooking from Italy's Farmhouse Kitchens by Lynne Rossetto Kasper (Scribner, 1999). Copyright 1999 by Lynne Rossetto Kasper. All rights reserved.

Serves 4

In the Italian Swiss Alps, north and east of Milan in the long Camonica Valley, farm families mark special occasions with this sautéed chicken. It needs only a handful of ingredients and the simplest of techniques. Sautéing chicken slowly while reducing small amounts of wine over it, one after another, builds a sauce where each ingredient—the wine, lemon, sage, garlic and onion—gives up its individual identity to a melding of luscious, layered tastes. In the process, each piece of chicken glazes to the color of polished teak. Hold back on embellishments. Accompany it with steamed or baked new potatoes, and perhaps spring peas or green beans, but nothing more.

Cook to Cook: One caution: a 12-inch sauté pan is essential to this recipe's success; it will not work with anything smaller. To build the rich glaze, do not cover the chicken at any point while cooking.

  • 1 3- to 3 1/2-pound chicken (if possible, hormone- and antibiotic-free), cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/2 medium lemon
  • 8 large fresh sage leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced onion
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 3/4 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup water

1. Up to 2 hours before cooking, rub the chicken with the lemon, squeezing out the juice as you go, then rub with the sage leaves. Lightly salt and generously pepper the chicken. Pile it on a platter, tucking in the sage leaves here and there, cover, and refrigerate
2 hours.

2. Remove the sage leaves and set aside. Pat the chicken dry. Heat the oil in a 12-inch sauté pan (not nonstick) over medium-high heat. Place the chicken skin side down in the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and brown on the first side, about 10 minutes. Turn and sauté about 5 minutes, then sprinkle with the onion and reserved sage leaves and finish browning on the second side. Keep the breast pieces at the pan's edges to slow their cooking. Remove the pan from the heat and spoon off all but 1/2 tablespoon of the fat.

3. Allow about 25 minutes for this final step: set the pan over medium heat, sprinkle the chicken with the garlic, and add 1/2 cup of the wine to the pan. Cook slowly, uncovered, scraping up the brown glaze and turning the chicken pieces occasionally, until all the liquid has cooked away. Adjust the heat as necessary so the wine simmers gently, taking care not to scorch. Repeat with another 1/2 cup of wine, then another, spooning the pan juices over the chicken and turning the pieces to keep them moist. Finally, add the remaining 1/4 cup wine and let it cook away. Blend in the water and cook down only halfway. The chicken is cooked when there is no sign of pink when the thigh meat is pierced. The sauce should be syrupy and rich-tasting, and barely coat the chicken. Serve hot.

Glazing: You can dramatically intensify the flavors of roasts and sautés, without adding more flavorings or fat, by using a simple process I call "glazing." After years of watching Italian home cooks, I saw that the best ones use a similar technique for enriching and opening up flavors.

Glazing is repeatedly basting food with its own pan juices, and perhaps other liquids#151;usually wine. Use glazing when roasting and sautéing meats or poultry. With each basting of liquid, another layer of taste is added, intensifying and deepening the flavors.

The recipe for Wine-Glazed Chicken illustrates glazing a sauté beautifully. You'll need a wide shallow pan#151;a 12-inch sauté pan#151;and about 25 minutes more cooking once the chicken is browned. Never cover the cooking meat. Once the chicken is browned, tip the pan and spoon off most of the fat. Then pour a little wine over the chicken. Cook over medium to low heat, moistening the chicken pieces by occasionally turning them in the pan juices. Once most of the wine has bubbled away, add a little more, this time spooning up the juices from the pan too. Repeat several times. Each basting builds another layer of richness.

I think you'll be amazed by the difference this technique makes in any recipe—a world away from the tastes we get by simply pouring wine in all at once and simmering the meat or poultry. Try glazing with roast pork, beef and veal.