La Lama Mountain Ovens
The best of the recipes, techniques, and methods practiced by our large extended Italian-American family - with emphasis on the legacy handed down to us by the original immigrants.
This is a cookbook-in-process project. If you try any of these recipes please let us know how they turn out, whether or not you had any difficulties, and any clarifying improvements you might recommend to make them foolproof. We will of course acknowledge genuine "test-kitchen" assistance.
Family Secrets #39
By CeCe Dove, La Lama Mountain Ovens
|Winter comes early here in the mountains. On this first snowy day my mind wanders back to a time many years ago, seeing my father and brother stomping into the house, shaking snow from their boots, game bags full of rabbits, with an occasional squirrel or pheasant tucked in. Our father was a hard working man who allowed himself few pleasures outside of his family. Hunting was one he looked forward to all year. Not being a hunter myself, it was difficult for me to understand his pleasure in the sport. I only understood it at the table. He did not hunt for trophies. He loved the physical outdoorsman part of the hunt, and the camaraderie with his partners, but he mostly loved cooking and eating his catch. I'm sure it reminded him of his early years in Italy when hunting was not a sport but a requirement to survive.|
|The recipe that follows originated with the hunter, and Cacciatora translates as "in the style of the hunter". When the hunt was over for the day the men would gather wild mushrooms and wild onions from the forests. They might luck upon some wild fennel or other edible herb, and they would stew their catch with these for their dinner. Ingredients would depend upon what part of the country in which they were located. This is what makes regional cuisine. If you look in five different Italian cookbooks for "cacciatora" you will find five different recipes. Though not many true sportsmen would shoot a chicken, the substitution of chicken for rabbit works well; but if you are lucky enough to have some wild rabbits on hand, by all means use them in place of the chicken. If, however, you must hunt your dinner at the supermarket, fear not, for this dish adapts itself beautifully.||
Papa in the foreground, fall of 1924, western Pennsylvania
|Whether you are cooking
for four or eight, this is a wonderful dish for
entertaining. It lends itself to advance preparation, is
expanded easily for feeding a crowd, and the leftovers
reheat without drying out. You can prep it in the morning
and refrigerate it until the final cooking, leaving you
free to enjoy your company.
|Preparing the chicken:
Cut the chicken into small pieces. A Chinese cleaver is ideal for this job. Each thigh should be halved. Each breast half should be halved. Cut off the knuckle ends of the drumsticks and save them with the wing tips for the stock pot. Soak the chicken in iced salt water (1 Tblsp. salt per 2 qt. water) for a minimum of two hours, or up to 8 hours in the refrigerator. When ready to cook, drain the chicken and pat dry on paper towels.
Browning the chicken:
Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large heavy sauté pan over fairly high heat. Sprinkle the pieces of chicken with salt and pepper, and very lightly flour, shaking off any excess. The flour will help dry the chicken and will allow it to brown nicely. Work in batches to brown the pieces, not crowding them or they will steam instead of brown. It should take 3 or 4 minutes per side. Remove with tongs and place in a non-reactive roasting pan.
When all the pieces are nicely browned, turn heat down to medium and add sliced green and red peppers and onions to pan. Cook, stirring only until slightly softened, three or four minutes. Remove with tongs and add to chicken. Soften mushroom in sauté pan in the same manner. Add to the chicken. Mix the chopped fresh tomatoes, with the tomato paste (or sauce), and add to chicken. Stir everything gently to coat.
Finally chop the garlic, rosemary and parsley together. Sprinkle over the chicken, salt and pepper lightly. May be prepared ahead to this point and covered tightly with foil (or roaster lid), then refrigerate until ready to cook.
Heat oven to 325. Place covered roaster in oven and bake for 1 hr. 15 min if not refrigerated. Bake 1 hr. 30 min. if refrigerated.
Cook 8 oz. capellini (angel hair) pasta. Drain and rinse in hot water. Place a generous swirl of pasta in center of each place. Top with three or four pieces of chicken and spoon some of the vegetables and sauce over. Serve at once.
Altitude Adjustment: Cooking pasta at any altitude over 2500 ft. requires a few extra minutes and lots of water. Never crowd the pasta. But even at a high altitude, angel hair is so thin that it only requires 3 or 4 minutes.