This hearty osso buco style chicken is a perfect dish for a cold winter day. It is yummy and healthy on its own, but extra delicious if you ladle it over a bowl of creamy polenta. It is also the kind of food that will taste better the next day if there is any leftover.
Though I am Chinese and didn’t grow up eating Italian food, Italian cooking comes naturally to me. There are a lot of similarities in the way food is prepared, though often with very different seasoning. We use onion, carrots and tomatoes in stews or braised dishes. We enjoy pouring warm saucy food over rice or noodle. We even love gruel similar to the texture of polenta.
In the first months after arriving on an American college campus, I had no money, but using a prepaid plastic card, I could eat everything to my heart’s content in the cafeteria. I lived on spaghetti and ice cream— spaghetti for its similarity to Chinese noodles, ice cream for its sheer sense of luxury.
However, I didn’t fall in love with Italian food until my month long stay in Rome filming The Last Emperor at Cinecitta Studio in the late 80s. I hardly ate any Chinese food during that month and was surprised that I didn’t miss it all that much. (Well, to be completely honest, I did crave the taste of soy sauce once in a while.)
Now that I have lived in San Francisco for more than two decades, I consider Italian dishes comfort food.
So here it is, my Italian comfort food.
Osso Buco Style Chicken on Creamy Polenta
Ingredients for Chicken:
5 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
3 stocks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup + 2 tablespoon white wine, divided
2 cups chicken broth
1 sprig rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
6 tablespoons wholewheat flour
1teaspoon dried rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Marinate the chicken thighs with 2 tablespoons white wine and 1/4 teaspoon salt and keep in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Mix the flour, garlic powder, pepper, chopped rosemary and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large shallow bowl. Dry the meat with paper towel, dredge in the flour mixture and shake off the excess.
Heat a tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet on medium high and brown the chicken thighs.
Set the browned the meat aside in a plate.
Pour the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet and add minced garlic, stir until aromatic. Add the chopped onion, carrots, celery and tomatoes in the skillet and sauté for about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir for another minute.
Return chicken to the skillet. Pour in 1 cup of white wine and 2 cups of chicken broth. Add the rosemary and thyme, tied together with a kitchen twine. Close the lid and bring to boiling temperature. Lower the heat to let it simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes. If the dish feels to soupy, open the lid and turn the stove to high to reduce the liquid to desired level.
Ingredients for Polenta:
1 cup dry polenta or yellow cornmeal
2 cups 2% milk
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
3 oz Gruyére cheese, shredded
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a medium sauce pan, heat the milk and the broth to a boil, lower the heat to simmer, slowly stir in polenta. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes until thickened, stirring often. Add cheese and salt and stir for 2 minutes until cheese is melted. If the polenta feels too thick, add a little more milk.
Ingredients for Gremolata:
1/2 cup minced parsley
1 teaspoon minced lemon zest
1 teaspoon minced orange zest
1 clove garlic, minced
Use a grater or a vegetable peeling to get the outer most layer of the lemon and orange skin. Mince the zest with a knife.
Mix the zest with chopped parsley and minced garlic.
I dredged the chicken thighs in seasoned flour before I browned them to give them more flavor, but it is all right to brown them without the flour.
I finished using the rest of the parsley and the lemon without its skin by making a salad with avocados, tomatoes, marinated olives and radishes. The dressing was simply lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. I topped it with chopped pistachio nuts. It is a very refreshing and satisfying salad.