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Celebrating Chili Peppers

Chili Peppers are a force to be reckoned with . They attractive in many ways. Their fiery nature excites many of us as individuals and as cultures. Amongst Italians, the folks from  the region of Southern Italy known as  Calabria, my native roots, is known for its affection for spicy dishes and "salumi"  (sausages).  At work, with my many Indian friends I quite often exchange nicely packaged bags of hot chilies, the kind that fire-breathing dragons, like to throw at you when you sit down a the table. If you did not know us,. you would be tempted to think we were trafficking in the illicit.

But affection for chili peppers goes beyond the story of heat. Simply put, chilies are beautiful. Their bold polychromatic explosion attract and make us feel good. When mixed into dishes, they enlighten our senses in a kind of gastronomic  foreplay . Ugly dishes, all of sudden come to life and become sexy. Take a bite, and the wow, the heat hits you hard.

Habaneros Habaneros and More Habaneros

So today I went hunting for peppers. Close by, one great place to find all varieties is my local "Super " South American Market in Port Chester,  NY.  La Placita  super market, as it is called,  is just great store that will amaze you. . It is densely packed with lots of quality products, catering to each of the many sub-cultures that you come across in Central and Latin America.  Chili peppers in Hispanic cuisine Chilies play a very big role so I was not surprised to see an entire section in the refrigerated produce department display a large number of our spicy friends. Giant habaneros ? Did not even know they existed. Tempting but too hot for me and my fan club.

At La Placita,  I selected few varieties of sweet and hot peppers and was all setup for tonight's main dish, a chicken dish inspired by one that I practiced while attending  a class with chef friend Micol Negrin in NYC. I met chef Micol while attending classes at New York's Institute for Culinary Education . Today , chef Micol , owns and runs Rustico Cooking , a cooking school, and great cooking party venue in NYC. Want to throw a corporate cooking party ?  This is the place. Caveat: your guests will have to wear aprons and will have to work for their meal.

I may have changed the dish a bit, as I can't seem to find my notes. I like to think of recipes as draft blueprints and guidelines. so no harm here. This is a slow cooked chicken dish , best with thighs and drumsticks. I mixed in some breast meat , but the thighs were definitely the tastiest part of meal.

Slow Cooked Chicken with Peppers
Even it it's uncooked state,  just look at the colors. Doesn't this shout flavor, doesn't this just speak Autumn goodness?  The dish was prepared in 3 steps.

Step 1: Lightly saute'  without fully cooking , a mix of peppers, including of with heat along with some onion (moderate), shallots, garlic, capers, white wine and fresh herbs ( I used cilantro this time).

Step 2: Dredge  chicken portions in some flavored flour (S/P ,dry herbs) ,  brown on each side.  Add a few slices of corn cob smoked bacon to the browning pan for extra intensity of flavor.

Step 3: Place all ingredients in baking tray ,add some additional EVOO, 1 -2 cups of White Wine. Season ,

Bake for around 1 1/.2 hours minutes at 325 F covered with aluminum foil, then without for additional time until the meat "falls off the bones".

This  recipe improves by day two so make extra,. You have lunch for the following day that your coworkers will envy from the moment they hear the office microwave running.  Two for the price of one I say .

Salute !


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