The alternate title for this recipe was Pizza Chicken so, uh, yea sign me up. When we saw the recipe in the NYT, we made plans to cook it immediately and were not disappointed. Let’s get right into it:
Heat up your oven to 400 degrees and pull out that cast iron skillet. Pat chicken dry (I used two packages of boneless, skin-on thighs) and season with salt and pepper. Cook up 5 oz chopped pancetta, stirring frequently, until it’s crispy and browned. Move it over to a paper-towel-lined plate so it can drain and put the chicken to skillet with that pancetta grease. Sear the chicken until it’s browned on all sides (this is why you want the skin-on chicken), 8-10 minutes, and transfer to a plate. Now back to the skillet: add 3 garlic cloves (minced), 2 anchovy filets (just don’t tell your husband – it makes the dish so much better and he won’t even realize it’s in there but if he knows he’ll complain he hates anchovies), and 1/4 tsp (or more) red pepper flakes. Fry for 1 minute before adding 1(28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes and a sprig of basil (you’ll use more basil later). As the sauce cooks, use a wooden spoon to break down the tomatoes and let things thicken for about 10 minutes. Add the chicken back to skillet and then move the whole thing to oven and cook, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through (about 30 minutes, but maybe less if you’re using thinner pieces). Once it’s all cooked, top with bits of mozzarella and return to the oven. If possible, broil it for about 2 minutes so the cheese browns; otherwise, 3-5 minutes in the regular oven will get the cheese nice and melty. Pull it out of the oven, sprinkle that pancetta all over the top and make it rain fresh basil.
This does kind of feel like a pizza parlor embodied in a chicken meal. The sauce has that greasy sheen like the top of a good pepperoni. We all love that sheen; it’s like a wink. It’s not a thick sauce like what you’d pour over pasta, but it still pairs particularly well with egg noodles. This screams Sunday Supper, my friends.