Jill's Chicken Tettrazini
My family took a year-long Italian detour soon after I graduated from college. I loved everything about this surreal place - the food, the art, and the men … at least until I learned that most Italian males remained mama’s boys for life. My mom & I were there on my dad’s coattails and witnessed “Coach Sy” transform an unlikely American football troop of Italians into a winning team. Who knew there was such a thing as an Italian superbowl? I was a bystander, of course, and watched as Coach Sy swiftly became a sports celebrity and took his Bologna Towers to the superbowl in Rome - A battle with the Gladiatores, no less.
While my Dad was trying to break the team’s smoking habits, I had the luxury of time to roam the markets, explore ingredients and teach myself to cook and eat. Bologna is of course the food capital of Italy. This wonderful city is thankfully skipped by tourists and is full of porticos, food markets and scores of communists playing bocce. Most weekends were spent eating and celebrating at the players’ homes with their families…with their mamas and nonnas at the kitchen helm. These five-hour, multi-course celebrations started early with a lesson in folding tortelloni and always ended with too much grappa and limoncello.
As a thank you for their hospitality, we hosted a celebration during the real American Superbowl at our apartment. I was in charge of the food for this shindig and at twenty-one, what did I know about catering to this crowd? So, I cooked what I knew and threw together what I thought was a typical Italian dish that would be loved by all. A little pasta, some roasted chicken, béchamel sauce and sauteed porcini mushrooms. Ecco, we have Chicken Tettrazini. Long story short: they had never heard of such a dish, loved it anyway and my recipe and picture were in the Bologna newspaper the next day. It was there that I found my passion.
In your favorite skillet, with a glass of Brunello di Montalcino in hand, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter and sautee a hand-full of chopped Shallots. Forgive me: the more I enjoy the wine, the more nebulous my quantities become. If you use good ingredients, the quantities matter less, and your dish becomes more like a jazz riff on a John Coltrane tune. Back to the recipe…
On medium heat, add ½ lb of your favorite chopped mushrooms. You can use Button or Cremini Mushrooms… but Porcini Mushrooms are special if you can find them. Sautee Mushrooms and Shallots in butter until golden about 4-5 minutes. Dust with salt & pepper. If you have some fresh thyme in your garden, add a few sprigs to your sauce. You can pull these out later after the flavors have evolved. Transfer the shallots & mushrooms to a bowl. Add another 4 tablespoons of butter to the pan. Melt Butter and add ⅓ cup of flour and stir until mixed thoroughly. Add 2 Cups of Chicken Stock or Bone Broth to the and stir until it begins to thicken. Add 1 Cup of Heavy Cream. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in ¾ cup of shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and 1 Cup of Chopped Green Onions. I don’t like peas so I substitute the green onions. You can also add raw Chopped Asparagus pieces. If like Peas, add fresh, uncooked hard Peas.