Occasional recipes: Marilyn Monroe’s Chicken Cacciatore

I have no idea if this really is Marilyn Monroe’s recipe (or variation hereon), but why would iON Oxford Tube, the Oxford Tube’s inflight magazine, lie to me? Anyway, this comes from page 21 of issue 3, apparently winter 2009, though I’d have said in March 2009 that’s impossible and winter 2008 was probably what they meant.

Anyhoo. They say/ [I say]:

  • 4 chicken quarters [or 2 drumsticks each]
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • crashed black pepper and salt
  • 1 yellow pepper, sliced
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic [um, 5, I think it was]
  • 1 glass dry white wine. [A glass? Just what the heck is a glass in official terms of measurement? I dunno, so I gave it exactly one wine glass full and it seemed to work.]
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup chicken stock. [Cup? See remark about glasses of white wine. Best Beloved suggested about half a pint and again it seemed to work.]
  • 1/2 tsp crumbled oregano [omitted in favour of lemon thyme, that being what we had to hand]
  • 2 bay leaves [simply omitted]
  • 1 cup finely chopped mushrooms [here we go again … I just went with my judgement of what looked like a good quantity]
  • 1 can peeled tomatoes, juice reserved [whatever that means. I put the whole lot in and, you guessed it, it seemed to work]
  • 2 tbsp fresh, torn basil leaves [see bay leaves above]
  • 1 tbsp slivered black olives [I don’t think I’ve ever had a slivered olive in my life. Black olives! Whole! Lots of them!]
  • 3 anchovy fillets [a tin from Tesco has more than 3 and did fine]
  • freshly grated parmesan [so much nicer than the pre-ground type you get in sprinkler cans which smells of sick]

Season the chicken with blackpepper and salt. Heat olive oil unilt a haze forms over it, then saute the chicken until skin goes golden brown. Transfer onto a plate.

[I know from experience that this will just fill the kitchen with chickeny olive oily smoke. Instead I roast the chicken pieces for 30 mins at gas mark 5. Meanwhile …]

Saute the yellow pepper, add onion and garlic and cook for 8-10 minutes [more like 5]. Add the vinegar to deglaze the pan, then add the white wine and boil until the jucie is reduced to about 1/4 glass. Add black pepper, pour in chicken stock, turn down to low, add tomatoes and half their juice [or, as I say, the whole lot], oregano, bay leaf, half the basil [if you’re having any of this] and the mushrooms.

Return the chicken to the pan, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 mins. Transfer the chicken onto a plate.

To the sauce add the black olives, remaining basil and anchovies. Stir and cook for two minutes. Spoon over the chicken and sprinkle with parmesan. Serve with buttered spaghetti.

[Now, at this point I want to know why I have never heard of buttered spaghetti before. Where has it been all my life? Just think of it. Roll the words around on your tongue. Buttered … spaghetti. It’s spaghetti, and it’s buttered. Got that? Buttered spaghetti. I have just done you a greater favour than you can possibly imagine.]

And, wow. If Norma Jean was in the habit of cooking that little lot up then she wasn’t half as dumb as she appeared. It’s rich, make no mistake, but with a range of flavours jostling for attention and each one pointing out to you what an utterly fabulous meal this is. Go to it, people.

And remember, buttered spaghetti.