A Cipolline Celebration!
By Dennis Linden
Here’s another extremely tasty main course recipe from the kitchen of our Procurement Department’s Master Home Chef, John Dunham. This one-pot dish is simmered around one very flavorful ingredient that has been a favorite in Italian cuisine since the 15th Century – the Cipolline onion. Tired of that collection of “same-old-same-old” chicken recipes? John’s CIPOLLINE CHICKEN will shake that paradigm in under two hours from start to finish, which the chef suggests should also include “a lot of good wine to go with the cooking, of course. I recommend a good Oregon Pinot Noir for this dish – for the cook, not the pot.”
First cultivated in Boretto, Italy in the 1400's, Cipolline (pronounced chip-oh-lee-knee, also spelled Cipollini) are squat, silver dollar–sized onions. “Cipollini” literally means “little onion” in Italian. The advantage to this variety is that they are small and flat and their shape lends well to roasting. This, combined with an unusually high sugar content, helps them caramelize quickly to a gorgeous brown. They are very thin-skinned with a translucent white interior.
The only downside to the Cipolline onion is getting that thin skin off. There are two options for this task. The first involves trimming the root ends, BLANCH in a large pot of boiling salted water 5-8 minutes, drain, cool, then peel by gently squeezing each onion between forefinger and thumb.
Or just open several packages of Melissa’s FRESH PEELED CIPOLLINE ONIONS and get on with the rest of your prep without fuss. Chef John toasts to the latter!
Another essential supporting ingredient in John’s dish has been a culinary staple for much longer than Cipollines and the perfect counter-balance to their sweetness. Vinegar residues were found in urns from ancient Egypt that have been traced to around 3000 BC. The first written history of vinegar use was found in China that dates to 1200 BC. John simmers his chicken and onion mixture in two vinegars, red wine and balsamic. Their distinctive tangy flavors permeate the entire dish in a very pleasant way. I also think that John’s half-cup of raisins was a very nice culinary touch that added another texture to each bite that played off the tart vinegars perfectly. Bravo, Chef John!
John Dunham is a fresh produce professional, who has worked in the wholesale sector of the Southern California produce industry his entire career. He has been a member of the Melissa’s team almost 20 years. When he is not managing the challenges of the ever-changing and volatile seasonal availability of perishable fruits and vegetables, John enjoys life with wife Janet and their three grown daughters. As an avid cook, John is currently in the midst of cooking up his version of the 2009 movie “Julie & Julia”.
“I bought Julia Child’s first cookbook and have been learning a lot just by attempting some of the recipes,” explained John. “Though unlike the movie, I am cherry-picking the dishes that sound interesting to me -- so far the cook book has not disappointed – everything has been delicious.” I am sure that Julia would be glad to know that you approve, Chef John; we definitely look forward, and in fact expect, to taste the results with your next recipe submission!
2 pounds Peeled Cipolline Onions
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
8 ounces Pancetta, cut into ¼“ pieces
4 cloves Melissa’s Peeled Garlic, crushed
5 pounds Chicken Breasts, skin-on, bone-in, halved crosswise
¾ cup Balsamic Vinegar
¾ cup Red Wine Vinegar
2 cups Chicken Broth
½ cup Golden Raisins
2 Bay Leaves
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook pancetta until brown, 8-10 minutes. Transfer to large bowl. Then add the onions to the same pot used for the pancetta and sauté until just brown, 8-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring often or about 3 minutes. Transfer to pancetta bowl.
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add chicken to pot, skin side down and cook, turning until browned 10-15 minutes per batch, transfer to big bowl.
Drain fat from pot and return to medium-high heat. Add vinegars, bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up any browned bits. Add broth, raisins, bay leaves and reserved chicken, pancetta, onions and garlic. Simmer, partially covered, until meat is fork-tender, 35-40 minutes.
Transfer chicken and onions to a platter. Skim fat from the remaining sauce, remove bay leaves, season with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over the entire platter and serve family style. ENJOY!