One of my favourite authors at present is Nicky Pellegrino.
Although she is based in New Zealand, her stories are set between Italy and London and are filled with food and sun. Reading them is a little like propping yourself on a lounge under a vine filled pergola with a glass of red wine and a basket of ciabatta and olive oil within arms reach.
The recipe below was prepared in her most recent The Food of Love Cookery School. It sounded fascinating, so I googled it. After all- prosecco, chocolate and chicken all together…who wouldn’t be interested?
What did I find out? That chocolate, champagne chicken is a Sicilian Easter dish. What else? The fennel and cloves come from when Sicily was under Arab rule. The chocolate influence is a hangover from when the Spanish ruled Sicily- chocolate came to Sicily via Mexico.
In the book, the characters visit a chocolate maker and taste the bittersweet chocolate that is gritty to the tongue, yet luscious and decadent when melted. It adds an unctuous, velvety texture to the sauce, yet few people would pick chocolate as the mystery ingredient.
Anyways, here’s the recipe…
What you need
6 chicken thighs
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tsp fennel seeds
30g grated dark chocolate- preferably with a high cocoa count. I used a 70% bittersweet
1-2 medium onions
1 tbsp sugar
chilli- I used about a teaspoon of dried chillis. We like spice, but I’d probably use less next time.
4 tbsp white wine vinegar
fresh oregano to serve
What you do with it
- Marinate the chicken in prosecco for a few hours or overnight.
- Grind the fennel seeds and cloves together with the chocolate using a pestle and mortar & set aside. Sure you can pop this in a whizzer thing, but hand grinding releases all of the aromas and brings the oils and fragrance together.
- Chop the onion and soften in a large pan over medium heat with olive oil.
- Turn the heat up and add the chicken. Keep turning as it fries until evenly golden brown.
- Add the mixture of chocolate, fennel seeds & cloves, sugar, salt and chilli and stir in with the vinegar. I added an extra glass of prosecco. Lower the heat, cover the pan and let it simmer for 30-40 mins.
- If using, stir through the oregano and serve. We had some mashed potato on the side to carry those amazing sauces.
This sort of food is difficult to photograph if you’re not a stylist, but this is pretty well what it looked like on our plate. Oh, and the whole thing is gluten free and freezes well.