Chicken Kapama

By • November 29, 2013 • 9 Comments



Author Notes: I have my mother and aunt to thank not only for feeding chicken kapama to me as a child but also for teaching me how to make their grandmother's recipe. It's a simple dish, but somehow nothing smells better than cinnamon sticks in melting butter, and every time I make it, I think of the kitchen I grew up in. Chicken Kapama is a classic Greek braised chicken dish made in countless ways but always with cinnamon and tomato sauce.

A few notes: You can use any kind of tomato sauce you like — my great grandmother swore by 2 8-oz cans of Hunt's tomato sauce — just be sure to use something that isn't flavored with garlic or basil, etc. Also try to use something low in sodium — I love the clean flavor of the Pomi brand tomato sauces, tomatoes, purées, etc.
Alexandra Stafford

Serves 3 to 4

  • 1 chicken, 3 to 4 lbs
  • 4 to 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 to 2 cinnamon sticks
  • pinches ground cinnamon
  • pinches ground cloves
  • kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 15 to 16 ounces tomato sauce, (unflavored and low sodium)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ketchup
  • 8 ounces egg noodles
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano (optional, for serving with the noodles)
  1. Cut chicken into 10 pieces (2 wings, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 breasts each cut in half through the bone).
  2. In a large pot or sauté pan (with highish sides) or braising pan, melt 4 tablespoons butter with the cinnamon sticks over low or medium-low heat. The key with this dish is to brown the chicken slowly and to make sure the butter never burns.
  3. Season chicken pieces on both sides with salt, pepper, pinch of cinnamon and pinch of cloves (if using).
  4. Place chicken skin side down in the butter and slowly brown — this should take about 15 minutes. Again, the key is to go slowly. This isn't a dish where the skin of the chicken in the end is crispy — it's soft actually, as often is the case with braised dishes. That said, the point of the crisping/browning of the skin here is to extract flavor, and the best way to get the most flavor is to go slowly. Flip the chicken over, and brown for another 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Add tomato sauce and tomato paste to the pan. Tilt pan or use a spoon to disperse the tomato paste. Cover the pan and cook for 30 minutes at a low temperature, checking after 10 minutes to make sure the liquid is gently bubbling.
  6. Transfer one piece of chicken to a plate. Turn over and gently poke with a knife to check for doneness. Return chicken to the pan, and if necessary, continue cooking at a low temperature until done, which may be as many as 5 to 15 minutes more (or perhaps ever longer).
  7. Taste the sauce. Depending on what type of tomato sauce you used, you will need to adjust differently. I almost always add 4 more tablespoons of butter, a squirt of ketchup (about a tablespoon — you also could just add a pinch of sugar), and a couple tablespoons of water. The sauce tastes better after it rests for awhile, so if time permits, let it rest before adjusting.
  8. Meanwhile, cook egg noodles in salted water. Drain and return to pot. Add a few large spoonfuls of the tomato sauce to coat the noodles. Toss with the grated cheese or pass it on the side.
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3 months ago sevenfaces

I was so skeptical about this dish as I was preparing it. Butter? Chicken? Tomato? Cinnamon?? That's it?! I was so wrong to doubt - simply deeeelicious. I used a single stick and a very scant pinch of cinnamon, and it was enough to make this dish taste great, so different to anything I've ever tried before. Something about slowly cooking the chicken in the cinnamoned butter first, perhaps. I cooked the chicken in the sauce for almost 2 hours until the meat fell off the bone. I'll use less butter next time as I like to use thighs only (and so I discovered it doesn't need so much as more fat renders out from thighs), but happy to say there will definitely be a next time!

Astafford

3 months ago Alexandra Stafford

Yay! Wonderful to hear all of this. And I know, it's the kind of recipe you have to try to believe, but so often these days I find I love the ones that are the simplest with the fewest ingredients. I prefer using all dark meat, too — it's so much more forgiving and so much tastier. You are inspiring me to really take my time with the simmering — my great grandmother apparently cooked this chicken all day long.

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7 months ago ghainskom

I forgot to say we had it with rice and without the cheese.

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7 months ago ghainskom

Oh. My. God. I made this for my 2 and 6 yo today. My naturally almost vegetarian 6 yo had three servings, two with the chicken my 2 yo loved it too and so did I. This is a winner.

Astafford

7 months ago Alexandra Stafford

So happy to hear this! I just went home to visit my mom/drop the kids off for the weekend, and she made chicken kapama for them and they gobbled it up. So glad your kids approve, too :)

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8 months ago stax

Just finished eating this. Absolutely delicious. Also used thighs as it was more convenient. The recipe was easily halved.

Added some onions while browning the chicken, and some carrots when I added the tomato sauce. They absorbed the cinnamon flavors and were absolutely delicious.

Adding this one to the rotation for sure.

Astafford

8 months ago Alexandra Stafford

So happy to hear this! Onions and carrots sound delicious, and I much prefer thighs (or thighs and drumsticks), too — the breasts are always on the dry side for me. Thanks for writing in. Happy 2014!

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9 months ago Allix

This recipe is absolutely incredible - I made it on Tuesday of this week, and the leftovers are as delicious as when I first made the dish! My mother and grandparents are also Greek; my mom and I have been searching high and low for a good kapama recipe, and I'm so excited to have found this one.

I made a couple small adjustments based on what I had in my kitchen that might be worth trying! I used orzo instead of egg noodles as that's all I had. I also used chicken thighs instead of chopping a whole chicken (I was a little nervous to try that!). Finally, because I'm obsessed with kale, I mixed in some kale steamed in chicken broth once the sauce had "rested" and gotten a flavor I loved. I also might try this with lamb as well.

Anyway, thank you so much for sharing such a delicious family recipe! Highly, highly recommend this to anyone who is thinking of trying it out.

Astafford

9 months ago Alexandra Stafford

Allix, I am so happy to hear this! I love the idea of orzo, and I love the idea of using thighs — when I first was writing up/photographing the recipe, I actually only used thighs, and then I started over because I was trying to stay true to what my grandmother did. Also love the idea of kale, yum! Thanks so much for writing in. Although I have made this countless times, it's always nice to hear when someone else likes the recipe, too. Hope you're having a nice weekend!