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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
- 8 ounces egg noodles
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano (optional, for serving with the noodles)
- Cut chicken into 10 pieces (2 wings, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 breasts each cut in half through the bone).
- 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.
- Season chicken pieces on both sides with salt, pepper, pinch of cinnamon and pinch of cloves (if using).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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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