Make Ahead

Chicken Kapama

November 29, 2013
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
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • Pinch 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)
In This Recipe
  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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    Alexandra Stafford
I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.