The usual skillet-chicken recipe is simple. You brown a cut-up chicken in a wide skillet, add a splash of water or broth, and finish cooking it in the oven. While the chicken is roasting, you can toss a salad, slice some bread and open the wine. It's a straightforward dinner that's ready from start to finish in under an hour.
This version may be slightly more involved, but the payoff is big - very big - as in tangy, cheesy, bacon-y big. Because instead of water or broth, the liquid in the pan is a quickly made tomato sauce.
And at the very end, fresh bits of mozzarella get melted over everything. Imagine pizza toppings on a pan full of succulent, browned, bone-in chicken, with anchovies in the sauce for depth and a crunchy pancetta garnish.
This winning dish has a big personality, but the number of ingredients is actually small. To make the most of them, they are cooked in stages, allowing the flavors to build in the skillet.
The pancetta goes in first, sautéed until it turns golden and crisp. It is set aside for garnish while the chicken browns in the rendered fat. Next up, the plum tomatoes, garlic, anchovies and chile flakes simmer in the same pan, now gloriously awash in a mixture of chicken fat, rendered pancetta and olive oil. And all of these flavors season the chicken as it bakes in the sauce.
As a final touch, I add chunks of fresh mozzarella right at the end, broiling everything until the edges are singed ever so slightly and the cheese oozes in milky puddles.
Those wonderfully distinct puddles are the reason I opted for chunks of fresh mozzarella rather than grated, which would have melted into a more even blanket of cheese, but without the pockets of intensity. That said, if you'd rather use grated mozzarella, go right ahead. This is the kind of dish that welcomes variations. Add olives or capers instead of anchovies, substitute onion for garlic, swap rosemary for basil, or use all dark- or all white-meat pieces instead of a whole bird.
Any which way you go, while the pan is in the oven, you can toss that salad, slice that bread and open that wine.
Skillet Chicken With Tomatoes, Pancetta and Mozzarella
Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
3 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (or use a 3 1/2 pound chicken cut into 8 pieces)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
5 ounces pancetta, diced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 anchovy fillets
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes
1 large basil sprig, plus more chopped basil for serving
8 ounces bocconcini, halved (or use mozzarella cut into 3/4-inch pieces)
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.
2. In a large oven-proof skillet, warm oil over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer pancetta to a paper-towel-lined plate.
3. Add chicken to skillet. Sear, turning only occasionally, until well browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large plate. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon oil.
4. Add garlic, anchovy and red pepper flakes to skillet; fry 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and basil. Cook, breaking up tomatoes with a spatula, until sauce thickens somewhat, about 10 minutes.
5. Return chicken to skillet. Transfer skillet to oven and cook, uncovered, until chicken is no longer pink, about 30 minutes.
6. Scatter bocconcini or mozzarella pieces over skillet. Adjust oven temperature to broil. Return skillet to oven and broil until cheese is melted and bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes (watch carefully to see that it does not burn). Garnish with pancetta and chopped basil before serving.
© 2016 New York Times News Service