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Off-Skillet Empire: Chicken Fra Diavolo and Apple-Rhubarb Pie

Chicken Fra Diavolo

Our favorite gastronomic sherpa, zchris87v, is a busy man and has graciously allowed a humble guest to author this week's Off-Skillet Empire recipe. If you're a fan of chicken that has actual flavor, this one is right up your alley. If you've been to a neighborhood Italian restaurant anywhere in New Jersey, you've probably encountered Chicken Fra Diavolo on the carte de cuisine in one form or another. It's an old-school classic that doesn't generally make the cut at today's fancier Italian joints. That's everyone's loss.

The term fra diavolo translates as "brother devil." Naturally, this is a dish with some spice. But it's a slow, rich spice that builds as you eat it. It rewards you for finishing it instead of attacking you outright and making you sorry. On top of that, it's made with chicken thighs. They're meaty, flavorful, and dirt cheap.

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken thighs, skin on.
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 2 red ripe jalapenos, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic gloves, peeled
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp Hot Hungarian Paprika
  • 2 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • 2 large oranges
  • 2 tbsp thyme leaves (optional)

Place the bell pepper chunks, jalapeño slices, garlic cloves, and olive oil in a food processor. I use a Nutri-bullet because it was on sale and, let's face it, some things in life aren't worth paying top dollar for. A few long pulses should reduce the mix to a chunky consistency, like oatmeal. Next add the red pepper flakes, paprika, black pepper, salt and the juice of both oranges. Finish the mix with a healthy helping of zest from both oranges. Stir it all together. You can add thyme at this point, should you feel so inclined (I don't personally like thyme so I reduce the amount or skip it altogether). If you like a sweeter heat, you can add a tablespoon of honey.

Put the chicken thighs in a ziploc bag and pour in the marinade. Stick the whole mess in the fridge overnight.

When you're ready to make it, preheat the over to 400 degrees. Your choices for baking the chicken can go a number of ways. The easiest is a ceramic baking dish, but remember that chicken thighs have a lot of juice and fat, so you'll end up with a lot in the pan. I prefer to use a broiler pan so the drippings fall through and leave a nice crispy piece of chicken. Whatever your method, place the chicken in the oven without wiping off the marinade. Cook for about 45 minutes, or to an internal temp of 165.

Chicken fra diavolo is great because it accepts almost any italian sauce happily. Marinara, arabiata, even vodka sauce and browned butter are great matches. You can serve the pieces whole, or pull them and mix with your favorite pasta.

Apple-Rhubarb Pie

My grandmother was a woman of pies. Everyone in the family had a favorite. This recipe is for one she almost never made, and as a result it's sort of a rare gem from the family archives. It sounds simple enough, but has a special twist. Does it go with an Italian chicken dish? Uh...yeah...it's pie. It goes with everything.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup peeled, chopped cooking apples (McIntosh, Jonathon, etc.),
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen unsweetened rhubarb, cut in ½ -inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon orange peel
  • Dash of vanilla

Combine sugar, salt, flour in a small bowl. Place apples in a larger bowl, sprinkle with lemon juice and mix well. Add rhubarb, pineapple, vanilla, orange peel and sugar and stir well.

I have a recipe for crust but 99 times out of 100 I don't even bother. I just let Pillsbury do the dirty work. Buy the crust and roll it out if it doesn't fit your dish.

Bake at 400º for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and brush top with a beaten egg, then sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar (brown or white) mixed together. Return to oven and bake 30 minutes more. Cool completely before slicing.