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Chicken in red gravy with polenta

(Styling/Karoline Boehm Goodnick; wiqan ang for the boston globe)
By Karoline Boehm Goodnick
November 19, 2008
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Serves 6

In this chicken dish, red gravy is the deeply flavored mixture of red wine and tomatoes that thighs simmer in (use the same red wine you're drinking with dinner). Once the sauce has cooked for 30 minutes, start the polenta. Marcella Hazan writes in "The Classic Italian Cookbook" that she adds polenta flour to a pot of boiling water by allowing a small stream to fall from nearly closed fingers. After it's all added, simmer the mixture for 20 minutes, stirring often. Butter and Parmesan lend richness, but omit them for a lighter, less expensive alternative. Polenta sticks to the bottom of the pan, so don't be alarmed by the mess or put off by the attention polenta requires. It's all worth it.

CHICKEN

6bone-in chicken thighs (1 1/2 pounds total)
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Flour (for sprinkling)
2tablespoons canola oil
2medium onions, sliced
1green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced
5cloves garlic, finely chopped
2teaspoons dried thyme
1teaspoon dried oregano
1cup red wine or water
1can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes

1. Sprinkle the thighs all over with salt, pepper, and flour.

2. In a large flameproof casserole, heat the canola oil over high heat. Brown chicken thighs and remove them from the pan.

3. Reduce the heat to medium high. Add the onions, green pepper, garlic, and salt. Cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until softened.

4. Add the thyme and oregano and cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Pour in the wine or water and cook, scraping the bottom, for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Return the chicken to the pan, and lower the heat. Set on the cover askew. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and black pepper.

POLENTA

5cups water
1tablespoon salt
1 1/2cups coarse polenta flour
1/4cup Parmesan (optional)
2tablespoons butter, cut up (optional)
1. In a large saucepan, bring the water and salt to a boil. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, add the polenta in a slow, steady stream. Reduce the heat to medium-low.

2. Simmer, stirring often, for 20 minutes.

3. Stir in Parmesan and butter, if using. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if you like.

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