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Chicken gravy, crisp brussels sprouts

This is the pasta dish I make every time I want to transport myself back to my year in Piedmont. A meat sauce, almost gravy-like, left over from the famed ‘bollito misto’ (translated literally as mixed boiled meats) is tossed through pasta, most likely agnolotti del plin (filled with the left-over meat from the bollito misto). You’ll find it at most restaurants in the region and this left-over meat gravy is one of the things I miss most about Italy. Even so, I can’t say I’m driven to cook bollito misto at home. I was never one to enjoy the offal that would inevitably get dispersed through the collection of mixed meats. Each meat had such a different texture that it was quite confronting when served as is with some salsa verde. But the sauce, now that stuff was liquid gold.

One day I had the most extraordinary revelation and it was this: I could roast a chicken (or a bunch of thighs) for their juices and sauce, as long as I could find another use for the actual meat. This is easy enough with chicken: sandwiches, salads, pies or a quick weeknight curry (and if you felt like it, you could finely chop the chicken and toss it through the pasta, too). I set about cooking the chicken just for its gravy and the end result, tossed through eggy pasta, took me right back to the streets of Piedmont and my ultimate comfort food. It’s become the dish that gives me a hug when the world does not.

 

This recipe is really driven by the quality of your chicken stock, so either use a homemade one or purchase some from a butcher. I’ve finished the dish with some crispy brussels sprouts, but roasted greens like cavolo nero and kale work well – just make sure you get them crisp.

Chicken gravy, crisp brussels sprouts

Serves 4

500 g chicken thighs, skin on and bone in (roughly 4 thighs)

2 tablespoons salted butter

2 tablespoons extra-virgin

olive oil
1 garlic clove, skin on, lightly
smashed with the side of a knife
1 rosemary sprig
85 ml dry white wine
125 ml (1⁄2 cup) good-quality

chicken stock
sea salt and freshly ground

black pepper
handful of brussels sprouts
(or use 4 large cavolo nero  or kale leaves)
2 teaspoons plain flour

handful of grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus extra to serve

FRESH PASTA FOR 4

Shape I like to serve it with

garganelli, tagliatelle

DRIED PASTA FOR 4

Shape I like to serve it with
rigatoni, penne, conchiglie (shells)

Preheat the oven to 200°C fan-forced.

Remove the bones from the chicken and chop the meat into 3 cm cubes. Heat half the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large deep frying pan with a lid over medium–high heat. When the butter has melted, add the garlic and rosemary and swirl them around in the pan for 30 seconds. Add the chicken, along with the bones, and cook for 10–15 minutes or until starting to brown and the fat renders out.

Add the wine and let it bubble away for about 2 minutes or until you can stop smelling the booze. Add the chicken stock and use a wooden spoon to scrape the sticky chickeny bits off the base of the pan. Season with salt and pepper, then put the lid on, reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the ends from the sprouts so you can pull the leaves apart. Place the leaves on a baking tray, toss through the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt. Spread the leaves so they have plenty of room to crisp up (they’ll go soggy if they are bunched together). Bake for 15–20 minutes, until slightly burnt and crisp. Remove from the oven and set aside. Do not cover as they’ll lose their crispness. If you are using cavolo nero or kale, tear up the leaves, coat in olive oil and bake for 5–10 minutes, until crisp and golden.

Remove the chicken, bones, garlic and rosemary from the pan. Set the chicken aside for something else and discard the bones, garlic and rosemary. You should be left with some lovely juices in the pan. Whisk in the remaining butter and the flour and cook for 1–2 minutes, until starting to thicken. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm while you cook your pasta.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a lively boil and season as salty as the sea. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and add the pasta directly to your gravy sauce. Add the Parmigiano Reggiano and give everything a toss. Divide the pasta among bowls and serve with the crisp brussels sprout leaves (or cavolo nero or kale leaves) and extra cheese scattered over the top.