Last month I had an assignment from Sauce Magazine to photograph Paul Manno’s Cafe which was one of the tougher food shoots that I’ve done in a while, mainly because of the near-pitch black ambiance of the restaurant (works well for a stylish dinner, a bit challenging for photography). In addition to a review of the restaurant which included the standard images of delicious food, interiors etc, I was also assigned the task of making a portrait of chef and owner, Paul Manno for an column called Owner’s Day Off. For this column a portrait of the owner is run along-side an image of a favorite dish that the he likes to eat on his day off.
In Paul’s case, he likes to spend what little time he has on his day off eating with his family, and his favorite dish is a “farmer’s style bone-in chicken cacciatore with San Marzano tomatoes, roasted potatoes and white wine”. Sounds awesome, right? Here’s the problem though: for the magazine column I had to photograph the dish without the benefit of Paul’s wife making it for me (and without a recipe). The alternative was to shoot a simple ingredients shot, but lets be honest: raw chicken is not particularly photogenic and doesn’t really make your mouth water.
So, with very little to go on, I hit the internet searching for a recipe that matched Paul’s description of his wife’s dish. I found many that were close, but nothing that matched 100%. So I had to cobble together a couple of different recipes. I’m sure that it is not exactly what Paul’s wife makes, but I think I was close. And keep in mind, I had to take into account how to make the photo look good as well, which drove some of my decisions.
The biggest change that I made the recipe was cooking the vegetables separately to keep them pretty, which had the added benefit of keeping them crispy. Most recipes call for all of the vegetables to be cooked in the pot along with the chicken. In any case, this dish was very delicious and definitely something that is going to remain a fixture in my repertoire.
Farmer’s Style Bone-In Chicken Cacciatore with Roasted Potatoes and Carrots
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoon dried rosemary, divided
2 lbs small new potatoes, quartered
2 cups baby carrots
1 Whole chicken, cut into 8 parts
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes with liquid crushed
Fresh rosemary for garnish
For the roasted potatoes and carrots:
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes and carrots with olive oil and the rosemary, then season generously with salt and pepper. Dump the potatoes and carrots onto a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Stir frequently to stop them from sticking to the bottom of the sheet.
For the chicken:
Season the chicken pieces generously with salt and pepper, dredge with flour (tap off any excess) and then brown each piece in wide-bottomed dutch oven using a combination of vegetable oil and olive oil. Turn each piece to brown on all sides and do not crowd the pan. You’ll probably have to brown them in shifts. Once all of the chicken pieces are nice and golden brown, remove them to a plate, and sauté the onions in the remaining fat in the dutch oven. After about five minutes or so, deglaze the pan with the white wine, and allow it to reduce by about a third. Add in the tomatoes with their liquid and the rosemary. Add salt and pepper to taste, then bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Tuck the chicken pieces into the sauce, cover, and cook for about 25-35 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Make sure that the chicken stays covered with the sauce. If necessary you can add a little water or chicken stock to bring up the level.
Place a pile of the roasted vegetables on a plate. Top with 1-2 pieces of chicken, then spoon the sauce over the chicken. Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary.
You can read the review of Paul Manno’s Cafe here. You can find the latest issue at Sauce at your newstand in St. Louis. If you’re not in the St. Louis area you can also get a subscription on their website, either in hardcopy or electronic versions.