Romanian Ostropel...Chicken with Garlicky Tomato Gravy. Romanian Ostropel was one of my favorite dishes while growing up. I just loved it when my mom made this for us...she usually served it over mashed potatoes along with a leafy salad. Absolutely loved it. The sauce went so well with creamy mashed potatoes... .mmmm.
I admit my version for this post is different than my moms in that I used chicken breasts to make the dish. My mom used the whole chicken, and I have to say that I much prefer it with all the chicken parts... dark meat and white. I find the dark meat has soo much more flavor than the white...but maybe that's just me:). In any case, I was really craving ostropel and all I had was chicken breasts. But I decided to make it anyway... and really enjoyed it( maybe not as much as if I had used some dark meat as well:)....
The tomato-based sauce is quite popular in many Romanian dishes...used to make all sorts of dishes. Lots, and lots of variations.... For example, you can use a variety of meats with the sauce(varying the spices a bit)...you can use meatballs(chiftelute marinate), beef, pork or lamb instead of the chicken. Or you can turn the dish into a vegetarian meal, by adding green beans(mancare de fasole verde) or peas(mancare de mazare) or cooked dried beans(mancare de fasole uscata), potatoes(mancare de cartofi), fresh tomatoes(mancare de rosii)... or a combination of a few vegetables.
Most times onion is also sauteed for extra flavor. This particular recipe for ostropel skips the onion...at least that was the version I grew up with.
The dish cooks rather quickly and is an ideal weeknight meal. You can actually make this dish without dredging the chicken pieces in flour... simply brown the chicken pieces in a bit of oil. You can just thicken the sauce with a bit of potato starch or potato flour, making the dish gluten-free.
Traditionally, a sprig or two of Romanian cimbru is used in the sauce( maybe a bay leaf). My mom gave me some dried cimbru sprigs some time ago...from her own garden. I have stored it away... for dishes like this. Actually, I ended up using my mom's homegrown cimbru for this recipe. But I've also made this dish using summer savory( the closest to Romanian cimbru) as well... and had excellent results.
I like the flavor of cimbru(or summer savory) and use 1 tsp, but you can adjust to preference. I use homemade chicken stock(as did my mom)... and this time around used 3 garlic cloves. If you don't like the dish to have too much of a garlic taste, you can use less. But the dish is supposed to have a garlic flavor:)...and some people even use more than 3 cloves. This dish is a healthier alternative to cream sauces or gravies....and uses simple ingredients. Love it over creamy mashed potatoes....but I like it with bread as well:). Hope you enjoy...
Note: You can easily use bone-in chicken pieces(from a whole chicken) or boneless chicken thighs. Brown them as you would the chicken breasts and adjust the sauce ingredients... especially if you are using more meat. You may need to double the sauce/seasoning ingredients...adjust tomato paste to taste.
~ My mom would sometimes make this dish using cooked chicken . She would often make the Romanian Chicken Soup with Dumplings.... and the cooked chicken was used to make the ostropel....this way she made 2 dishes out of one chicken)
Tip:While my mom never made it spicy, I am sure you can easily add a pinch or two of cayenne, or chile flakes....I think I may just do that next time:).
2 half chicken breasts, cut in cubes
2-3 TBS flour, for dredging
salt/pepper for seasoning
1 TBS tomato paste
1 TBS flour(potato or regular)
2-3 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 cups chicken stock, or as needed
1 tsp dried cimbru*, or to taste
salt/pepper to taste
*or summer savory... close enough to the Romanian cimbru.
1. Season chicken breasts with salt/pepper and cut in cubes. Then toss in a bit of flour...shake off excess.
2. Heat a large skillet(or pot) on med/hot heat...until hot... and then add 2-3 TBS olive oil.
3. When oil is hot, add chicken and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside.
4. Lower heat....To the browned bits in the skillet add 1 TBS flour along with a 1 TBS tomato paste.
5. Using a whisk, slowly mix in the 2 cups of chicken broth, making sure to get all the flour/tomato paste lumps out. If need be, take the skillet off heat until the sauce is completely free of lumps. Place back on stove.
6. Add 2-3 grated garlic cloves and 1 tsp cimbru or summer savory. Mix to combine.
7. Add the browned chicken and cover skillet/pot. Simmer sauce for for an additional 10-15 minutes or until sauce has thickened up a bit... to a gravy consistency. If you feel the sauce is too thick, add a bit more stock(even water) to loosen it up a bit. If it is too loose(thin) cook the sauce down a bit more...
8. Serve over mashed potatoes... or with crusty bread... or pasta ...or even over rice. Re-heats very well.