Chicken with Fresh Tomato Sauce...or Romanian " Mancare de Rosii cu Pui ". This past week I had some really nice garden-fresh tomatoes at my disposal. As I was contemplating on what to do with them, I remembered a dish I grew up with, called Mancare de Rosii. I hadn't made the dish in years. But it would be good to make it...the dish would bring back wonderful memories of the simple meal my mom used to make for us while growing up.
Every summer, my mom would have an abundance of fresh tomatoes in the garden. And we always looked forward to the garden-fresh tomatoes. We most often would devour the tomatoes in a salad...a simple salad consisting of tomatoes, cucumber, onion and seasoned with oil and salt. The salad was often served alongside a main meal. But during hot summer days, the salad would easily be a mid-afternoon "snack" that would cool us down a bit....and we always had plenty of french bread to sop up the tomato juice. Even though we preferred the tomato salad, my mom would use some of the fresh tomatoes to make other dishes...
Mancare de Rosii was a dish she often made for us. It was a great dish to make in the summer because she didn't need to be in the kitchen for too long, nor did she have to heat up the oven. While the Mancare de Rosii was cooking away, my mom would get a pot of water ready to make polenta that would accompany the dish. The combination of the polenta with the tomato sauce went extremely well together. My mom always served the Mancare de Rosii with soft polenta. In fact, I don't ever remember her serving the Mancare de Rosii without the polenta...maybe there were a few times where she might have served it with bread. But I'm thinking that was rare....if ever.
In any case, I wanted to make the dish and post it here for future reference...and to also include the dish in my Romanian Cuisine section. But I really wanted to do it right, not merely from memory...so I called my mom up:). As we went over the method of making this simple dish, she mentioned that she would use lots of onion, and that the onion needed to be cooked down to the point where it practically "melts"...or as she called it,"sa se topeasca". She also mentioned that she would oftentimes add a bit of flour/water slurry(not very much) at the end. She said it brought the sauce together without it being too watery. However, she made a point to say it wasn't a must. I am therefore, listing the flour as optional...and in my case I skipped it, because I totally forgot:).
Since my mom doesn't really cook with exact amounts, I needed to use my own judgement when it came to measurements. I was really thrilled with the results.... and I think I came pretty close to her original:). The dish is pretty simple to prepare, and it is a great way to use some fresh tomatoes. Actually, the fresh tomatoes really stand out...and are the star of the whole dish. I love this dish....so summery. Hope you enjoy...
Note: How to make polenta using a regular pot on the stovetop can be found... HERE
Using a pressure cooker can be found... HERE.
Tip: You can make a spicy version, by adding some hot chiles or cayenne.
While I prefer the chicken thigh version, I am sure you can get away with using chicken breast... even bone-in chicken pieces.
In the recipe below, I listed 5-6 chicken thighs...but you can easily use just 4 chicken thighs. You'll just have a bit more sauce...
Another option is to make this a vegetarian dish and skip the meat altogether.
While I served it with soft polenta, I am sure you can serve it with rice, pasta, potatoes...and probably even grits.
You will need: inspired by my Mom
3 TBS olive oil
5-6 chicken thighs, boneless, diced
3 medium onions, small diced
1/2 red bell pepper, small diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 lbs garden-fresh(or vine-ripe) tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 TBS tomato paste
salt and pepper, to taste
pinch or two of sugar, optional
flour and water to slightly thicken sauce, optional
1. Peel tomatoes by plunging them in boiling water for a minute or so and then removing them. Peel the skin... it should come off pretty quickly.
2. Dice tomatoes and set aside.
3. Chop onions finely. Dice the bell pepper as well and and mince the garlic. Set it all aside.
4. Dice chicken....season with salt and pepper.
5. Heat up a skillet and add oil. Heat oil on medium heat and then add the diced chicken. Cook until chicken gets a nice sear and fond accumulates at the bottom of the skillet....about 5 minutes or so. Remove and set aside.
6. Lower heat and add diced onions, diced bell pepper, and garlic. Season with a touch of salt. Lower heat to medium/low...or high end of low.
7. Stir and scrape off any browned bits that are on the bottom of the skillet that have remained from the chicken...if needed add a bit of water.
8. Continue cooking onion mixture until onion is soft and almost caramelized... about 25 minutes. Stir occasionally....more so towards the end.
9. Add chicken and tomato paste and cook for an additional minute...or until combined.
10. Add diced tomatoes, season with a bit of salt, and continue to cook on low for another 15 minutes or until thickened and tomatoes have cooked and softened a bit. Stir occasionally.
11. Adjust seasoning and add a pinch or two of sugar to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes...this is optional, but I like to add it. If you want to slightly thicken the sauce, combine a couple of teaspoons of flour with a bit of water, stir the slurry in the sauce and cook for 2-3 minutes..or until sauce thickens slightly....this is totally optional...and I skipped it. If the sauce is too thick, loosen it with a bit of water.
12. Sprinkle with parsley...serve with soft polenta.