This dish has roots back in the Renaissance, when people hunted for food and only the wealthy could enjoy chicken. Any way you choose to make it, it is a delicious dish. This dish is good when made with a whole chicken, but I prefer it made only with drumsticks and thighs (six chicken legs, with thighs cut at the joint). It can be made well in advance, and will reheat and remain moist. It is great with polenta or some pasta, but I love it with a chunk of crusty semolina bread.
Pour 1 cup hot water over the porcini in a bowl. Let soak while you brown the chicken.
Season the chicken all over with 1⁄2 teaspoon salt. Pour enough vegetable oil into a large Dutch oven to cover the bottom of the pan, over medium heat. When the oil is hot, brown the chicken all over in batches, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to a plate. Discard the vegetable oil.
Strain the porcini, reserving the soaking liquid. Squeeze the excess liquid from the mushrooms back into the soaking liquid, and finely chop the mushrooms.
Add the olive oil to the pot, and bring to medium- high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and celery are caramelized on the edges, about 5 minutes. Put the chicken back in the pot, and pour in the white wine. Drop in the rosemary. Boil until the wine is reduced by half, then add the chopped porcini and the soaking liquid, omitting any gritty residue in the soaking liquid. Once the liquid returns to a boil, add the tomatoes. Rinse out the can with 1 cup hot water and add that as well. Bring to a boil, and simmer to let the sauce come together, about 5 minutes.
Pour in the sliced mushrooms, bell peppers, oregano, and the remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Cover, bring to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables have begun to soften, about 10 minutes. Uncover, and cook until the sauce has reduced and the chicken is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes more.
1⁄4 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 10 pieces)
4 1⁄2-to- 5- pound chicken, cut into 14 pieces (see note)
2 1⁄2 teaspoons kosher salt
Vegetable oil, for browning the chicken
2 tablespoons extra- virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, cut in eighths, attached at the root end
3 stalks celery, sliced into 1⁄2-inch pieces on the bias
1 cup dry white wine
1 sprig fresh rosemary
28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand
4 cups sliced mixed mushrooms (cremini, button, shiitake)
3 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, cut into 1⁄2-inch strips
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Note: The chicken gets cut up as follows: two wings, two thighs, two drumsticks, back in two pieces, breast halves in three pieces each.
Excerpted from Lidia's Italy in America by Lidia Bastianich. Copyright © 2011 by Lidia Bastianich. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.