Hidden Pleasures of Pepperoncini

Pepperoncini is one of those Italian, Greek and Eastern European peppers that are very popular in their homelands. However they are not commonly used in the United States except as a whole chile added to an antipasti or pickled in vinegar in commercially packaged jars.

It’s uncommon to find the pepper used in a sauce but is particularly delicious when you use it this way. I also like it straight out of the jar, chopped up with tomato, onions and garlic or with pasta, chicken or flank steak.

"Friggitelli" is the Italian word for the milder variety sold in the United States as pepperoncini. They may also be labeled as sweet Italian peppers or Tuscan peppers.

The first time I tried it was in a pizza shop in Northern Italy with a tomato sauce on spaghetti. It was simply delightful and unexpected. From time to time thereafter I used it with a number of dishes which always evoked surprise and delight among my guests. Recently I made it for my son and his Italian friend in Chicago with roast chicken, mushrooms, and chopped plum tomatoes. They must have enjoyed it because they sent me a photo of leftovers they were eating the next day.

Chicken Pepperoncini
Serves 6-8

Ingredients
1 whole free range chicken, cut into parts
2 cups brown rice 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 ounces unsalted butter
2 baskets Crimini mushrooms
4 tbsp. chopped pepperoncini
1/4 cup small capers
1 medium red onion, diced
1/2 cup chopped plum tomatoes, removing the seeds, cutting strips of tomatoes, and dicing
juice and zest of 2 lemons
1 bunch of parsley, finely shopped
1 cup Sauvignon Blanc
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions
1. Cut the chicken into 10 parts, lightly season with salt and pepper and brown in a large hotel pan with butter and olive oil.
2. Remove the stems from the mushrooms, wipe the caps with a paper towel, cut into quarters and add to the chicken pan along with the capers, the chopped pepperoncini, lemon juice and zest, onions, and 1/2 cup wine.                                                                                                       3. Place in the oven for 30 minutes at 400 F.                                                                                   4. Meanwhile begin to prepare the rice. In a medium to large sauce pan, add 6 cups of water, 2 tbsp salt, 2 cups of brown rice and cover. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add an additional 1/4 cup of water if necessary and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.                                                         5. If the rice is al dente remove from the heat, add 1 tbsp. of olive oil or butter, mix and cover for 10 more minutes back on the heat.                                                                                            6. Meanwhile, after 30 minutes remove the chicken from the oven closing the door behind you. Spread spoonfuls of sauce over all the chicken and add the remaining 1/2 cup of wine to the pan and sprinkle a handful of parsley over all.                                                                                      7. Return the chicken to the oven for another 30 minutes. Afterwards check to see if the meat next to the bone is white. If not, reduce the heat to 350 F and return the chicken to the oven for another 10 -12 minutes.                                                                                                                  8. Spoon the rice into a large serving platter and place the chicken on top. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Taste and see if more salt or pepper are needed. Mangia!

Note: Pepperoncini is available in the Italian section of most supermarkets in bottled form. Some markets only sell it whole in the unbottled display case. Both are fine to cook with and equally delicious.

Pleases contact me if you have any comments or observations about this dish. You can reach me by email @ [email protected] or you can visit my website @ www.zoxkitchen.com. I always appreciate hearing from you. 

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