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Who's Cooking: Peter Monaco

Peter Monaco with his chicken scarpariello dish, which

Peter Monaco with his chicken scarpariello dish, which he often varies with ingredients. (April 28, 2013) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

He has an export business and lives in Ridge.


Is this chicken dish a family recipe? Not exactly, although I am Italian. My wife and I used to go to a restaurant in Deer Park where I always ordered the scarpariello. One day, all of a sudden, the restaurant is out of business.

I went on the Internet to find out how to make it myself, and I discovered it was invented by Italian immigrants to make use of leftovers. I took a look at a recipe and have been making little changes to it ever since. I don't think I've ever made it the same way twice. Once I had a jar of green olives with tomato seasoning, and I added those. Another time I had a sweet potato I chopped into cubes and threw in. I guess I'm continuing the tradition.

As it happens, I am now editing my Sicilian grandfather's autobiography. He came to the U.S. in the early 20th century, when immigrants trying to survive were coming up with dishes like scarpariello. So I feel a connection to this kind of cooking.

Any other tips for success with scarpariello? The most important thing is not to overcook any of the ingredients. Really, just half-cook them before adding them to the pan with the liquid, where they are going to cook again. With the peppers especially, you want them to be a little crisp.

I heard you prepared this dish for your own surprise party. How did that happen? Two weeks after my birthday, my daughter called to tell me she had bought tickets to a play and I had to come over. She asked me to bring scarpariello, since whenever I go anywhere this is what I bring. When I got to the house I noticed a lot of cars. My grandson came out with a big smile on his face, and when he opened the door, the house was wall-to-wall people.


Chicken Scarpariello
To save time, you can buy a jar of pre-minced garlic. Peter suggests crusty Italian bread for soaking up the flavorful Scarpariello liquid.

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons white wine
½ cup olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 pound hot Italian sausage, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-by-2-inch pieces
2 green bell peppers, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
½ cup hot red peppers, finely chopped (optional)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 cup minced garlic

1. Place a large pan about 3 inches deep over two burners. Add 1 cup vinegar, broth and 1 cup wine to pan and heat over medium.
2. Place oil, remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar and remaining 2 tablespoons wine in a frying pan. Heat over medium-high. Add sausages in batches and cook, transferring them to large pan as they begin to brown.
3. Add chicken to frying pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until white. Transfer to large pan when they turn white.
4. Add green and red peppers to frying pan and cook until only slightly softened. Transfer to large pan.
5. Add hot peppers if using, onion and garlic to frying pan and sauté for about 5 minutes. Transfer to large pan, increase heat and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, stirring slowly, and cook for about 10 minutes. Serves 16.

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