The Elusive Chicken Tuscany

When D and I were dating, we used to love to go to a restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi called Amerigo. It’s still one of our favorite places to eat when we go see friends in that neck of the woods, and we’ve also been to the Amerigo in Nashville a time or two. They serve food that I would classify as rustic Italian, only I’ve never been to Italy and I don’t have any idea if my assessment is accurate or not. Mainly it’s just that I can hear Giada deLaurentiis saying “rustic Italian” in my head, so I’m going with it.

Our favorite thing to order at Amerigo (besides the cheese fritters – OH MY WORD THE CHEESE FRITTERS) is a dish called Chicken Tuscany. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make the brown wine sauce that’s a critical part of the dish, but it’s almost become a joke with us because, well, I don’t really know how to make sauces. I can follow recipes, mind you, and if I’m feeling adventurous in the kitchen I’ll improvise, but I’ve never felt brave enough to take a stab at the brown wine sauce. It’s legendary, after all.

Well. On Thanksgiving I made a stuffed pork loin for dinner, and after I took the meat out of the roasting pan I decided to make some gravy. I used beef stock (I normally just use water when I’m making gravy for something like country fried steak), and the color was so pretty and the flavor was so delicious that it made me wonder if I couldn’t tackle the brown wine sauce after all.

IT FELT SORT OF LIKE I SET A GOAL, Y’ALL.

The weather here turned really cold Sunday, and I decided that Chicken Tuscany sounded absolutely delicious. The only problem? I didn’t have a recipe. And, um, I haven’t eaten Chicken Tuscany in about three years. But other than that I was totally prepared to add it to my suppertime repertoire.

As it turns out, the Internet can be very handy. After a quick Google search and a few clicks, I found the Amerigo recipe online. The person who posted the recipe made a point to say that he/she got it from someone who used to work at Amerigo, so clearly there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that the recipe was the real deal. After all, the everything on the Internet is true.

I decided to take a chance and try the recipe, so earlier this week I bought the ingredients. I had most of the seasonings on hand, and even though the recipe looked a little complicated, the ingredients were simple – which always makes me feel better for some reason. If I’m going to be following 18 steps, I’d prefer that those 18 steps involve chicken and not some rare form of elk meat. I’d rather not get in a culinary wrestling match with sea urchin, you know?

Tuesday night I made the marinade for my chicken, and last night I actually made the Chicken Tuscany. I have to tell you in all humility that IT. WAS. AWESOME. And the awesomeness was no thanks to me, by the way – it’s just a great recipe with fresh ingredients, and oh sweet mercy I will be making it again. I may even make it for Christmas dinner – because the colors are beautiful and festive and it’s a great change of pace from our normal pork tenderloin.

(Pretend there’s a picture of the finished dish here.)

(I sort of forgot to do that part.)

(But imagine a nest of angel hair pasta with a browned and crisp chicken breast on top, all topped with a divine brown sauce that has flecks of red and green in it.)

(Now sigh contentedly.)

So given all of that, here’s the recipe. If you like to cook, you’ll have a blast with it.

And just in case you try it, a few suggestions:

1. Chop everything that needs to be chopped ahead of time. Pretend you’re on a cooking show and need for all your ingredients to be in sassy little ramekins. I didn’t think through all the steps before I started, and I ended up stopping and starting a lot. Get all your ingredients measured and set aside and ready to go.

2. You need 2 skillets, 1 medium saucepan and a Dutch oven for this recipe. Or maybe you don’t need a Dutch oven. But that’s what I use to cook noodles. So maybe you just need a big pot. Regardless, you need a saucepan for the first stage of the wine sauce, a skillet for sauteeing all your vegetables and finishing the sauce, a bigger skillet for cooking your chicken – and the aforementioned pasta pot. You’re welcome.

3. I didn’t use Chianti, mainly because my only experience with Chianti has been when I saw Hannibal Lecter talk about it in “Silence of the Lambs.” I just bought a regular red table wine – a brand that I used some last year when I made stew. It worked fine. And here’s a fun fact: I don’t like red wine. At least not to drink it. Apparently my palate is not refined enough to appreciate the taste. And also: who wants a room temperature beverage? NOT I.

Maybe I’d like red wine more if I could drink it over crushed ice like my beloved Diet Coke.

But I digress.

4. I wish I’d used chicken cutlets instead of big ole chicken breasts. I couldn’t get the chicken breasts pounded as thin as I would’ve liked – so next time I think I’ll make a point to buy much thinner cut of meat.

5. Make sure you have big ole loaf of good bread handy. I had a loaf of Tuscan bread from Fresh Market, and it was perfection. D said that he could make a meal out of nothing but the bread and the brown wine sauce. If I’d had time and planned ahead, though, I would’ve served this homemade bread because it’s so easy and unbelievably tasty.

All righty. There you have it. The story of how I finally made Chicken Tuscany. I feel like such a grown-up now.

Have y’all conquered any exciting new culinary territory lately? Run across a great recipe that you’d like to share with the class? Can’t wait to hear. Or read. Or whathaveyou.

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Comments

  1. We LOVE Amerigo’s too! and yes, the Cheese Fritters oh the Cheese Fritters! I don’t like red wine either due to the room temp factory but I have found some that you drink chilled that I love! It is know as Lambrusco and it rocks! It is the old school Reunite, which my aunt keeps in her fridge in a gallon jug! You can get nicer lambrusco than reunite and I really have enjoyed it! it is sparkling which is fun too1

  2. You and I sing the very same red wine song- I think drinks at room temperature are disconcerting, and there are very few things in this earthly world of ours that beats a cold Diet Coke, especially if it’s served with chocolate cake.

  3. I have a question for you that is of deep importance to me, but is in no way related to this post (sorry!). If you were going to buy a Christmas music CD for my parents (in their 60s) which CD(s) would you buy? I know you and Big are very into the Christian music scene and I’d love your opinion on this. I’m looking for fairly traditional music with perhaps a few new songs or newer arrangements. Thoughts?

  4. Jennifer L. says:

    I am with you on the room temp beverage thing…but I read something very interesting the other day. I read that red wines were intended to be served at the same temperature as the place where they are stored…and in days of yore that would have been a much cooler cellar in a medieval castle or someplace similar, not a 68-degree kitchen pantry. This person went on to say that red wines really should be chilled slightly, just not as cold as a white wine. Wow–I got to share information about a subject I know almost nothing about AND incorporate the phrase “days of yore.” Awesome. :)

  5. Could you post the stuffed pork loin recipe too?

  6. My parents just got home from a trip to Italy, and although they travel overseas a lot, this was their first time to Italy- anyways they were surprised that the red wine was always served chilled- not cold. My mom who does not really drink but will take a sip or two of my dads wine, said it was so much better slightly chilled!

  7. Sauce triumph! Good for you!! I’m trying to re-create a brown wine sauce that was served alongside the best steak I ever ate at the Charleston Grill on my honeymoon last year, and even requested the recipe from the chef, but when I tried it it was totally not even close….sorry, that was the longest painfully run-on sentence ever. I can only attribute the grammatical painfulness to the fact that I have had two glasses of sweet tea today (both over ice.)
    Culinary adventure: In my file cabinet, I found a handwritten recipe for potato soup recently – and had no recollection at all of who had given it to me. I tried it and it was divine. It’s posted on my blog if anyone wants to try it.
    Thank you for the love you put into your blog, Sophie – I enjoy it so!

  8. This post made me very hungry this morning!

    Well, I didn’t get the job at State. Instead, they hired one of my very best friends, which means that I’m so sad and so happy at the same time. *sigh*

  9. Well room temperature is relative. Which means for those of us that live in warmer temperatures, AKA the south, we should chill the wine,and then open and let it breathe.

    You make me laugh so hard, and are such a delight. Cooking with Sophie would be my favorite show on the cooking channel. I personally think that needs to be a goal for the cooking network.

  10. I’ve never heard of Amerigo’s, but if they have a menu item called “cheese fritters,” they MUST be wonderful! I love cooking, so I’ll have to try that recipe sometime.

  11. You are so funny – and I too would completely watch your show and DVR it on Cooking Network. Anyway, I also conquered an amazing recipe recently – I can make GUMBO!! It is the Emeril recipe from Food Network where you bake the roux in the oven. It works every time and is amazing. Let’s here it for the underachiever cooks!

  12. Um, first off, can I say that I think you are really funny?

    And, second-off, can I say quite honestly that I really don’t enjoy cooking and I can’t seem to stay away from kitchen disasters on most occasions?

    Case in point. My Thai neighbors have been bringing me oddly-fishy local dishes. Pressure was on to return the favor with a “local American” dish of my own. Without an oven, and with said lack of cooking skill. I ended up with No-Bake Chocolate cookies that literally looked like something you would NOT want to put in your mouth. Uncool. But I gave them to her anyway, because she had given me like 5 dishes, and it was time for me to step-up.

    So, anyway, no amazing recipes here . . . just an admission that I can take an amazing one and mess it up, anyway. Ha ha.

    Thanks for the laugh about that! :)

    Found you via Shaun Groves and will be back to visit.

  13. Oh my word, Sophie, Chicken Tuscany is THE BEST dish at Amerigo’s, hands down! My parents moved from Tupelo to Jxn in 1991, and that restaurant has been my family’s favorite since then. BTW, my parents were both born and raised in B’ham, and almost everyone from both sides of the family is there. It is my second home. I am so happy for y’all that Chuy’s made its way there! While in Austin for grad school I ate there regularly and am happy that we have it here in Houston as well. LOVE your blog and wish you a Merry Christmas and lots of fun holiday cooking:-)

  14. That recipe looks delicious! I’m definitely saving it. I also wanted to chime in and say that you can cut chicken breasts in half long ways and it makes them like chicken cutlets. I don’t know how to describe the cut in a way that makes sense, but you basically end up with the same size breast that’s half as thick. (hopefully this talk about breasts doesn’t bring too many google sickos to your site! sorry!) Then you can pound out from there if you still want it thinner. Works for me! :)

  15. Nothing new here, but I do want to try the Chicken Tuscany. I did just finish making the first batch of Buttermilk Fudge. It is really awesome, and if you are a Southerner, you KNOW you like buttermilk! Of course, it doesn’t taste like buttermilk, but the lovely browned butter goodness is to die for! I want to invite you to come up to Oklahoma to watch bowl games with us, and we’ll try lots of new taste sensations! Merry Christmas!

  16. Oh yum. Recipe added to Christmas repertoire.

    And please oh please let me come with you the night you order a nice Merlot over crushed ice at a fancy restaurant. I would like to get that on video.

    Thanks.

  17. Love, love, love Amerigo (we have one in Memphis, too)! Haven’t tried the Chicken Tuscany, but will definitely have to now. My favorite thing is their ridiculously thick pork loin chop cooked and served on a cedar plank with their asiago potatoes – yum!

  18. Oh, I love Amerigo and the Chicken Tuscany! Yum, sister, yum! You know there’s one in Memphis, right? :)

  19. First…that all sounds very yummy :) Question..do u think if I got the cutlets i should decrease the marinade time? Just wondering.. Also, looking forward to your Deeper Still post…I went, too and I’m still processing :)

  20. I made a homemade pie crust on Thanksgiving! It was so much easier than I thought it would be. Probably because I got to use the food processor!

  21. On Monday I made scrambled eggs for the first time in my 31 years of life. I am a culinary genius. You may applaud now.

  22. Oh, that sounds yummy! My latest success was a German Chocolate Cheesecake. My sister in law almost swooned! Here is the link to the recipe:

    http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/German-Chocolate-Cheesecake-2

  23. shout out to amerigo. native jacksonian here…now transplanted in TX.

  24. Girl friend. Butterfly those chicken breasts and you have yourself a cutlet. . .this recipe looks DEVINE.

  25. And, oh by the way:

    A time I went all crazy and cooked something too.

    http://rwl10802.wordpress.com/2010/05/05/a-tale-of-two-cooks-and-one-corporation/

  26. Hey there! Lurker coming out of lurking now… I made this recipe and even took pictures. They are on my blog; http://www.runningarends.blogspot if you want to take a peek! My hubby and I LOVED it! The kids? Not so much. Oh well. I’ll cook it again and they can make themselves a PB&J sandwich.

  27. Boomama, this was a humdingalina of a recipe!!

    Since I knew there would be a lot of pots and pans involved, I made the brown/ mushroom sauce in advance (while the chicken was marinating) and kept it in a saucepan. That way, when the final prep time came, I just had to cook the pasta and the breaded chicken.

    It didn’t necessarily cut down on the number of dishes overall, but I was able to get some of the earlier dishes/utensils into the dishwasher before the final steps.

    Well, clearly brevity isn’t my strong suit. What I wanted to say was it was a fantastic recipe and the time I saved allowed me to laugh hilariously at “Stumblin” the digital short on SNL.

    Thanks!

  28. Girl…I just made The Recipe on the occasion of the birth of my very first nephew. I intended it for the new parents, but they are at the hospital and I couldn’t wait. It. ROCKS! Thanks for the pep talk and all the pointers. I’m in HEAVEN!

    Oh and p.s. I thought of you when they sang, with extreme diction, “tin roof rusted” on Sing Off last night.