Chicken and Pepper Casserole
James Beard Foundation, NYC
"I like to think of this dish as an Italian pot pie, only the 'crust'—really toasted slices of bread—is on the bottom instead of the top." –Mitchell Davis
4 to 6 servings
- 4 or 5 (1/2-inch-thick) slices crusty country bread
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 5 or 6 cubanelle or Italian frying peppers (about 1 pound), seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 ¼ pounds boneless and skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 ½ cups canned plum tomatoes with juice, cut into chunks
- 4 ounces sharp provolone cheese, grated (1 cup)
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Lay out the bread on a baking sheet. Using about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, brush the bread with oil on both sides. Season with salt and pepper. Place the bread in the preheating oven to toast for about 10 minutes, or until nicely browned, turning once or twice.
Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat the remaining ¼ cup olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add the peppers, and fry until they have wilted, about 7 minutes. Add the chicken and cook until it turns opaque white, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes, and canned tomatoes and juice, along with about 1 teaspoon kosher salt and a generous amount of black pepper. Bring to a simmer, and cook until some of the liquid in the pan has evaporated and the chicken is cooked through, another 4 or 5 minutes or so.
Line the bottom of a 1 ½- or 2-quart baking dish with the toasted bread. Spoon the chicken and pepper mixture over the bread to fill the dish and pour the pan juices evenly over the top. Sprinkle the chicken with an even layer of provolone. Bake for about 35 minutes until the cheese has melted and browned and the chicken is bubbling.