Ditch the Turkey – Make a Long-cooked Hen in Tomato Sauce

I know it is tradition to eat Turkey for Thanksgiving – I get it, but then really, I don’t. Maybe it is because I have had one too many dried out turkey breasts in my lifetime.  I do want to before my time is up try two types of turkey: a deep fried turkey and a heritage breed turkey.  One is a messy proposition requiring the purchase of equipment that will never be used again and will clutter up our home.  The second, an expensive proposition (think upwards of $8/lb for a heritage breed turkey) that requires an expert cook to do it justice (not me) and cook it perfectly.  I just need someone to invite us over to their place for Thanksgiving and make a deep fried heritage breed turkey and I will be done.  Forever.

I made Micheal Chiarello’s Long Cooked Hen in Tomato Sauce for dinner recently and am thinking that a couple of these would feed a small crowd for Thanksgiving.  An Italian Thanksgiving.  Stacie would approve.  Here’s the menu for my Italian inspired Thanksgiving (the desserts are not Italian but who cares? Be “thankful” I baked):

Long-cooked Hen in Tomato Sauce (recipe below)

Pasta with Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese

Zucchini Carpaccio (not seasonal but we love it)

Green Beans Almondine by Baked Bree

Baked Mashed Potatoes with Parmesan Cheese and Breadcrumbs (it’s by Giada, so I am pretending it is Italian)

Curried Carrot/Any Squash Soup (I have to throw in the curry – you can’t run from your heritage)

Compost Cookies (very American and a great way to use up leftover Halloween Candy that is still lurking around)

Honey Walnut Cake

and a late addition because I just came across it: Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake also by Baked Bree

How’s that for a new Thanksgiving tradition? 🙂

Long-cooked Hen in Tomato Sauce by Michael Chiarello


Serves: Serves 4, with lots of leftover sauce (freeze extra)

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Sea salt, preferably gray salt
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 6 cans (28 ounces each) whole tomatoes, partially pureed through a meat grinder or food mill or pulsed in a blender
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 chicken, about 4 pounds
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley


Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes, then reduce the heat to moderate and cook until the vegetables are lightly browned, about 20 minutes more.

Add the wine and scrape the pan bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen any flavorful stuck-on bits. Add the tomatoes, 1 tablespoon salt, and pepper to taste. Taste and add more salt if needed. It is important to add enough salt, so that the chicken seasons as it cooks.

Place the chicken, breast side down, in the sauce, and bring the sauce to a simmer. Transfer the pot to the oven. Cook uncovered until the chicken is very tender, about 2 hours, spooning the sauce over the chicken from time to time. Stir in the basil and parsley and cook for 15 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and let the chicken cool in the sauce.

Serve the chicken warm with a little sauce spooned over it, or reheat the sauce separately and serve it over pasta as a first course with the chicken as a main course. Any remaining sauce can be frozen.

14 thoughts on “Ditch the Turkey – Make a Long-cooked Hen in Tomato Sauce

  1. Nice one, Simran. Your post made me think about some of my own family un-orthodox Thanksgiving celebrations. When it’s my chinese side of the family getting together for Thanksgiving — it’s all about the rice! No potatoes, but yes! usually turkey.

    My favorite are all the side dishes. I will have to try Bree’s beans. I love a simple butternut squash roasted with olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar. My brother makes a mean green bean gremolata (green beans with parsley, lemon, parmesan and garlic).

    For our gathering this year, I think I will make Samantha (aka Hungry Dog’s) tiramisu this year. Sounds like I better bring some over to your house!

  2. Like you, I don’t really like turkey either. So whenever Thanksgiving rolls around I fill myself up with all the sides, which I love! in the end, it all works out.

  3. Thanks for all the great ideas! I am eying up Bree’s green beans almondine. Normally this dish looks so-so but hers looks so delicious. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Now this looks like a tasty winter dish to make! Definitely one I will have to try! Thanks for sharing…all the recipes look great!

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