Chicken with Rice and Italian Sausage
1 3.5-4.5-pound chicken, cut into quarters, or four chicken breasts, with both bones and skin
1 to 1-1/4 pounds sweet Italian sausage (preferably with fennel seed), in large links (usually about six of them)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chicken broth (homemade, or use a 14.5-ounce can and add enough water to make 2 cups)
1 14 to 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
¾ teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
Salt and freshly-ground pepper
1 bay leaf
1 red bell pepper, cut into very small dice
1 large onion, cut into very small dice
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
½ cup finely-diced ham (I have used deli ham for this and it works) – optional
1 cup long-grain rice
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Combine the broth and tomatoes in a small saucepan, bring it to a boil, then turn the heat to very low, cover the pot, and let it simmer gently while you brown the meat and sauté the vegetables.
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. When hot, add the sausage links and brown them well. Remove the sausage, season the chicken with salt and pepper, then brown the chicken, starting skin-side down. It will take at least five minutes per side to really brown the chicken. Remove the chicken from the pot and let it sit on a place with the sausage. Pour off all but about two tablespoons of fat and add the red pepper, onion, thyme, bay leaf, and ham if you’re using it. Add about a teaspoon of salt and some pepper. Saute for about 6 minutes, until the vegetables are soft but not brown. Add the simmering tomato/broth mixture, the sausage, and the dark meat from the chicken (if you’re using it – otherwise, skip to the next paragraph). Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
Then add the rice and the chicken breasts, stir everything well, cover, and put the Dutch oven into the oven and bake for a half hour. Taste for seasoning, and serve hot.