Crispy chicken thighs at Rocco’s Wood Fired Pizza are deceptively humble - The Buffalo News

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Crispy chicken thighs at Rocco’s Wood Fired Pizza are deceptively humble

The crispy chicken thighs at Rocco’s Wood Fired Pizza (5433 Transit Road, Clarence) is one of those dishes whose humble demeanor hides an elaborate – one might even say gourmet – background.

Roasted bone-in chicken thighs are served with a Sicilian relish and a scattering of vinegar peppers. Two for $7.95, four for $15.95.

But simple? Rocco’s chef Rob “Reuben” Parrott said that once he wrote down the recipe, because someone asked for it, “It became so complicated I don’t think anybody wanted to tackle it.”

He agreed to run through it anyway, to answer the question of how those 99-cents-a-pound chicken parts got to be a can’t-miss dish at a place known for its pizza.

They start in the same place: the wood-fired oven. He starts with chicken thighs that have been brined overnight, rubbed with a mixture of dry spices and cured for another day.

Then early in the workday, before the massive masonry oven is fired up to pizza-making temperatures, he roasts thighs. “In the morning when the temperature is down to 425 or so, we roast them off for 20 to 25 minutes, cooked through,” he said. They’re finished to order in convection ovens that help crisp the skin .

They’re served with two bell pepper concoctions. There’s a Sicilian relish of peppers, fennel, red onion, shaved garlic, tomato paste, red wine vinegar, capers and currants plumped in white wine, with a hint of anchovy. It’s flavored with fresh sage, oregano and thyme, and bound with a bit of tomato paste. “The profile is a sweet-and-sour, almost,” he said.

Then there’s the vinegar peppers, tricolored bell peppers sauted with “a good amount of garlic, and garlic oil, then finished with red wine vinegar to the point where the peppers are tender and we’ve reduced the vinegar and oil to a glaze,” he added.

Old-school Italian restaurants used to serve their pork chops with vinegar peppers. “When we were still back at Olivers, we were toying with recipes,” Parrott said, adding that he presented owner Henry Gorino with the thighs and the relish. “He wanted to add something, and it ended up to be the vinegar peppers. He’s the boss, he has to have it.”

Now it’s one of Rocco’s most popular appetizers, to share, or plate for dinner. “It’s the best cut of chicken,” Parrott said, “and how can you go wrong with skin-on?”

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