Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cook This, Not That!: Chicken Cacciatore

Oddly, in spite of the fact that this is a very well known dish, and even my beloved "M" threw a version of it together one night, I don't think I've ever made it. For one thing, it has olives in it, and while I like olive oil, I hate most varieties of olives - too briney and bitter for me. But I figured that I could leave the olives out and substitute rinsed capers, and if "M" wanted olives, she could toss in some left over from the crudite tray we had for a New Year's eve celebration. (Which is exactly what she did).

The gimmick with "Cook This, Not That!" is that you make dishes that are the culinary equivalent of signature chain restaurant dishes that are usually loaded with extra fat and calories, only you save lots of money and come up with something considerably less hazardous to your waist-line. It's one of the endless stream of publications from "Men's Health", but the packaging on this one was a bit more appealing to me, and some of the dishes actually looked like something I'd want to eat.

Hence:

  • 8 chicken thighs (supposedly boneless, but I couldn't find any, so I went with 6 thighs and a few drumsticks)
  • 2+ tb Olive Oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thin
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and ribbed and sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • olives chopped roughly or a couple of Tb of rinsed capers
  • 4 minced cloves of garlic
  • 1 lb of Italian tomatoes. Hah! This is winter in Nebraska, you think we can get decent fresh tomatoes? I went with 1 15 ox can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes from Hunts.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.

The hidden "stinger" hidden in the bottom of the recipe is that you are supposed to serve over polenta or quinoa or a small bed of mashed potatoes. Well, I couldn't either find polenta OR grits at Hy-Vee, and they wanted $6 for a box of quinoa, so I got a couple of good sized russets, peeled them, diced them, boiled them and mashed them with melted butter, a bit of warmed milk, and a bunch more salt and pepper while the chicken dish was simmering.

Still, something like this is fun to make. You salt and pepper the chicken and brown it on all sides in a big skillet over medium high heat for about 10 minutes while you slice/mince up the onions,garlic and red bell pepper. Then you take the chicken out and saute the aromatics and capers in the chicken drippings. Then you deglaze the pan with the red wine and let it simmer and bubble until there is hardly anything left and the peppers and onions are loaded with goodness. Then you add the chicken broth and the tomatoes (drained or not, depending on how juicy you like your Cacciatore); you put the chicken pieces back in the skillet, let everything come to a low boil, then drop the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Then you divide your mashed potatoes onto a couple of serving platters, put a couple of thighs/drumsticks on that and dish out some of the veggies and some of the juice. The book says to remove the skin before actually eating to save on some fat grams, but to hell with that - portion control and slow, deliberate, mindful consumption means far more in the long run, and it was very tasty indeed.

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