Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

I hate chicken. I do... well, did. I'm sure I'm the first person you've ever known that absolutely hated chicken. BUT, and this is a big but, for the sake of my family, my budget, and my own health, I have been trying very hard to come up with some super yummy dishes that are so good I don't even know/care that they are chicken. And here is the one that made me a chicken eater: Chicken Cacciatore.

Actually, the reason I made this in the first place was because the brand Just Bare Chicken caught my eye at the store. It's non-steroid, vegetable fed, free range, no anti-biotic, no nothing-but-good-things-for-chickens-and-people-who-eat-them, family farm birds. It really addressed everything I hated and feared about chicken. And each package has a code that you can enter on their website and see exactly where your little chickadee was born and raised. Cool!

Most Americans gravitate toward the breasts. Not gonna say a word about that. However, I like to use boneless, skinless thighs. More flavor. Doesn't dry out like the breast. But this brand offers breasts, legs, and whole chickens, etc. Something for everyone.

There are no measurements for this. Don't freak out. You can't do it "wrong." Make it the way that you prefer, adding or omitting ingredients when desired. I'm the Dinnertime Ninja, not Nazi.

Chicken Cacciatore
Cacciatore means "hunter style" in Italian. So this is meant to be a hearty meal that could satisfy a hunter after a long day out in the wilderness. It's great for a big family meal on Sunday, but also the leftovers are delish, so don't shy away if you don't have an army to feed. Warning: there is some prep work involved, so grab a buddy, or allow yourself a good hour start to finish. So worth it.


  • boneless skinless chicken
  • flour for dredging
  • canned San Marzano* tomatoes 2-15 oz cans
  • fresh garlic
  • olive oil
  • red/orange/yellow bell peppers (any or all of them)
  • carrots
  • red onion
  • dried Italian herbs-whatever you have
  • capers (none, a lot, a little... whatever you like! drain and rinse)
  • 2 bay leaves (remove before eating)
  • sea/kosher salt, pepper
  • mushrooms (baby portabellas are preferred)
  • white wine

Prep ahead:
Dice up all the veggies- peppers, onion, carrot, heck- throw in some celery if you like. Just slice the 'shrooms. Chop or use garlic press for the garlic. Use one clove per person, at least:)

Trim the chicken if necessary. I'm crazy anal about it, so I take this seriously. Season generously with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour. Brown chicken in large skillet on medium heat with olive oil. You're not trying to cook it through, just get a good crust on both sides. Remove chicken and set aside on paper towels.

I love to cook with wine. Sometimes, I even put it in the food! De-glaze the pan with 1/2 to 1 cup of white wine (sauvignion blanc or pinot grigio) and add all the chopped up prepped stuff. Salt, pepper, bay leaves, herbs (be very generous), a quick stir, 3 minutes to sweat, and then the tomatoes. San Marzano if you can absolutely find them. They are more expensive, but there is NO comparison in flavor. Cento brand is available at Super Target. If not, any brand of whole or stewed tomatoes will do. Never drain them. That juice is liquid gold. Plus Europe doesn't use all the yucky stuff in canning that the US does.

Stir and mash the whole tomatoes until everything is blended and bite sized. Add chicken back to pan and cover. Allow to simmer on low-med heat until veggies are tender and chicken is cooked through. It should be fall apart tender, flavorful and delicious.

Since we are no longer hunter-gatherers, we don't need to load up on carbs. So, rather than serving with a huge pile of spaghetti, why not try spaghetti squash? Or you could try a whole wheat/whole grain pasta, or brown rice.

If you go with the squash, remember to add this to your prep!
Half a spaghetti squash (big, yellow, smooth-skinned) and scrape out the seeds. Place cut side down in a baking dish with a few inches of water. Bake until fork tender and can easily pierce the skin (425 for 20 minutes?) Just keep adding water if necessary. When it's steamed to tender perfection, scoop out, drizzle with olive oil, season with sea salt, pepper, and sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese and top with the delicious chicken goodness.

I never met a chicken (cacciatore) I didn't like.

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