Thursday, May 04, 2006

Chicken Cacciatore

Since Pascha, I've been trying to clean out my freezer and have been eating dishes I've previously frozen, so I haven't been doing much cooking, but tonight I really wanted some yummy freshly-cooked chicken, and dear daughter wanted some pasta, so chicken cacciatore it was, with an arugula salad dressed simply with a balsamic vinaigrette, courtesy of Father James, the Arugula King! We love Fr. James any time of the year, but when its arugula season, we love him extra! I mean, how much arugula can a monk eat, anyway? And monks are VERY good about sharing, lucky for us! We love you, Fr. James!

Chicken Cacciatore

1 chicken, cut up, about 3 - 4 lbs, or chicken parts (I like thighs for this)
salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, diced fine
2 carrot, diced fine
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 large green pepper, cut in quarters and then sliced
4 anchovy fillets
1/4 C minced fresh parsley, or 1 Tbs dried
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
3 heaping Tbs capers, smashed to release flavor
2 tsp Herbes de Provence
3/4 C wine, white or red
3/4 C chicken broth (can use dry bouillon powder dissolved in water)
28 oz can of crushed tomatoes

Brown the chicken well on all sides in a dry pan, seasoning it with salt and pepper as you go; remove from pan and set aside. Wipe out most of the chicken grease. To the pan, saute the onion, garlic, celery and carrot over medium high heat till onions are translucent and beginning to brown. Add the anchovy, breaking the filets up while stirring, then the mushrooms, green pepper, capers, stirring for a few minutes. Add the bay leaf, parsley, red pepper flakes and Herbes de Provence, and stir till everything is softened and fragrant, adding some olive if necessary to keep from sticking. Raise heat to high, pour in the wine and deglaze pan, scraping up any crusty bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil the alcohol off for a minute or two, then add the broth and tomatoes. Let simmer for 10 minutes, then taste for salt and pepper. Nestle the chicken pieces in the sauce, making sure they are covered with sauce, bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer for 45 minutes till the meat is falling off the bone.

Serves: 4 - 6

Time: 15 minutes to saute chicken, 15 minutes to put sauce together, 45 minutes to braise the chicken in the sauce. This can be made ahead and warmed up at dinner time, or even made in the pressure cooker or crock pot to cut down on cooking time.

Notes: I didn't have a green pepper, so I didn't put one in. Some people dice about 3 or 4 oz of pancetta and saute it till crisp and all the fat is rendered, and then brown the chicken in the pork fat, but to me, that's a waste of expensive and delicious pancetta, since the flavor is masked by the strong flavors of the sauce. Don't be afraid of the anchovies in this dish, even though it seems like a LOT of anchovies - there is no fishy taste to the sauce at all because the anchovies melt right into the sauce and provide a deep, rich and salty flavor. Be brave and try it with the anchovies - you will never make it any other way again! Be sure to wipe out most of the chicken grease after you brown the chicken, because too much chicken grease is pretty hard on the stomach and gives a gamey quality to the sauce when you reheat it the next day. A little chicken fat adds tons of flavor, but too much is just.... well, icky.

I served this with a nice glass of wine (the pinot grigio that I cooked with), an arugula salad, a slice of homemade Cuban bread courtesy of the handy dandy bread machine to sop up the tasty sauce, and an orange for dessert.

Five stars!

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