Chicken Cacciatore

I’m running a bit late this morning – we’re trying to recover from a weekend of College Student At Home.  Let’s just say it’s going to be a few weekends before THAT happens again.

How did Bill Cosby put it?  Oh, yeah…BRAIN. DAMAGE.  And we simply can’t afford it – college is cheaper.

Seriously.

Anyhoo, today’s recipe is so very good that I’ve made it twice in as many weeks – and I don’t even care for Italian food all that much.  This dish is simply stunning, nor is it difficult to make.  And while it isn’t a quick recipe, it certainly takes much less time than many braises.

You can use a whole chicken, cut into pieces, if you prefer – I just used drumsticks and thighs because that was the first thing I grabbed out of the freezer.  I also used a jar of tomato sauce we’d recently canned, along with fresh tomatoes from our garden but a 28-ounce can of chopped tomatoes would work well if you don’t want to peel, seed and chop them yourself.

This was excellent served over Japanese sweet potatoes mashed with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and the same fresh herbs used in the cacciatore, but it would go equally well with regular mashed potatoes, rice, polenta or even pasta, if you’re so inclined.

Chicken Cacciatore. This rustic and satisfying dish is classic Italian cuisine at its finest.

Click image to enlarge

 

Chicken Cacciatore
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 4 chicken drumsticks
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 cup tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
Instructions
  1. Season the chicken liberally with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large heavy skillet, melt the ghee over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and cook, in batches if necessary, just until brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium; add the peppers, onion and garlic to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Stir in the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes, broth, capers and herbs. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and turn them to coat in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer; cover and continue cooking over medium-low heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes.
  5. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 418 calories, 18.8g total fat, 140.7mg cholesterol, 397.7mg sodium, 1100.4mg potassium, 21.6g carbohydrates, 4.5g fiber, 11.3g sugar, 32g protein

 

Oxtail Ragout

Recently I was at Whitefeather Meats (I don’t recall specifically why; sometimes we go there just to harass those poor people) when a tiny little Asian woman came in and picked up a huge box that was waiting for her.  I’m a pretty nosy curious person, and couldn’t resist asking what was in it.

It was full of tongues and tails.

“I didn’t know I could do that,” I whimpered pathetically to Bunny, the owner, after asking the woman if she had a restaurant (no; it was all for her personal use).

I guess the point of this is we forget that in other parts of the world, where animals aren’t raised in giant feedlots in massive numbers, parts of the cow (or any large animal, for that matter) like the tongue, tail and liver are considered delicacies, simply because there’s only one of them on each critter.  We’re very fortunate that we live in a society where we can buy as many of these cuts as we might like in one fell swoop, especially when they are from pastured/grass fed animals.

And then we don’t.

I never get so many negative reactions to recipes as I do to those involving “variety meats.”  Americans – Canadians, too – are pretty squeamish about anything that’s not muscle meat (and yes, we’ll ignore for the time being that both tongues and hearts are nothing but large muscles themselves).  Which is really sad, because these are among the most flavorful, to say nothing of nutritious, parts of the animal.

Oxtail in this country is really the tail of beef – steers, to be exact, since even among farmers who raise their cattle on grass it is standard practice to castrate bulls destined for market.  It’s a particularly boney cut of meat, and since bone is living tissue, oxtail is usually classified as offal.  I won’t dispute that, but it’s not the same as eating liver – if no one told you you were eating the tail, you’d think you were eating a particularly delicious, silky, unctuous cut of muscle meat (assuming it’s been properly cooked).  However, like most offal, oxtail is quite nutritious, being rich in minerals (glucosamine, chondroiten, magnesium, glycine, phosphorus), gelatin and collagen, which are important for the health of your bones, especially your joints.

At any rate, not only is this dish, which I served over roasted, pureed parsnips (I’ll have to post that recipe some day), very good for you it is also very, very tasty.  And, prepared in the pressure cooker, relatively quick and easy.  If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can braise this in the oven at 350 F for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  The rest of the instructions remain the same.

Oxtail Ragout

Oxtail Ragout

Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons tallow or other fat suitable for high heat cooking, divided
  • 3 pounds oxtails, joints cut into 2-inch lengths and trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 cup hearty red wine
  • 2 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the tallow over high heat in the pressure cooker, Sprinkle the oxtails liberally with salt and pepper, then brown in the fat, working in batches if necessary. Transfer the browned oxtails to a plate and set aside.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining tablespoon of tallow, if necessary. Cook the onions, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook one more minute.
  3. Return the browned oxtails to the cooker and stir in the celery, carrots, wine, beef stock, tomato paste, mustard, and bay leaf. Tie together the thyme and parsley with kitchen twine and add that to the oxtails, vegetables and liquid in the cooker.
  4. Lock the lid of the pressure cooker in place and increase the heat to high until the cooker reaches full pressure (15 psi). Reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 55 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the pressure to decrease naturally.
  5. Carefully unlock and remove the lid of the pressure cooker. Remove the tied herbs and bay leaf; skim any excess fat from the surface of the stew. Remove the oxtails and transfer to a plate; shred the meat away from the bones with a fork and return to the pressure cooker. Taste and season as necessary with salt and pepper. Serve over mashed potatoes or parsnips, and garnish with sliced green onion, if desired.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 421 calories, 15.4g total fat, 95.4mg cholesterol, 347.7mg sodium, 1243.5mg potassium, 8.9g carbohydrates, 1.7g fiber, 3.5g sugar, 51.9g protein

Autumn Beef Stew

Our refrigerator and pantry runneth over, with all sorts of interesting things.  Root vegetables and winter squashes seem to be everywhere, and why not?  It’s certainly the season for them.

I have come to love eating seasonally.  We spent the spring and summer eating ourselves silly with things like asparagus, watermelon, peaches and okra – to the point when they are no longer available, we’re not sorry to see them go.  But that’s okay, because by the time their seasons roll around again, we’ll be anxious for them once more.

Right now we’re awash in apples, winter squashes, carrots, parsnips, beets and potatoes of all varieties.  Most of these will keep for some time if a little thought is put into how they are stored, but there’s certainly no excuse not to fully enjoy them now.  And since the weather has turned chilly and we’ve taken possession of another side of beef, we can and will enjoy them in a hearty beef stew.

Don’t let the list of ingredients deter you; this is a pretty easy recipe.  You start it on the stove, but finish it off on the oven – a necessity the day I made it, since we were in the midst of canning a bushel of green beans.  Other than stirring it occasionally, you can pretty much forget about it for an hour and a half, then add the vegetables and forget about it again for another half hour or so.  It’s just delicious, too – the addition of the apple cider lends the stew a pleasant hint of tart sweetness.

Leave out the new potatoes and it’s Whole30 compliant, but I really liked them in this dish.

Autumn Beef Stew
Autumn Beef Stew
Autumn Beef Stew

Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 3 pounds stewing beef, cut into 2″ cubes
  • 2 tablespoons tallow or other cooking fat
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 cups good quality apple cider
  • 2 cups new potatoes, halved
  • 2 cups carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 2 cups parsnips, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 2 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1″ cubes
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Heat the tallow in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Pat the stew meat dry and brown on all sides without crowding, working in batches if necessary. Remove to a plate and set aside.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low and add the onion to the Dutch oven. Cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes.
  4. Return the beef to the pot and sprinkle with the basil, thyme, salt pepper and tapioca flour. Stir to coat evenly and cook for another minute or two. Slowly stir in the beef stock and apple cider; add the bay leaves.
  5. Cover the Dutch oven and place in the oven. Braise, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.
  6. Stir in the potatoes, carrots, parsnips and squash. Cover and return to the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 484 calories, 13.9g total fat, 156.6mg cholesterol, 435.6mg sodium, 1700.1mg potassium, 38.7g carbohydrates, 6.1g fiber, 6.9g sugar, 53.8g protein

 

Spicy Slow Cooker Short Ribs

Well, hello there.

Nothing yesterday – Only Brother and his beautiful family were here for an extended weekend (they drove all the way from Texas), and I had neither the time nor the inclination to post.  I’m also suffering from bronchitis for the first time in over 2 years; I used to get it twice a year ever since I quit smoking but hadn’t had it once since we changed our diet, until now.  I think it has more to do with stress and overwork than anything – we’ve just been so busy lately, and have barely had any time at all to rest.

At any rate, I have a really nice recipe for you today.  We had a run of very cool weather early last week; the kind of cool weather that makes you crave warm soups and stews.  I was also craving Mexican, and had some beef short ribs in the freezer, as well as some roasted peppers and chilies we’d canned last summer.  It wasn’t long before I was dragging out the crock pot and tossing ingredients in it.

It was absolutely wonderful – even The Young One ate it enthusiastically, and Beloved went back for thirds; there were literally no leftovers.  It also couldn’t be easier; simply toss everything in the crock pot and let it cook on high for 6 hours.  The result is wonderfully flavorful beef that just falls off the bones, hence the shredding and mixing with the blended cooking liquid.  If you don’t have an immersion blender and don’t wish to transfer the cooking liquid to a conventional blender or food processor, don’t worry – it will be every bit as good with an unblended sauce.

If you leave out the coconut sugar, this is Whole30 compliant.

Spicy Slow Cooker Short Ribs
Spicy Slow Cooker Short Ribs
Spicy Slow Cooker Short Ribs
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds beef short ribs
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup beef stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 can (6 oz) green chili peppers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients except the short ribs and onions; pour into a large slow cooker.
  2. Cut the ribs into about 4 sections each and add to the liquid in the slow cooker with the onion. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours.
  3. Remove the ribs from the slow cooker and separate from the bones; shred with two forks. Set aside and keep warm.
  4. Using an immersion blender, puree the liquid in the slow cooker until smooth. Pour 1 cupful over the shredded beef. Serve over steamed, grated cauliflower, steamed rice or mashed potatoes.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 479 calories, 23.9g total fat, 133.8mg cholesterol, 947.7mg sodium, 1322.4mg potassium, 17.5g carbohydrates, 3.3g fiber, 8.8g sugar, 46.5g protein