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

 

Classic Cheese Fondue

Our assignment for this week’s Spin Cycle is to post a recipe and tell a story about it.

Par for the course around here. 😉

Beloved and I hadn’t been dating for very long when he took me to a restaurant called The Melting Pot.  Although I’d heard of it – fondue was very popular in the 70s when I was growing up – I’d never eaten any.  It was enjoying something of a renaissance around the turn of the century, and fondue restaurants were popping up all over the place.  When he told me that’s where we were going for dinner, I thought, “Oh, cool – we’ll eat some cheese with bread, and maybe get some chocolate fondue with some strawberries and it’ll be fun.”

I was not prepared for the three courses, including a meat course in the middle, and the myriad of foods they gave you to dip – nor was I prepared for a dinner that lasted 3 hours.  But I loved it, and me being me, immediately thought about how I could make it myself.

So he bought a fondue pot, and I think we’ve actually been back to a fondue restaurant once in the past 13 years.

Fondue has become something of an event in our household, and there were a few years when I asked Miss J what she would like for her birthday meal that I could count on the answer being “Fondue!”  It’s also something that The Young One has always enjoyed (he’s asked for it a couple of times, as well, but usually opts for Pad Thai for his birthday), so when he asked if he could have a birthday party we decided that it would be fun to feed his friends The Birthday Fondue Dinner.

The first course was Classic Cheese Fondue, and met with mixed success.  My kids, even the picky ones, have pretty sophisticated palates (Jolly, who is pretty darn picky, has asked for Eggs Benedict for brunch this Sunday).  Only one of the friends that showed up had ever had a fondue dinner before, and only a couple of them them really enjoyed the cheese – I think the sharp cheese coupled with the dry wine and garlic was just a little much for them.  Next time I make a cheese fondue for neophytes I’ll use a much milder cheese and melt it in a homemade chicken or vegetable stock instead.

That being said, the entire dinner surprised me a bit – I served the cheese course with a crusty bread, cut into cubes, sliced Granny Smith apples and blanched baby carrots and broccoli; while I was pretty sure they’d eat the bread, there wasn’t a scrap of apple, carrot or broccoli left at the end of the course.

For the second course, I brought a good quality vegetable broth to a simmer in the fondue pot and gave them raw steak, chicken and shrimp to skewer on their forks and cook in the broth, plus a variety of sauces (barbecue, cocktail, steak, teriyaki) for them to dip the meats in.  They really enjoyed this, but they were pretty full from the first course and I think they got tired of waiting for each bite of meat to cook, because there was plenty of meat leftover, except for the shrimp, which was a huge hit (and didn’t take as long to cook).  (Note to self:  buy another set of fondue forks.)

Dessert surprised me the most – the fondue consisted of high quality dark chocolate melted in heavy cream, with which I served cheesecake, pound cake, marshmallows, sliced bananas and strawberries.  They barely touched the cakes or marshmallows, but absolutely inhaled the fruit.

I’d call that a win.

At any rate, depending on the sources of your meat, cheese, cream and chocolate the entire meal constitutes real food.  If you leave out the bread during the cheese course, make the sauces yourself for the meat course and serve fruit with your chocolate course, it is perfectly primal, if not paleo.   Nor is it hard, just a tad time-consuming – and it is certainly fun.

Note:  I have two fondue pots now – a traditional one that sits over a Sterno can, and an electric pot.  I much prefer the electric pot – you can adjust the temperature to suit the fondue within, and it heats evenly and won’t develop a hot spot, reducing the chance that your food will burn.

Classic Cheese Fondue
Classic Cheese Fondue
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 pound Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 3 tablespoons tapioca or arrowroot flour
  • 1 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon kirsch, optional
Instructions
  1. Toss the cheese with the flour. Place a saucepan over medium heat and add the wine and garlic. Bring to a simmer and add the cheese mixture, one handful at a time. Stir in the nutmeg.
  2. Stir over low heat until smooth and cheese is melted and bubbling. Add the kirsch, if using, and continue stirring just until it begins to bubble. Transfer the cheese mixture to a heated fondue pot when ready for dipping. Stir frequently.
  3. Nutrition (per serving): 295 calories, 18.4g total fat, 62.4mg cholesterol, 193.2mg sodium, 84.7mg potassium, 5g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, <1g sugar, 17g protein.

 

Hanger Steak with Onion Wine Sauce

Well, I’m feeling kinda sheepish – after not one but two posts where I bitched and moaned mentioned how Tastespotting refused to publish my photographs, two were accepted in the course of 24 hours.

I has some mad foods photographin’ skillz.

(I SO hope you are NOT taking me seriously.  Please – I’m not even batting .500 with these people.)

Anyhoo.  Hanger steak.  I’d heard of it – it’s popular in restaurants – but I’d never seen it, cooked it or eaten it.  In fact, if our butcher hadn’t slipped this into one of our boxes when we picked up Chuck II (it was grass-fed, but not from our steer judging by the packaging) I’d have never thought to try to find one.

Oh, I didn’t know what I was missing.

This is a seriously good cut of meat.  According to Wikipedia “A hanger steak is a cut of beef steak prized for its flavor. Derived from the diaphragm of a steer, it typically weighs about 1 to 1.5 lbs (450 to 675g). In the past it was sometimes known as ‘butcher’s steak’ because butchers would often keep it for themselves rather than offer it for sale.”  Good heavens, I know why – properly cooked, this is about as tasty as they come.

Hanger steak is best cooked quickly over high heat to a nice medium-rare, especially when grass-finished; over-cooking will leave you with a dry, tough, chewy mess.  There is a long, tough and inedible membrane that runs the length of the steak unless your butcher was considerate enough to remove it for you; the recipe gives simple instructions for removing it.

Hanger Steak with Onion Wine Sauce

Hanger Steak with Onion Wine Sauce

serves 4 to 6

1 to 2 tablespoon tallow or other cooking fat
1 1/2 pounds hanger steak
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon dried thyme, finely crumbled

Locate the tough membrane running the length of the steak. With a small, sharp knife detach the steak on each side; discard the membrane. Cut the steak into 6 to 8 smaller pieces.

Melt the tallow in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until almost smoking. Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper. Place the steaks into the pan, and quickly sear them on all sides. Continue to cook, turning occasionally, about 6 minutes total for medium-rare – a moment or two longer for more well done (remember the steaks will continue to cook while they rest). Transfer the steaks to a warm dish, cover them with foil and allow them to rest while you prepare the sauce.

Reduce the heat to medium, add a tablespoon of butter and the onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and cook until it boils away, then add the wine and thyme. Bring the wine to a boil and reduce it by half. Remove pan from heat and stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter. Add more salt and pepper to taste, if needed.

To serve, cut each steak against the grain into thin slices; fan the slices out on a dinner plate. Drizzle the warm sauce over the steak and serve immediately.

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