Chicken Cacciatore with Risotto

Sun, Oct 12 • 0

Cacciatore means “hunter’s style” in italian, and it’s typically a braising method for chicken (or rabbit) with tomatoes and other vegetables, including mushrooms, onions, and herbs.

The chicken part of this meal was the simple part to the much more complicated risotto, but even that’s not so bad. I chose whole wheat short grain rice for my risotto, which doubled the cooking time, but you can choose regular white, arborio. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but you could easily use chicken breasts, or a combination, and the chicken doesn’t have to be boneless — though I recommend the skinless, since the braising method would tend to make the skin sort of rubbery otherwise.

6 boneless chicken thighs
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
½ cup onions, chopped
1 large can plum tomatoes, crushed, with juice

1 large leek, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
3 handfuls short grain rice, about ¾ cup
2 cups chicken broth, plus 3 cups water, heated to boiling
¼ cup parmesan cheese, shredded

Heat a frying pan over medium heat, with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season the chicken thighs with the salt and pepper, and brown them off, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken, and put in the garlic and the onion, and sweat. Add the tomatoes, plus any herbs you like (basil or thyme would work well here) and bring to a rapid boil. Return the chicken and cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. and cook until the chicken is cooked through — at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the chicken stock and the water to a simmer in a saucepan. In another pan (preferably, a saucier), heat 2 tablespoons of butter, and add the leek, and cook until wilted. Add the rice, and stir, allowing the rice to soak up the butter, and turn pearly. Begin adding the hot stock, about three or four ladles-full to start. You don’t need to constantly stir the rice, but you do need to keep and eye on it, and stir it occasionally, to make sure it doesn’t scorch in the pan and run out of liquid. Keep adding more liquid, a ladle at a time. I also fortified the cooking liquid for the rice with some of the excess liquid from the chicken, which added flavor as well as a rosey color to the rice. It’ll take about 20 minutes for white risotto or 45 for brown to get to the point where you can taste a grain or two, and they’re chewy, but not so much so that they stick to your teeth. At this point, you can keep cooking it to whatever consistency you prefer. I like it the consistency of wet oatmeal. Remove it from the heat, and stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter and the shredded cheese. Taste for seasoning.


In Season Now : Plum Tomatoes

Mon, Aug 11 • 0

Roasted Balsamic Tomato Sauce will reward you with a delicious aroma while it cooks in the oven.

Every August, I end up making a couple of batches of this sauce, when the prices for plum tomatoes hits the floor, but it works equally as well with any kind of tomato you’ve got too many of in your garden.

Preheat your oven to 425° and spread olive oil all over the bottom of a sheet pan. Wash your plum tomatoes and slice them in half. Sometimes, I’ll use my thumb and pull out the seeds and pulp. If I’ve got the time, though, I’ll lay the tomatoes out, cut side down, on the sheet pan, and roast them by themselves for 30-45 minutes, allowing all the juices to dribble out, and thicken and caramelize. Take them out of the oven, and turn the tomatoes over, skin side down. Once that’s done (or if you’re pressed for time), mix a large onion, sliced, and a couple stalks of celery, chopped, and a few whole cloves of garlic, along with any other excess summer produce you’ve got, in a bowl with some more olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and spread it around the tomatoes — add a little more balsamic for the tomatoes, too. Roast in a hot oven for 45 – 60 minutes, or until everything is collapsed and roasted.

Allow it to cool a bit, and then transfer to a blender. You’ll probably get lots of sticky carmelized goodness left on the sheet pan, so deglaze on the stove top with a little water, and add that into the blender. Blend until smooth. Add more water for a smoother consistency, or use chunky, like a relish.

Since the tomatoes are high in acid, I plan on putting aside some jars for eating later this year, but you could freeze it, too. Tips for canning tomato sauce can be found on CanningUSA.com.


Chicken Braciole with Pasta

Sun, Mar 16 • 0

I thought this recipe up on the way to the grocery store, as a fall back if nothing else looked appealing. I think I need to work more on the execution, but it had good flavor. I was lazy and used pre-cut thin chicken cutlets, jarred pesto and jarred pasta sauce. I think it might have ended up better if I pounded the chicken cutlets or used bigger cuts, because the innards just oozed out and burnt during the browning stage. I also think the jarred sauce was a little too much, and I probably could have gotten away with making a simple marinara with canned tomatoes in the food processor.  I also tied the cutlets into the round, but it probably would have been better to pin them with toothpicks, as it was tricky to cut the strings with the thick pasta sauce clinging everywhere.

a quantity of chicken breast cutlets, pounded flat
seasoning (salt, pepper, smoked paprika)
pesto
sliced mozzarella
seasoned flour
tomato sauce
cooked pasta

I sprinkled the seasoning on the cutlets, then rubbed them with pesto, added a slice of mozzarella  and rolled them up and tied them. I tossed them in a little flour while some olive oil and butter heated up in a skillet. Over medium heat, I browned the cutlets on all sides, then added the tomato sauce, and let them simmer for 10 or 15 minutes while the pasta cooked.


Bolognese

Mon, Mar 10 • 0

42-17691335-1.jpgEvery few months, I’ve been making a big pot of bolognese sauce. It freezes really well, and I put it in little single serving containers that my wife takes to eat at work. It does take a very long while to cook — on the order of 6 or 7 hours, total, but it doesn’t really need to be attended to all that much. One of the keys is to use some sort of heat tempering device. Without one, even my heavy Le Cruset dutch oven will get hotspots and the sauce will burn onto the bottom. What I do, just before I add the tomatoes is to put the whole pot into my biggest cast iron frying pan. This will temper the hot spots and transfer the heat more evenly to the bottom of my cooking pan. I’ve never had my sauce burn, even with the long, unattended simmering this recipe calls for.


Keep reading…


Spaghetti Carbonara

Sat, Feb 16 • 0

spaghettiTwo recipes, very different techniques; similar but subtle flavor differences. I’ve had mixed results with the second version, but the vinegar adds an interesting tone.

Quick & Dirty

1lb spaghetti
8 slices bacon, diced (8oz)
1T olive oil
3 eggs, beaten
¼c whole milk (or half-and-half)
¾c shredded Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper to taste

Boil salted water for the pasta, and cook 9-12 mins. Cook the bacon in the olive oil until browned and crisp, about 10mins. In a large bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. Add the hot pasta to the egg mixture, which will cook the eggs. Serve on hot plates, and top with the bacon and a little more parmesan. Based on a recipe from Everyday Food.

More Involved and with Vinegar

¼lb bacon (2 slices)
1 stick butter
1c whole milk
2T wine vinegar
1lb spaghetti
2 eggs, whipped
½c grated Parmesan
salt & pepper to taste

Cut the bacon into little pieces, and cook in the butter until clear. Heat the milk in a small saucepan, and add the bacon and the butter. Add the vinegar; this will turn the milk into cheese. Simmer for 15 minutes, until smooth.

Boil your favorite pasta al dente. Drain and return to the pan. Immediately throw in the eggs, the bacon sauce, and the grated Parmesan. Add salt and pepper, toss, and serve. Source: The Frugal Gourmet by Jeff Smith.


Baked Manicotti

Sat, Feb 9 • 0

I’m trying a recipe for Baked Manicotti from America’s Test Kitchen. Instead of the premade manicotti tubes, they suggest using softened no-boil lasagna noodles. You soak them in hot water for 5 or 10 minutes to make them pliable, and it works really, really well. I managed to find some whole-wheat no-boil lasagna noodles, but they behaved exactly like regular ones.

They also suggest that when buying ricotta, you look for one without any gums or stablilizers.

I followed their recipe to the letter, deviating only in that I added some minced shallot to the marinara with the garlic, and that I added some chopped chives to the cheese filling along with the parsley and basil. It turned out very well, although I recommend you put a layer of parchment paper between the foil and the tomato sauce in the pan if your pan isn’t particularly deep.


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