Memorable events happen in the most ordinary places; during the most mundane tasks.
Recently I had such an event when I decided to make Chicken Cacciatore for the 111th time.
The recipe I had been using, my own, suddenly seemed cumbersome.
Chicken Cacciatore is a stew with bell and chili peppers, mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes.
Like the millions of others who make the dish, I began the recipe by frying the ingredients individually, chicken pieces first, to transfer flavors to the oil and then to the other ingredients.
It works, of course, such a long tradition of it working, but frying is time consuming.
Now braising has always been my favorite cooking technique.
Something about the forced intimacy of the sealed-in products.
The savoring of the smells.
While braising most often uses the heat, time, and moisture to break down the tough connective tissue of meats, making it an ideal way to cook tougher, more affordable cuts, I also use braising when, principally, I just wish to transfer flavors, one product to another, and to infuse all with the herbs and spices of choice.
On this day of enlightenment, as I cut up the vegetables, I had a vision: this recipe wants to be a braise, not a fry.
As a time saver, genius, cutting the cooking time by more than half.
As a way of transferring flavors, right on, the Dutch oven covered to sweat out the moisture from the vegetables to provide the bit of moisture, the oil in continuous contact with all the ingredients, absorbing and distributing flavors, the herbs and spices focusing their perfumes.
And as a protector of the chicken’s moisture, it also worked: the intense heat of the fry forcing the moisture from the meat eliminated.
Today’s post is that enlightened recipe.
Today is Monday, June 18, 2018
Good morning, my friends.
This is my seventy-first consecutive daily posting.
It is 5.39am. I like rising at 4.30am: I have the time to enjoy my two cups of coffee, listen to the weather forecast, and read.
Today an exceptionally hot day for June in Boston. Perhaps a record, the current record 94*. Kat and I will celebrate Father’s Day today (she had to work yesterday) by going to the MFA in the morning and cooking steaks on the grill by our complex’s pool in the early afternoon with cousin Lauren joining us.
On the screen: “Scarlet Pimpernel,” a 1934 British adventure film directed by Harold Young and starring Leslie Howard, Merle Oberon, and Raymond Massey.
Based on the 1905 play by Baroness Orczy and Montagu Barstow and the classic 1908 adventure novel by Baroness Orczy, the film is about an eighteenth-century English aristocrat who leads a double life, appearing as an effete aristocrat while engaged in an underground effort to free French nobles from Robespierre's Reign of Terror.
The film was produced by Alexander Korda.
I am a romantic fool and love this movie.
I’m at my desk.
Dinner is the aforementioned 2lb Porterhouse steaks.
CHICKEN CACCIATORE 06 12 18
5 lbs chicken total, butcher to cut chicken cut into 16 pieces, plus extra drumsticks if the group prefers them, as I do.
Wine: 3oz red
Stock: 3oz chicken
Marinara Sauce: 3oz Marinara Sauce. Note, if no Marinara Sauce handy, improvise with the addition of the Aromatic ingredients listed in the Marinara Sauce recipe to the braise, and then adding 6oz of tomatoes in place of the Marinara Sauce.
The Dutch oven:
Set in the chicken pieces
Pour ½ cup garlic oil over the chicken
Add 1/2 cup total of fresh basil and parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly-ground pepper
2 Bay leaves
8oz of bell peppers
4oz of mushrooms (brown the mushrooms separately and add them into the casserole when done.)
½ oz serrano pepper
Cover the pan and marinate in the refrigerator until ready to cook.
Set the covered Dutch oven on a simmer-burner.
Add 3TB tomato paste. (The paste is set in a blob on the pan bottom and then spread out until it has a chance to caramelize in the olive oil. 5 minutes.)
Sprinkle the casserole with 3TB of flour.
Braise the ingredients in the oil and the natural juices that come out of the ingredients.
Turn every 5 minutes
Total 15 minutes of hot braise.
Remove the cover. We won’t need it anymore.
Add the wine, the stock, and the Marinara Sauce [or tomatoes, San Marzano]
Add 1/2 cup of chopped fresh basil and Italian parsley.
Cook in a 350* oven for 35 minutes
Go in every twelve minutes to stir and to keep the temperature at a medium-simmer.
Off the heat, stir in a can of peas. (Canned peas have an opulence that micro-thickens the juices by the mouthful. It harkens back to my childhood and my mother’s style.)
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