Some food, some drink.
RecipeBeta: Chicken Cacciatore (or, sometimes, you just gotta cook to please yourself).
Abstract: Beta recipes are my own experiments
that I've only tried once. Usually palatable, they often could be
better with a little tweaking. So, please do & let us know what
Y'know how there's always that one dish you wanna make? And no matter how you sell it, you can't seem to convince those you live with that it's what they want for dinner? In my house, I've spent at least two years looking for a segue into Chicken Cacciatore, to no avail. The other day, I finally said to hell with it. I need to fix this for myself. So I did.
Purpose: I live with people that have an
aversion to bone tissue in their slab-o-critter. Until they perfect
that whole meat
matrix thing, we'll just let 'em pretend that chickens are about
as bony as a cephalopod,
and a hog is make of 100% loin. Regardless, when it comes to
poultry, my favorite pieces are almost always of the bone-in
variety. There's a reason you save the carcass for stock; the
essence of the flavor of the beast is closer to the bone.
This polarizing subject of bone-in chicken is probably why there was never a second when I'd raise the suggestion of Chicken Cacciatore for dinner. The idea of a chunky, rich, vegetable-laden tomato-based sauce studded with briny bits of Kalamata olive didn't really appeal to anyone but myself either. You see where this is going. There are two concepts of comfort food in my house, and neither is wrong. Don't feel bad for my s.o.; she still got a hunk of focaccia with her pasta and marinara, and I got to give into my selfish cravings.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
Pat chicken dry & season liberally with a combination of the salt, pepper & paprika. Meanwhile, take onion, celery, carrots & garlic for a spin in the food processor until pulpy and set it aside. Heat 2 or 3 tbsp olive oil in a 12 in OVEN-PROOF skillet on medium-high heat. Cook chicken for 3 - 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Don't overcrowd the pan; do it in shifts if needed. Set the chicken aside, and add the veggie mash, mushrooms & 1 tsp salt to the pan. Put in the oven on broil for 15 minutes, stirring every 5. Mind those hot handles! After the first 15-minute broil, add oregano, basil, thyme, chile, bay & the 2 cans of tomatoes. Repeat the 15 minutes broil, again stirring every 5.
Set oven to 325F. Add tomato paste, Balsamic vinegar & olives to the roasted veg, adjust seasoning and bury the chicken pieces in the whole mess. Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Let set covered for 15 before serving.
Observation: Many Cacciatore recipes develop
flavors in more of a stew/simmer sort of fashion. I had seen an
episode of Anne Burrell's show on the tube about a year ago
where she used a sofrito in a braise. So goes the thought process:
Hmmm... Really don't need the braise; it's chicken. But what if I can leverage the maximized vegetable surface area a sofrito method provides under the broiler to build complex flavors quickly.”
The big trade-off is that I don't get any significant liquid reduction this way, which is why the amount of H2O is judiciously controlled. Balsamic for brightness as opposed to wine, and tomato paste to finish and thicken the sauce.
Results: I totally winged it on this recipe.
Sheet music vs. jazz. I didn't want to consider someone else's
feelings on the matter. I just wanted to cook. With that in mind, my
proportions aren't exactly gnat's-ass here. You will probably have
surplus sauce long after the chicken is gone. But man, is that a
good problem to have.
The carrot, onion, and celery under duress of high, dry heat seem to have a knack for making tomatoes taste like themselves. And you'd probably never know that whole mess was in there unless I told you (you'd probably just assume it's all onion). Regardless, it all comes together to make for a sauce that is complex and rich. Ladle any leftover sauce on some toasted bread and you are in for a bruschetta that becomes a meal in itself.