Monday, February 11, 2008

Chicken Cacciatore Stoup

Shhh…please don’t tell on me. I have a dirty little secret. Perhaps you can blame it on the fact that I’m a broke college student who will have an extra 3 years of law school tuition to pay for. I don’t know, but whatever the reason, I have a secret.

I consistently replace chicken breasts with small chicken cutlets in recipes. I cannot imagine eating a whole chicken breast myself, and sometimes, even when I halve the breast and serve it as 2 cutlets (1 per person) roomie still doesn’t eat the whole thing. According to the food pyramid, a serving of protein is the size of a deck of cards, When is the last time a full chicken breast was less than 2-3 times that size! So I am cheap and I halve the breasts to make them only slightly above the recommended serving size. Thus, I get the 6 packs of chicken breasts (about $8 on sale) and get about 12 servings out of them. Yes, I am cheap and violating many recipes, but it works for us.
There are some recipes, however, where the writer seems to understand my plight and my hesitation to give each person 3/4lb of poultry in one sitting. Rachael Ray seems to get it, especially in her chicken cacciatore stoup recipe. Between the potatoes and the veggies, you don’t ALSO need ¾ pound of chicken per person. She recommends “1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 1 to 1 1/3 pounds” but I don’t think I see this size pack in my local grocery store. I usually figure it is 2 large or 3 small breasts, and it works great for portioning.

This recipe is great. Very hearty, healthy and versatile. I don’t feel bad doing substitutions (I have marked my normal subs below- due to my hate for mushrooms and lack of celery most times). It always comes out great if you follow the cooking times (I learned the “if you don’t follow cooking times” the hard way- follow cooking times). Keeping the chicken down and switching out mushrooms makes this a great, affordable dish.

Even for a cheapo with a secret like mine…
Chicken Cacciatore Stoup
A stoup is thicker than a soup, thinner than a stew.
Serves 4

1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 1 to 1 1/3 pounds, diced (2-3 breasts)
Coarse salt and black pepper or grill seasoning (I use McCormick’s poultry blend)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (3 turns of the pan)
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1-inch squares (Depending on the size, I sometimes use 3 or 4)
4 portobello mushroom caps or 16 cremini mushrooms, sliced or chopped (I omit or replace with carrots, diced- see below)
4 ribs celery hearts, chopped (I don’t buy celery specifically for this. Can replace with carrots or omit)
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered lengthwise then thinly sliced (I realized I prefer a large chop not slices)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and quartered lengthwise then thinly sliced (I realized I prefer a large chop not slices) (Can also use a green pepper)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup dry Italian red wine, eyeball it
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (28-ounce) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped, 3 or 4 sprigs (or 1TBSP dried)
1 cup basil, arugula or baby spinach leaves, shredded or torn (optional)
Grated Parmesan, to pass at table
Crusty bread, to pass at the table

Heat a deep skillet or a medium soup pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, and the chicken. Season it with coarse salt and pepper/grill seasoning and red pepper flakes.

While the chicken cooks, chop up the veggies.
When the chicken is evenly and lightly browned all over, 3 or 4 minutes, remove it to a plate and reserve. Add another tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil, 1 more turn of the pan. Add the potatoes to the pan. Cook a couple of minutes, then add in the mushrooms (carrots), celery, and onion and cook another couple of minutes. Add in the peppers and garlic and cook another 1 to 2 minutes. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper.

Add chicken back to the pan. Toss it with the vegetables. Add red wine to the pan and deglaze it, picking up drippings. Add tomatoes and stock to the stoup and stir to combine. Stir in rosemary and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook 8 to 10 minutes.

Turn off stoup and ladle into shallow bowls. Top with basil (for a sweet finish and balance to the spice in the soup) or arugula (for a peppery finish) or with spinach (for a woodsy finish). At the table, pass grated cheese for sprinkling on top of the stoup and bread for mopping up the bowl.

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