Tuesday, December 5, 2006
GARAGE KITCHEN CHICKEN (MY VERSION OF CHICKEN CACCIATORE)
1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders
3 tbsp olive oil
8 oz finely diced mushrooms (white or crimini are best)
2 stalks finely diced celery (medium-sized stalks)
1 finely diced Anaheim pepper
1/2 finely diced medium-sized white or yellow onion
5 cloves finely minced garlic (try using The Garlic Twist)
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup white wine (chardonnay is best)
10-15 oz tomato sauce
3 tbsp unsalted, sweet cream butter
Heat the olive oil on the stovetop at medium/medium-high heat. The higher the heat, the quicker this dish will brown and reduce, but it will require more stirring. Place chicken in the hot oil and brown on both sides (approximately four minutes per side). In a large bowl, mix the mushrooms, celery, pepper, onion and garlic. Add mixture to chicken, turning chicken and stirring vegetable mixture so that all vegetables begin to reduce (approximately ten minutes). Add chicken stock and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring and turning chicken occasionally. Add the white wine and simmer for about ten minutes, stirring and turning chicken occasionally. Add tomato sauce—start with 8 ounces and simmer for five minutes, taste. Add additional tomato sauce until you like the flavor best. Reduce for five more minutes, turn off the heat and add the butter. Once the butter melts, stir it into the sauce and you’re ready to serve!
THE STORY BEHIND THE RECIPE
When I was in eighth grade, my 4-H club offered a Commercial Cooking class taught by the parent of some club members, Mr. Colburn, who was a professional chef. I jumped at the class because I loved to cook. This was the first dish he taught us to make—with a student’s kitchen set-up in his garage. I have made some changes to it over the years to suit my taste, making it more of a ragu, stew-like dish; but it remains a foundational dish in my recipe box and marks my birth into gourmet cooking.
With all the vegetables, I usually use one large and one medium-sized sauté pan to cook this dish. If you don’t want to work with multiple burners or worry about split would be to use a wok or even a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or chili pot.
I typically use about 12 ounces of tomato sauce—but since you are using fresh vegetables and different brands of tomato sauce, the water content of the vegetables and the intensity of the tomato sauce varies, so that’s why I suggest you add, taste and then adjust. You don’t want the tomato flavor to overpower the sauce.
It is ESSENTIAL that you use unsalted butter. Margarine and olive oil won’t create the same flavor and texture. If you are cooking for someone with dairy allergies, opt for olive oil rather than margarine.
This dish really doesn’t need any added spices, salt or pepper. It is really easy to overdo the salt in this dish as several of the ingredients have sodium in them and there is a lot of reduction involved.
Are you cooking for finicky eaters? You have found the dish that everyone will love. I have several mushroom haters, a chicken hater, as well as several celery and pepper haters in my circle of diners and they all love this dish. With the long reduction and the finely diced vegetables, the flavor and texture of this dish is well balanced and unlike its individual parts.
Do you love peppers? Then experiment. The original recipe called for bell peppers, but I like more flavor so I’ve tried several different peppers as settled on Anaheim as my personal favorite, but feel free to experiment.
This is not only a dish to please all palettes, but it is loaded with vegetables, low fat and low-carb. Yet it tastes decadent—a real treat for all dieters.