Archive for December, 2015

Chicken Cacciatore

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

One of my culinary “specialties” when I was kid was Chicken Cacciatore. I’m not sure when or where I first had it, but it inspired me to find my own way of preparing it. Growing up we ate lots of spaghetti and lots of chicken legs. So, why not together?

Initially I started out with jar of prepared spaghetti sauce, whichever brand my mom happened to buy (which was whatever brand was on sale). I simply browned the chicken legs in a little oil in our large Revereware skillet, then poured in the jar of spaghetti sauce and probably also a can of tomato paste. I would cook this on medium high heat until the sauce is heated through, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the chicken is cooked through and falling off the bones. We served this over spaghetti and generously garnished with that grated Parmesan cheese that comes in the shiny cardboard tube.

Over the years, my Chicken Cacciatore has evolved quite a bit to a fully from scratch dish including fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, fresh herbs, and sometimes onion or fennel, freshly grated cheeses, and NO pasta sauce from a jar. Perhaps a bit of tomato paste, depending on how much liquid the fresh tomatoes produce, but that’s the only non-scratch ingredient in the sauce.

Chicken Cacciatore

Chicken Cacciatore … recipe to follow later.

 

Seafood Stew

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

Seafood Stew

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large fennel bulb
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 to 2 pounds of fresh tomatoes
1 to 1 1/2 pounds fresh wild-caught seafood (I like cod or snapper, prawns, scallops)
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 or more large fresh thyme sprigs
1 large bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon (or more, to taste) red chili flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste (optional)
Salt to taste
Chopped fresh thyme for garnish

Assemble and prepare all ingredients. Clean, trim, and chop the fennel into about 1/2-inch cubes. Rinse tomatoes and roughly chop into about 1-inch cubes. Rinse and pat dry fish and seafood, cut fillets into about 1-inch cubes.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed non-reactive pan. Saute the fennel over medium-high heat until it begins to caramelize a bit. Add fennel seeds and tomatoes, cover and simmer on low until the tomatoes soften and the sauce is heated through. This will take about 30 minutes or so. At this stage, I often puree the tomato and fennel mixture to make a more smooth sauce, but you can leave it as is or puree just a bit for a more rustic stew (as shown below).

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed non-reactive pan. Add the seafood and saute until it’s about half-way cooked through. Add the wine and cook about 5 to 10 minutes to cook down the wine a bit. Add the tomato-fennel sauce to the pan along with the fresh thyme, bay leaf, and chili flakes. Stir gently to combine.

Cover and cook on low heat for about 30 minutes until the fish is cooked through. Season to taste with salt. If your sauce is too thin for your liking, add the tomato paste and stir gently to combine.

Remember to remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs before serving.

Serve with a good hearty brown rice, or on top of some freshly made homemade croutons. Garnish with a bit of feta cheese, if desired.

To serve, I like to place some homemade croutons (still warm from the oven is best!), sprinkle a little feta over the warm croutons, then ladle some stew over top. If I’m feeling decadent, I’ll add a little more feta and chopped fresh thyme on top as a garnish.

This makes about 4 servings.

I've been promising this recipe for a while, haven't I?

I’ve been promising this recipe for a while, haven’t I? This stew is light and healthy, but also hearty and satisfying. A bit of heat from the chili flakes lends a warm comfort. Apologies for the lousy picture, I assure you this tastes better than it looks in this photo.

Homemade Croutons

Day old bread – a good artisan bread is best
Good quality olive oil
Salt

Cut the bread into bite-sized cubes and place in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss well to combine.

Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until they’re golden brown. You’ll want to give the pan a few shakes now and then, and turn the cubes with a spatula so they’ll cook evenly.

Remove from the oven and place the baking sheet on a cooling rack. Sprinkle the croutons with a little salt – be careful to not over salt.