Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

I’ve been told by a friend that Cupcake mid-day followed by a chicken cacciatore dinner from Villa Tronco makes for a near perfect day. All of this was of course, as Jane Austin would say, in an effort to vex me! The antagonizing started with two of my favorite spots and ended with a culminating blow because I was out of town for work, and therefore could not partake. Villa Tronco is one of my frequent lunch establishments but when I extend that news to co-workers or friends, the reactions all seem to be the same. “I haven’t been there in ___ years.” So, if you’re willing to take it from a foodie, it’s still good! Though it is hard to pass up one of their homemade desserts, if you find yourself with stronger will power than I possess, and are in the mood for Italiano, here goes.

Chicken Cacciatore
Olive oil, as needed
4 chicken breasts, pounded
Kosher salt
2 large onions, sliced
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1 pound baby portobello mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
¼ cup Kalamata olives, pitted
2 cups dry white wine
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed Italian plum tomatoes
1 bundle thyme
3 bay leaves
[chicken stock]

COAT a large, wide pot with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Season the chicken with salt and brown in the hot oil, working in batches, if needed. Once all the chicken is brown, remove to a plate and discard most of the excess fat.

IF NEEDED, coat the bottom of the pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. ADD the onions and crushed red pepper, season with salt, and sweat over low heat for 8 to 10 minutes. ADD the garlic and sweat for 1 to 2 minutes. ADD the peppers and olives and cook until they are soft. ADD the mushrooms, season with salt and cook until they are soft. ADD the white wine and reduce by half.

RETURN the chicken to the pan and add the tomatoes; taste for seasoning. ADD the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Partially cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes.

NOTE: Check the level of the sauce periodically during the cooking process and replenish it with chicken stock as needed; the level of liquid should be about even with the chicken.

REMOVE the chicken from the pot and place it on a serving platter. Taste the sauce for seasoning, adjust if needed. Skim the surface of the sauce if excessively greasy. Spoon the sauce over the chicken. Salute!

Don't poke the breasts with a fork. Use tongs or a spatula to turn the breasts over the heat. Every hole in the meat allows moisture to escape.

Don’t over Salt them. Salt pulls out moisture; only add it to a completed chicken dish, just before serving.

Don’t rush! Let the breasts rest. After the cooking is done, let the breasts sit at room temperature for five minutes before serving so that the natural juices can reincorporate into the meat.

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