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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Savory Chicken Cacciatore (Hunters Stew)

This is the familiar rustic Italian stew but with a twist to the preparation that enhances its savory flavor. The flavors come together in a bold yet nonacidic manner leaving you desiring more. The chicken is moist and the vegetables remain intact so you get a delicious flavor combination with every bite.

This dish has nice balance with campfire flavor and tomato oregano undertones, providing a wonderfully delicious meal. It’s another perfect dish for those big get-togethers where your guests can serve themselves and keep going back for more.

Hint: you can maximize your fiber by substituting any of the following for the basic noodles that usually accompany this dish. You can use whole wheat pasta, or for maximum healthy fiber, try barley, groats (complete wheat berry), quinoa, or brown basmati rice. They all complement the dish beautifully.

This dish pairs perfectly with a glass of California Zinfandel or Pinot Noir, Italian Bardolino or Chianti Classico or even a cold ale.

1 ½ -2 ½ pounds chicken (boneless skinless thighs are best for flavor)
1/3 cup red wine (from a bottle you would enjoy drinking)
4 cloves garlic minced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
½ cup zucchini, sliced
1 cup yellow onion (or use any color), diced
2 oz. tomato paste
2 14.5 oz. cans San Marino tomatoes (diced or whole)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bay leaf (whole to retrieve when done)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. ground white pepper
2 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
1 tsp. paprika

Side dishes that go well include any of the following:
Pasta, rice, or grain cooked per directions on the package
1 Sweet Dumpling squash (or Butternut)
Green veggies like zucchini or asparagus

Garnish and finish elements:
Finely chopped fresh basil
Baby cherry tomatoes
Pepperoncini (red pepper flakes) for those who like an extra kick
Romano or any grated Italian cheese

Cut the mushrooms, onions, and zucchini then sauté in a dry pan adding a little peanut oil (or high smoke point oil). Once the veggies have sweated add the garlic for two minutes (or so, just don’t overcook/scorch the garlic) then create two clear spots in the pan and add the tomato paste to one and the spices to the other and let bloom. Then add the canned tomatoes stir things up and place the pan in a 400 degree oven. Roast for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add to the Stock pot Or for the slow cooker method after roasting the veggies add to the slow cooker (set it on low).

While the veggies are roasting fire up your BBQ or grill pan (or use your stock pot to save on dishes to wash; drain the oil leaving a couple of teaspoons in the pot) and brown/sear the meat in a little Olive Oil; do not overcook at this point. Once browned from the grill, remove the meat and add it to your cooking/stock pot or slow cooker. Note: if using stock pot for the cooking prepare the meat first and let rest while cooking the veggies then add to the pot. Cook/simmer for 2 hours or slow cook for 3 hours on low.

Cook the grains or pasta as recommended on the label (use chicken stock instead of water for added flavor). Cook during the final 45 minutes of the stew.

Cook the squash in the oven at 375 degrees…Sweet Dumpling needs to cut in half, remove the seeds, then wrap in foil and place in oven for the final 45 minutes of the stew. If you choose Butternut then cube the squash and place in the pan you removed the veggies from and roast for the final 45 minutes of the stew.

Serve while hot or when you want…can be used as a party dish prepared in advance and re-warmed. Mangia

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