Comfort Foods Part I: Chicken Cacciatore

In Recipies on October 15, 2012 at 10:29 am

Today, we begin a two-part series on comfort foods. The Phyne Dyner gets regular mail asking about his favorite recipes for classic family-style meals. In America, comfort food typically involves meat. So, despite Phyne Dyning’s devotion to nearly meatless dining, he presents two carnivore’s delights. The first presentation will be his version of Chicken Cacciatore…

 When I was a boy growing up in the then-profitable suburbs of Detroit, people considered foods to be exotic if they had exotic sounding names. It was the heyday of having the boss over for supper and a leisurely sipped pitcher of martinis before serving it.

Chicken cacciatore was a popular meal for those events because it was fairly inexpensive, elegant in its presentation, and it was deemed exotic enough to impress (if only because of its “funny” name).

The dish can be rustic, with lots of vegetables and herbs. Or, it can be as simple as skillet-browned chicken pieces, simmered in a jar of store-bought pasta (or marinara) sauce.

We’re going rustic. To give the dish a bit of Tuscan flair, we’re going to add a bit of fennel seed and mildly ‘warm’ Aleppo pepper flakes. Keeping well inside the non-boundaries of Phyne Dyning, we’re going to serve our main course with a side of quinoa and spinach instead of traditional pasta or rice.

For the chicken:

2 chicken quarters separated into legs and thighs

2 TBS canola or vegetable oil

1 tsp kosher salt

2 TBS brandy or congnac

2 TBS olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

2 large carrots, diced

2-3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 15oz can diced tomatoes (or 1 lb Roma in dice)

½ C red wine

½ tsp Aleppo pepper flakes

2 sprigs fresh rosemary, minced

2 TBS fresh oregano, minced

2 TBS fresh basil, minced

½ tsp fennel seeds, cracked

freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large, deep skillet over medium high heat and add the canola or vegetable oil. Heat until the oil is shimmering. Season the chicken with the salt and a bit of freshly ground black pepper. Lay the chicken pieces (thighs skin down) into the hot oil. Fry the chicken for about 4-6 minutes per side, until well browned. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Pour off any chicken fat and excess oil from the pan. Allow the pan to cool slightly to medium. Immediately heat the olive oil in the pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, stir in the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook until the onion just begins to turn translucent, but well before it begins to brown. Stir in the garlic and cook until it “blooms” (becomes fragrant), but do not allow it to brown. There will be some tasty browned chicken bits stuck to the skillet. Deglaze the pan with the brandy or congnac. Stir in the tomatoes and the wine. Stir in the Aleppo pepper flakes. Add one-half of the herbs and all of the fennel seed and stir well. Return the chicken to the skillet and generously spoon the sauce over each piece. Return the skillet to the boil and then reduce the heat to simmer and cover. Cook for one hour without stirring. Check occasionally. If the pan appears dry, stir in a bit of water without disturbing the covered chicken.

For the quinoa-spinach side…

1 C quinoa

8oz fresh spinach, stems removed

2 C vegetable stock

2 TBS roasted pine nuts

1 clove minced garlic

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Carefully rinse the quinoa at least twice and drain it well in a fine strainer. Heat a large pan over medium heat and add the rinsed quinoa and toast it until it begins to ‘pop’ and it turns a light golden brown. Add the garlic, stir, and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the broth is nearly fully absorbed. You’ll know when the quinoa is done when it forms little ‘tails’. Do not over-cook. Stir in the pine nuts and spinach. Remove from the heat and stir until the spinach wilts. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the quinoa-spinach alongside the chicken cacciatore. It is a wonderful and surprising compliment.

  1. Yes, I know, this looks like a “for two” meat portion. It is not. It is a decent meat portion for two adults and two pre-teen children. You can always adjust the meat up if you just gotta have the stuff.

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