Tag Archives: Food Network

Chicken Cacciatore

Lovely Italian Chicken and Tomato Dish

I was watching a BBC Program called “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” the other day.  As the new owner of such a dog, I was really interested in the subject matter.  The general gist is that line breeding and breeding for looks over purpose has substantial downsides.   Namely, some dog breeds are grossly exaggerated from their origins and/or riddled with significant health problems.  This particular show by the BBC inspired Crufts to implement vet checks on all the breed winners.  If the winners couldn’t pass the vet checks, they were unable to compete in the finals.   Many dogs were eliminated from this prestigious show, causing quite a stir in the dog world.

How does this show relate to my food blog?  As I’m watching this show as they compare what dogs used to look like versus what they look like now (and it’s not a favorable comparison), I feel some food has become about the same way.   Overly complicated and fussy, and not necessarily better.

Take this recipe for Chicken alla Cacciatore from The Italian Cookbook by Maria Gentile (1919):

Chop one large onion and keep it for more than half an hour in cold water, then dry it and brown it aside. Cut up a chicken, sprinkle the pieces with flour, salt and pepper and saute in the fat which remains in the frying pan. When the chicken is brown add one pint fresh or canned tomatoes and half a dozen sweet green peppers and put back the onion.  When the gravy is thick enough add hot water to prevent the burning of the vegetables. Cover the pan tightly and simmer until the chicken is very tender. This is an excellent way to cook tough chickens. Fowls which have been boiled may be cooked in this way, but of course young and tender chickens will have the finer flavor.

Let’s compare this relatively easy recipe with one from the Food Network’s Tyler Florence:

6 red bell peppers
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 egg
2 cups milk
1 (3 1/2-pound) whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
6 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
1 onion, sliced thin
2 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 lemon, sliced in paper-thin circles
3 anchovy fillets
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 bunch fresh basil, hand-torn (1/4 bunch to flavor the base, 1/4 bunch to finish the dish)
1 cup dry white wine


Start by preparing the peppers because they will take the longest. Preheat the broiler. Pull out the cores of the red peppers; then halve them lengthwise and remove the ribs and seeds. Toss the peppers with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place them on a cookie sheet, skin side up, and broil for 10 minutes, until really charred and blistered. Put the peppers into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and steam for about 10 minutes to loosen the skins. Peel the peppers and roughly chop into chunks; set aside.

Season the flour with the garlic powder, dried oregano, and a fair amount of salt and pepper. Whisk the egg and milk together in a shallow bowl. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour and tap off the excess. Dip each piece in the egg wash to coat and then dredge with the flour again. Place a Dutch oven over medium heat and pour in about 1/4-inch of oil. Pan-fry the chicken in batches, skin side down, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Turn the chicken over and brown the other side about 10 minutes longer. Remove the chicken to a side plate, pour out the oil, and clean out the pot.

Put the pot back on the stove and coat with 1/4 cup of oil. Add the garlic, onion, tomatoes, lemon slices, anchovies, capers, red pepper flakes, half the roasted red peppers, and half the basil. Season with salt and pepper. This part of the recipe is going to be your base. What we are looking for is a fragrant vegetable pulp, so simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring often, until everything breaks down.

Add the remaining roasted peppers and the remaining basil. Tuck the chicken into the stewed peppers and pour in the wine. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked.


Wow, right? In the summer, I would have no trouble coming up with the ingredients for Mrs. Gentile’s recipe. For Mr. Florence’s? Lemon, capers, white wine and anchovies aren’t something I keep around. Not only is the Florence recipe infinitely more complicated, but much more expensive. No wonder people don’t cook anymore. Honestly, you’d think you needed these things to make what was known as hunter’s chicken. You see hunters pulling out capers? Lemons? Doubtful.

So, I modernized the format of the former recipe and it was really good and so easy to pull together.  It’s a one pot meal without a lot of mess. My husband adored it.    Summer’s bounty used to its greatest advantage.

Chicken Cacciatore
Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 60-90 minutes

Oil (bacon drippings, lard, vegetable)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
6 chicken thighs, patted dry (you can add more, I just couldn’t fit more in my pot)
2 large green peppers, large dice
1 large onion, large dice
10 mushrooms, sliced (an 8 ounce container)
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
15 ounce can of diced tomatoes (may use fresh tomatoes as well, about 2 cups diced)
1/2 cup of water, white wine or chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat oil over medium high heat in a dutch oven large enough to fit chicken comfortably. I used a 5 quart oval one.

As the oil is heating, combine flour, salt and pepper in a large shallow bowl or plate. Dredge chicken thighs through the flour mixture. When the oil is ready (it will appear to be rippling), place the chicken skin side down in the dutch oven, careful not to crowd. You may need to cook the chicken in batches. Cook the chicken until each side is browned. Remove and set aside. Add peppers, onions and mushrooms to the pan and cook until soft. Turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic, oregano and bay leaf. Saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and water and salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. You may need to adjust the seasoning more at this point. Return the chicken to the pot, cover and continue cooking in the oven until the chicken is tender, about 45-60 minutes. You can’t really overcook the chicken too badly at this point.





Ropa Vieja


Perfect stringy texture!

I may have mentioned in a previous post that my husband and I purchase beef by the cow. Actually, 1/2 a cow. This is the only possible way we could afford grass fed, pastured beef. It’s a lot of money up front, but it lasts a year and gives us fantastic beef from a great farmer. Per pound, it’s cheaper than the factory farm stuff. The downside? Lots and lots of roasts. Part of the reason I started this blog was to go out into the world and try to find new and exciting things to cook, especially with the roasts. I may have also mentioned that my kids cry when I say we are having pot roast. Yeah, fun. Good times.

So, one day we were exploring the local restaurant scene and came across a restaurant called Sin Frontieras. On the menu was a dish called “Ropa Vieja”. My high school Spanish kicked in and I said “old clothes”? What kind of dish is named “old clothes”? Turns out it’s a Cuban version of pot roast. It’s called “old clothes” because the cooking process makes the meat look like stringy cloth rags, or old clothes. Regardless of the name, the dish is superb. This dish would be PERFECT to recreate at home. I need something other than a regular “yankee” pot roast recipe and my wine and onion braised roast. And, as a bonus, I can repurpose the leftovers and call them something like fajitas the next night!

In the interest of authenticity, I should note that I did not use flank steak or brisket. I don’t really have a surplus of those. But I do have a crazy amount of chuck and arm roasts. So, I used 2 of my chuck roasts, about 4 pounds. I am a working mom.  I get home around the time most people are starting dinner.   I am slightly behind because I have to get the kiddos started with homework and such.  So, dinner management drives my life.  I promise my recipes to be ones that a real life working mom (me) uses. Tonight I made Ropa Vieja because my mom asked me over at the last minute for dinner. While she’s cooking dinner tonight, I am cooking also. I’ll just have it tomorrow and use the leftovers (even my family can’t put away 4 pounds of pot roast) some other time in the week. I’ll also cook something like this in the background (since it just sits in the oven) one night when I make a grilled meal or skillet meal. Then, I put it in the fridge and just warm it up the following day. Given the long cooking time, it’s not really practical to cook on a weeknight and expect to eat before 7:30. Start to finish, this is probably a 3 hour meal. I know people will put this in a slow cooker. I have done that with similar dishes. I am just not wild about the slow cooker. Things just taste better to me in the dutch oven.

As an aside, I would like to rant about some of the few cooking shows left on the Food Network on the Cooking Channel. There are more than a few shows that give the illusion of helping working moms cook. One claims to make meals in a half an hour. Those meals can be crazy expensive with one off ingredients you’ll never use again. I saw one that was Thai inspired beef noodles that included flank steak, curry paste, fish sauce, shallots and shiitake mushrooms. Does the meal sound lovely? Yes, it does. But, by the time I bought all the ingredients, I could have gone out to a restaurant. There’s another show that claims you can make things almost homemade by incorporating pre-made ingredients in the recipe. When the host suggested that I buy pre-cut onions, I was out. Really? You can’t cut your own onions? And again, pre-cut onions are expensive.

On the other end of the spectrum are the money saving shows that essentially pad out their menus with rice, pasta or bread. These are items I try to avoid because of their high calorie and carb contents and little to no nutritional value. Also, I found the valuations absurd. There was one episode of a show that claims to make all meals for $10 that called for skirt steak, baking potatoes AND kale. A pound of skirt steak runs me $8.99 minimum. To buy everything in the episode is well over $10 in my area. Lastly, there is actually a show that advises you to cook your entire week’s meals in one day. In other words, use one of the two days a week (if you are lucky) you have completely with your family to cook meals for the rest of the week. Oh, I’d love to go to the movies or for a hike with you, son, but I need to cook tonight’s meal and next week’s. Seriously? Does anyone do it? I would run out of pans and refrigerator space before I finished the week!

The family review of this recipe was overwhelmingly positive.  My son said I was allowed to make this dish whenever I wanted. It was “awesome”. So, I have found one pot roast recipe he likes! Eureka!!

Ropa Vieja

Serves 6-8

1/4 cup of lard, vegetable oil, bacon drippings, etc.
4 lb Chuck Roast, brisket or flank steak
1 medium onion, halved, sliced
1 medium bell pepper, cut into rough strips
2 stalks of celery, sliced
1 jalapeño, small dice
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 cup olives, stuffed with pimentos, sliced
2 cups of beef broth (may use water)
14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil in a dutch oven (I used a 5 quart). Salt and pepper the beef and brown on each side. Remove and set aside.

In the dutch oven, place the onion and peppers and sauté for about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaf, cumin and paprika. Cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add the olives, sauté for another minute. Deglaze with the beef broth and scrap the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Return the beef and any accumulated juices to the dutch oven. The liquid should come up the sides of the beef without completely covering it. If your liquid is short, add more broth or water.

Place the lid on the dutch oven and place the pot in the preheated oven. Bake for 2 hours or until the meat pulls apart, resembling “old clothes”.








Kale and Andouille Soup


Here’s a quick post about a soup recipe that my family loves.  Even the kids!  We got this from adapting Emeril Lagasse’s recipe:  http://www.emerils.com/recipe/3934/Kale-and-Andouille-Soup.   I am a huge Emeril fan from way back.  I went to law school in New Orleans in the 1990s, and because you can’t have too much graduate school loan debt, I also got my MBA.   My graduate school debt will be paid off in 2028.  I kid you not.  I will have retired before then.  But, I’m not bitter.  🙂

Anyway…. At the same time I was in grad school, Emeril was on this little network called the Food Network.  You remember that network? The Food Network used to show viewers how to cook food, with chefs like Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse, Sara Moulton.  Of course, that before the network became reality TV food programming.  Seriously, can Chopped be on more?

But I digress, Emeril was also chef and proprietor of a couple of restaurants in New Orleans.  Whenever my parents came down to visit (which was surprisingly often…), they always wanted to eat at Emeril’s.  And why not?  The service was amazing and the food was outstanding, plus the chef was famous.  Way back then (GET OFF MY LAWN!!!!), the “famous chef” just wasn’t the norm as it is now.  One night, my dad and I were eating at Emeril’s and we asked if they had any signed cookbooks we could buy for my mom’s birthday.  Emeril himself came to our table with one of his cookbooks!  He chatted with us for a bit and then signed the book for my mom.  AMAZING.  He was very nice and it was just such an incredible moment.

New Orleans is an fantastic city and just a complete culinary extravaganza.  My mother and I were really inspired to cook by the city.  You just can’t find New Orleans-type food here in Maryland.  So if you want gumbo, étouffée, dirty rice, or bread pudding, you need to make it yourself.

Needless to say, we have all of Emeril’s cookbooks.  Some recipes are crazy fussy and you won’t see me do them here.  Real and Rustic  and his holiday cookbook-ette are the most used.  But this recipe makes a really quick, easy and superbly good meal.  The recipe is especially useful if you have lots of kale on hand to use.

I made a few adjustments, however.  As we made the soup as part of our regular menu, we realized that not many of us actually ate the potatoes Emeril includes in his recipe.  Also, sometimes we don’t want the spiciness of the andouille and sub out kielbasa for the sausage.

Kale and Andouille Soup
Serves 8

1/4 cup high heat fat (lard, bacon drippings, vegetable oil)
1 medium onion, diced
3 stalks of celery, sliced thin
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 pounds of smoked sausage (andouille, kielbasa, chorizo, etc.), sliced into rounds
3 quarts of chicken stock
4 cups of kale, rinsed, stemmed and torn into manageable pieces
Salt and Pepper

In a large pot suitable for soup, heat the fat over medium heat. When heated, sauté the onions and celery until translucent, but not browned. Add the garlic, thyme, and bay leaves and cook until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add the sausage and cook another minute.

Add the chicken stock. In thirds, add the kale, stirring between additions, and let boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the kale is sufficiently tender. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper as necessary.