21 July 2011

Double Take: Pioneer Woman's Chicken Cacciatore

Chicken Cacciatore: chicken, peppers, onions, tomatoes,
mushrooms, and noodles.

I have had a strange relationship with bell peppers. As a kid, I loved them. Hand me a green bell pepper and some ranch dressing, and I'd go to town. It was the perfect snack. Well, really alfalfa sprouts and ranch dressing were the perfect snack, but bell peppers were a close second. As I got older though, my love of bell peppers faded. I began to dislike the side effects. And I began to taste them more than one should. When they were added to a tomato based dish, such as a tomato sauce, they completely overpowered the rest of the flavors in the dish. And I began to notice them in meatloaf. I got to where I would only eat my mom's meatloaf and bell peppers were the reason why.

How bad has it gotten over the years? A few years ago I visited a brand new restaurant in Winston-Salem. It had only been open for a few weeks, and their menu looked rather interesting. One item that particularly caught my eye was the Kobe beef and portabella mushroom meatloaf. I'd been wanting to try Kobe beef since I'd first heard of it two years before, and the addition of mushrooms just makes everything better. But since I knew about my bell pepper aversion, I politely asked the waitress if there were bell peppers in the meatloaf. She assured me up and down that there were none, so I ordered that instead of the backup item I'd picked.

Chicken browned, veggies waiting for their turn.

When the food arrived, I eagerly dug in. And, oh, the disappointment. Surprisingly, the waitress noticed me picking at my food and came over and asked what was wrong. I was very sad to tell her that there were bell peppers in the dish. She took my plate, and the next thing I knew the manager was bringing me back my plate, insisting that there were no bell peppers in the meatloaf. I was trying to be polite as possible, so I graciously took my plate back, but on the next bite I tasted peppers again. The manager came back to see how I was doing. And saw bits of bell pepper on my plate. See! I wasn't making it up! By this point in time Bender and our dinner companion were mostly finished, so it made no sense for me to order a new meal. I tried my darndest to eat around the peppers, and the management did comp my meal. Of course, management had to speak with the chef first to confirm that there actually were bell peppers in the dish. The waitress informed me when she brought us the bill that everyone in the kitchen thought I must be pregnant if I could taste the bell peppers in the dish. Obviously, I wasn't.

I opted for four different colored peppers to make things more festive. 

Turns out, I'm not the only one who finds bell peppers overpowering. Lynne Rosetto Kasper (come on, you had to know I was going to go there) has the same issue! Just like some people think that cilantro is the most wonderful thing in the world (myself included) and others think that it tastes like soap, there are receptors for bell peppers that some people have and others don't. So there, there's science behind my insanity.

So, given my aversion to bell peppers, the following entree will probably come as a surprise to you. It came as a surprise to me, too. I can handle peppers better when they are cooked down to nothing, so I looked at the cooking time on this recipe (one hour) and decided that I could try it. Tabitha was really interested in it, and I knew Bender would like it, too. So I set to work, diligently following all the directions.

Make sure your chicken can rest on top of the sauce rather
than submerging it in the sauce!

Prep Time: 10 min, Cook Time: 1 hr 15 min, Servings: 6
recipe from The Pioneer Woman

1 pound pasta or egg noodles (I'd prefer rice)
8 whole chicken thighs, skin on (can use any whole piece chicken) I used a whole chicken
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 whole medium onion, halved and sliced
2 whole red bell peppers, cored and sliced (not too thin)
2 whole green bell peppers, cored and sliced (not too thin)
5 cloves garlic, minced
12 ounces, weight mushrooms (white or crimini), sliced
½ teaspoons ground thyme
¼ teaspoons turmeric
½ teaspoons kosher salt
red pepper flakes, crushed, to taste (optional)
¾ cups dry white wine
1 can (28 ounce) whole or diced tomatoes (with their juice)
chopped flat leaf parsley
Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling

Preparation Instructions
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Do not overcook! Drain and set aside. I added green beans to the water 4 minutes before the pasta was finished so I wouldn't have to dirty another pot to make a veggie.

Meanwhile, salt and pepper both sides of the pieces of chicken. Dredge chicken in flour. Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Place chicken skin down in pan, four pieces at a time (Mine sputtered like the dickens, so make sure you are wearing a high necked shirt and long sleeves. And stand back!). Brown chicken on both sides (2-4 minutes per side, depending how how hot your pan is), then remove to a clean plate. Repeat with remaining chicken, setting all chicken aside. Pour off half the fat in the pan and discard.

Add sliced onions and peppers, as well as the garlic. Stir around for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and stir around for 1 minute. Add thyme, turmeric, and salt. (And crushed red pepper flakes if you like things a little spicy.) Add extra black pepper to taste. Stir, then pour in wine. Allow to bubble.

Pour in canned tomatoes and stir to combine. Add chicken back into the pan, skin side up, without totally submerging the chicken. Place lid on the pot and put it into the oven for 45 minutes. Remove lid and increase heat to 375 degrees. Cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Remove pan from the oven. Remove chicken from the pot and place it on a plate. Remove vegetables from pot and place them on a plate. Return pot to burner and turn heat to medium high. Cook and reduce sauce for a couple of minutes.

Pour cooked, drained noodles on a large platter or in a big serving bowl. Add vegetables all over the top, then place chicken pieces on top of the vegetables. Spoon juices from the pot over the chicken and pasta (amount to taste.)

Before serving, sprinkle on chopped fresh parsley and grated Parmesan.

Crispy on the outside, moist on the inside. Yum, yum!

I thought the cooktime would help. I was wrong. Most of the peppers were just as crunchy as could be after an hour in the oven. I'm going to assume that the tomatoes stopped the cooking process the same way they do with onions. Anyone have any thoughts on the issue?

Basically, this dish is very flavorful and the chicken was cooked to perfection. The top bits were crunchy and the inside was still quite moist. (Make sure that you don't submerge your chicken in the sauce or you'll lose the wonderful crunch!) But the peppers completely overpowered the dish for me. The mushrooms did not even provide a welcome relief for me because they, too, tasted like peppers. So next time I make this dish, I'm leaving out the peppers. It won't be Chicken Cacciatore anymore, but I'm okay with that. At least this way I'll like it!

Oh, and leftovers? Well, I ate them, minus the peppers. The chicken loses its crunch in the microwave, so finish it in the toaster oven if you've got one.

Yeah, um, that many peppers is too many peppers. 

Meh-the-chicken-is-good-but-it-would-be-better-with-rice: 1 vote
If-you-like-peppers-you'll-love-this-dish: 1 vote

To see how Tabitha liked Pioneer Woman's Chicken Cacciatore, head on over to Double the Garlic!

Dig in, if you're brave enough to face the peppers!


Thank you for leaving a comment! Comments allow me to see what you like and and encourage me to write more!

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