Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Love and Cacciatore

I am in some serious love today... with the sun, the lack of humidity, the clean(ish) air, the blue sky, and my garden!! There was nothing that could alter the perfection of my backyard this morning. I took my puppy outside to amble around the expansive space (that was all lawn 2 years ago and has been rapidly converting into garden plots ever since), and paused at what, last year, was my impeccably kept herb garden. Was being the operative term here. Somehow, when I was selecting the herbs for the six sections of the plot (separated only by a row of surface stones), I managed to pick what has to be the most invasive herbs in the world! I grabbed the spade and started to dig. And dig. And dig. Out went the mint, the other mint (apparently the Ginger Mint from two years ago reared it's ugly head again), the dill and the chives. I saved my lavender only because it smelled so freaking wonderful that I couldn't bear to kill it. After tossing all the offending herb-weeds into our biobag and surveying the total wreckage of the garden, I knew I had to take a photo. So I did!

See? All the rocks are levered out of place (I'm sure my stepdad'll be thrilled with me for that - they weigh a ton so I used the spade for leverage), the soil is all strewn across the stone, and the mint is blissfully, at least for now, gone.

That was pretty much the only work I did today, though this weekend was full of blazing ovens and bubbling pots. Do you remember a month or so ago when I mentioned the PC grilling products I recieved to review, including steak and chicken? Well the time had come to make the chicken earn it's keep in my freezer - or rather get out of my freezer! It was making my tofu nervous... and I won't even start on the effect the steak is having on the constitutions of the green beans from last year's garden! Cacciatore was to be made, as per the promise I had made to the dear FH, and my mom was awesome enough to uncork a bottle of Cabernet Franc for me to use. In addition to the chicken legs, my freezer also yielded the last bits of last year's passata, and I finally had a use for some of the tub of damned Ancho chili paste sitting in the back of my fridge! Andrew (the aforementioned FH) was kind enough to take us out to the supermarket to pick up the bevy of other veggies I planned to use - namely a big-ass onion and two types of peppers.

At home, we divvied up the prep tasks - A skinned and seasoned the chicken, chopped up the bell peppers, shelled garlic and readied the herbs and spices while I worked on the onion, the other pepper and the carrot. I broke out some spicy chili oil for the saute, and we got to work (and A took some photos, good boy!). Mise en place is definitely key to the initial stages of this stew, as we found out after venting the smoking oil out of the area when we weren't quite ready! Once everything is perfectly browned and the liquids are added though, it is smooth (and hands free!) sailing. The best part about cacciatore (like most stews) is that you can cook it all you want... the longer it sits the better it gets! We cooked our (very full!) pot for over an hour - I recommend at least two, until the meat falls off the bone. And using the "Free From" chicken drumsticks like we did actually did seem to make a difference - they became very tender very quickly but stewed well without disintegrating, and both flavoured the pot and aromatized the house something wonderful! A wound up taking almost all of the stew home in a Tupperware (after several quality control checks of course) but we were left with about a cup or so of the veggie / tomato mixture that my mom laid claim to. She had it the following day for lunch with some of the Monday Bread, and declared it out of this world.

If you're worried about the spice quotient in this recipe, don't be - Anchos are very mild peppers, almost earthy in flavour, and browning the pastes really brings the sweetness out of the tomatoes and peppers while cutting out the sharp edge. The potatoes at the end were a last minute addition by me, since I wanted to turn this into a full "meal in a bowl" for A without him having to cook up the traditional rice or potatoes to serve alongside.

Cacciatore Alla Ancho
Serves 4
6 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp chili-flavoured oil
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 large red peppers, sliced
1 cubanelle pepper, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
2 tbsp ancho chile paste
1 cup red wine
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup water
2 cups crushed tomatoes
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed (do not peel) and cubed
  1. Sprinkle chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  3. Add chicken and saute until browned on all sides. Remove and set aside.
  4. Add onions and saute until richly browned.
  5. Stir in peppers, carrot and mushrooms, cook until mushrooms wilt and brown.
  6. Add garlic and saute until fragrant.
  7. Add the tomato paste, then cook (stirring constantly) until the paste darkens slightly.
  8. Add bay leaf, oregano, basil and chile paste.
  9. Add the wine, stock and water, stirring to dislodge all the browned bits, then mix in the tomatoes.
  10. Bring to a boil and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring well.
  11. Add back the chicken, then cover and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.
  12. Stir in the potatoes, re-cover and cook another 55-60 minutes, until they are cooked through.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 396.8
Total Fat: 8.5 g
Cholesterol: 85.9 mg
Sodium: 1,069.8 mg
Total Carbs: 47.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 10.0 g
Protein: 30.2 g


  1. Sounds good! What did you think of the meal?

  2. I so would not have had the patience to get out all that mint, dill and chives! I would probably have let it rule the entire yard.

  3. Still, I envy you your garden. I don't ave any outside space and my green thumb is itching, itching.



Thanks for the feedback!