Chicken Cacciatore

Chicken Cacciatore with Polenta

Chicken Cacciatore with Polenta

I love this meal served over polenta or pasta but I make it rather infrequently because it takes quite a bit of time to make.  Especially when you slow cook it the way I usually do. This past weekend I decided to try this recipe that is prepared using a slow-cooker.  By using boneless chicken thighs, the chicken doesn’t need all day to become falling apart tender.  A cooking time of 4 – 5 hours is perfect.

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Starting around noon, I browned the chicken as the recipe directs, made the sauce and put it all in the slow cooker and in about 4 hours it had reached saucy perfection, and the aroma in my kitchen was wonderful.  I continued with the “quick” approach and made instant polenta to serve the cacciatore over.  That  along with an inventive green salad and a glass of wine was a perfect ending to a busy weekend.

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When I make polenta I usually use Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Polenta which takes about 30 minutes to cook, and requires constant attention and stirring.  This time I opted for  Scalafani Instant Polenta, that cooks in only 3 minutes.  You still need to stir it constantly, but for a much shorter time.

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Hint:  when making polenta always use a long handled spoon ( wooden is best) for stirring, because as it thickens it will “pop” as it boils and can burn your hands. (Ask me how I know.)

CHICKEN CACCIATOREIMG_6903

Yield:   Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry red or white wine
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree ( 1 6-ounce can tomato paste)IMG_6906
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted petite diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

1.  Place flour in a shallow dish; dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess.

2.  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil; swirl to coat pan.  Add half of chicken; cook 4 minutes on each side or until browned.

Browning the chicken.

Browning the chicken.

Place chicken in a 6-quart electric slow cooker.  Repeat procedure with remaining chicken.  Reduce heat to medium.

3.  Add a drizzle more oil if necessary.  Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic, sauté 4 minutes.

Saute onions, pepper and garlic.

Saute onions, pepper and garlic.

Add wine and tomato puree, stirring to blend ingredients.

Add puree and wine.

Add puree and wine.

Bring to a simmer, adding diced tomatoes, capers, salt , peppers, and oregano.

Add tomatoes and seasonings.

Add tomatoes and seasonings.

Heat through.  Add to slow cooker, pouring over chicken.

4.  Cover and cook on LOW for 4 hours or until chicken is tender.  Sprinkle with parsley.

Slow-cooker chicken cacciatore.

Slow-cooker chicken cacciatore.

.Serve it over polenta or pasta.

Serve it over polenta or pasta.

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If you have leftovers, they can be easily transformed into soup:  Shred the chicken, and place in a pot with sauce.  Add unsalted chicken stock, diced zucchini, and diced carrots;  simmer until veggies are tender. Add in any leftover pasta at the end.  Serve with a little grated cheese on top.      One meal becomes two.  YUM!

SOURCE:   Cooking Light

 

Pork Tenderloin with Cheesy Polenta

Pork Tenderloin and Mushroom Sauce

Pork Tenderloin and Mushroom Sauce

With a name like pork tender loin you would expect this cut of meat to be tender, right?   I may be in the minority here, but I’ve had the experience where it wasn’t tender at all;  more like dry, stringy, tough.  Did I do something wrong that ruined it,  or was it the cut of meat?   Most of the recipes I see for pork tenderloin have you cooking it (in the oven) at a very hot temperature, for a short time.  This may be the method of choice, but it doesn’t give me the results I want.

One thing I know about cooking most meats, is that the outside of it needs to be sealed in some way in order to contain its juices within.  This is what makes a cut juicy.  Without this step, cooking it at a high temperature will only dry it out,  and that equals tough!

So, with that in mind, I experimented with a pork tenderloin that weighed about a pound.  The recipe that follows describes what I did, and I’ll tell you right now that I got the results  I wanted:  a juicy, tender piece of meat with the added benefit of deep umami flavor thanks to the browning of the meat and the mushrooms used in the sauce.  Served with a cheesy polenta to spoon the sauce over,  this meal was outstanding.  In the words of my husband, it was “plate-licking good”.

A moist cut of pork with mushroom sauce to spoon over polenta.

A moist cut of pork with mushroom sauce to spoon over polenta.

PORK TENDERLOIN with CHEESY POLENTA

SERVINGS:   about 4

  • 3 Tablespoons EVOO, divided
  • 1 pork tenderloin, about 1 pound weight
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 small – medium shallots, finely chopped
  • 1  8-ounce pkg. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup cream, light cream or half and half
  • 1 cup polenta ( cornmeal that cooks in 3 minutes)
  • 6 ounces shredded semisoft cheese, such as fontina, gouda, or jarlsburg
  • chopped flat-leaf parsley, or dried parsley, for garnish

1.  Preheat the oven to 375*F, and lightly spray a baking dish appropriately sized to the meat.

2.  In a large skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon oil over medium heat.  Season the meat all over with salt and pepper, and cook in the skillet, turning until browned, about 10 minutes.  Do not skimp on this step, it’s what produces the sear to keep the juices inside.

3.Transfer meat to the prepared baking dish.  Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat.  Put into the oven and roast until the temperature registers 145*—-about 12 – 15 minutes.  When temperature has been reached, remove from the oven, cover with foil to keep warm and let rest while you continue.

4.  In the skillet, add the remaining 2 Tablespoons oil, and over medium heat cook the shallots and mushrooms until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the chicken broth and simmer until reduced, about 3 minutes.  Cover and remove from heat.

5.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring 3 1/4 cups water and the cream to a boil.  Whisk in the polenta.  Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, whisking, until thick, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the cheese;  season with salt and pepper.  Cover and keep warm.

6.  Transfer the pork to a cutting board and slice on an angle.  Arrange on a serving dish, top with mushroom sauce and garnish with parsley.  Serve with polenta.

Slice pork, pour mushroom sauce over top.

Slice pork, pour mushroom sauce over top.

Cheesy Polenta

Cheesy Polenta

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This meal can be completed by the addition of a green vegetable, such as green beans or broccoli.  In the event polenta does not appeal to you,  substitute mashed potatoes or rice to spoon the sauce over.  It will be very good however you serve it.

SOURCE:  A Carolyn Original

Christmas Breakfast Casserole

Sausage Polenta Breakfast Casserole

Sausage Polenta Breakfast Casserole

On Christmas morning I’m usually torn between wanting to open gifts, and getting something ready for breakfast.  Of course, I start with coffee—I must have my coffee before anything.  Breakfast should be hearty enough to sustain us until we have dinner later in the day, so it can take some time to prepare.

So I have been experimenting with breakfast casseroles to come up with a recipe that can be assembled the evening before and just popped into the oven the next morning.  While it bakes you can be hanging out in you pj’s, tearing open those presents, and enjoying the smell of something wonderful baking in the oven.

I’ve recently found packages of pre made polenta at the grocery store.  They are tube shaped and wrapped in a plastic wrapper.  Usually found in a refrigerator case somewhere near the deli department. This can be a great convenience if you know what to do with it. So that is what I have been experimenting with.  This recipe uses the sliced polenta to make a crust (of sorts), into which you layer some precooked breakfast sausage, seasonings, and an egg/milk mixture.  Top with cheese, bake, and  out will come a spicy, cheesy, egg dish that is hearty and filling.  In the pictures you see here I have made only half the recipe for two of us, and not having bulk sausage on hand I used brown and serve sausages, cut into slices.

SAUSAGE WITH POLENTA BREAKFAST CASSEROLE

SERVES:   6 – 8

INGREDIENTS

  • 1  16-ounce roll polenta
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 10 – 12 ounces breakfast sausage, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • dash hot pepper sauce
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

DIRECTIONS

1.  Using 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, brush into a 9-inch pie dish or similar baking dish.

2.  Slice the polenta into 1/2 inch thick slices, and arrange in the bottom and up around the sides of the baking dish to form a “crust’.

3.  Put the remaining teaspoon olive oil in a medium skillet, crumble in the sausage and cook to render the fat from the sausage and brown it..  Add the green onions and garlic powder; sauté 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and spread over polenta in the baking dish.

4.  In a medium bowl,  Mix the eggs, milk, salt and hot pepper sauce.  Pour over the sausage mixture.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Egg mixture poured over the sausage and polenta.

Egg mixture poured over the sausage and polenta.

5.  In the morning, preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Uncover dish,  sprinkle on the shredded cheese, and bake at 425 for 25 minutes or until set.

Sprinkle on shredded cheese before baking.

Sprinkle on shredded cheese before baking.

Melted cheese, and a little brown and crunchy around the edges,    YUM!

Melted cheese, and a little brown and crunchy around the edges, YUM!

SOURCE:    A Carolyn Original

Poached Eggs on Polenta with Vegetable Sauce

This is a neat little recipe to have handy for when any of these situations might occur:  a)  You forgot to take something out of the freezer for supper, b) You thought you were having dinner alone so you were going to just make a salad, but suddenly everyone’s plans changed and they will all be home for dinner, or c) Its the end of the week and the cupboard is bare, except for a few bits of leftovers.  Fear not!  This recipe will come to your rescue as long as you have a few basics in your pantry.

Poached Eggs on Polenta with Vegetable Sauce

Serves 4

  • 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal or instant polenta
  • 3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons butter, plus extra for greasing dishes
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • salt
  • 4-5 slices bacon cut into 1 inch pieces (can be omitted for a vegetarian entree)
  • 2/3 cup grape tomatoes (about 16) halved lengthwise
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1/3 cup green onions, chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • freshly ground pepper
  • chopped chives, optional
  1. Generously butter 4 gratin dishes or creme brûlée  dishes, about 4-5 inches in diameter.  Any similar dish will do.
  2. For polenta, place chicken broth in a  medium size, heavy saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium, and gradually in a thin stream whisk in the cornmeal.  Stir constantly, until mixture starts to thicken, 3-4 minutes.  Add 3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and butter, and stir until melted.  Stir in milk.  Taste and add salt if needed.
  3. Divide polenta evenly among the dishes and smooth the top.  Cover each dish with foil to keep warm and set aside.  I place in a 200 degree oven to achieve this.
  4. For vegetable sauce, heat a skillet on high heat and cook the bacon until crisp.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Drain excess bacon fat and discard, leaving a small amount in the pan. (substitute vegetable oil as needed)  Add the tomatoes, zucchini and green onions to the bacon drippings and sauté just until crisp tender. Add the bacon to the vegetable mixture.
  5. For the eggs,  use an egg poacher if you have one, otherwise prepare poached eggs as you normally would.
  6. To serve,  Place a poached egg on top of each dish of polenta. Salt and pepper eggs, then divide the vegetable and bacon mixture evenly among the 4 dishes.  Garnish with more grated Parmesan cheese and chives.

Additional notes:  I have prepared the sauce for this dish with whatever vegetables I have on hand.  Some others that are good are:  mixed red and green peppers, asparagus, spinach and fennel.

SOURCE:  A Carolyn Original