What Do You Get When You Cook With a Portuguese Girl Who Loves Italian Food? Chicken Cacciatore with Sweet White Yams!

chicken cacciatore

While Jason and a friend watched movies on Netflix and my sixteen-year-old busied herself in her usual way, texting and taking photos, I sought my own solitude by cooking Chicken Cacciatore in the kitchen.

This dish was absolutely one of our favorites in 2014.  My only regret is that I didn’t make it more.  But hey, better late than never.  I love the colors of fresh green herbs and red bell pepper glistening in the Greek extra virgin olive oil, and their aroma, along with the garlic and Greek Oregano filled the air.  (Jason’s brother-in-law from Greece brought us the oregano and oil.  It is to die for)!

I prepared the Cacciatore in my Le Creuset French Oven – slow cooking it of course; set it on top of the stove and when it was done, family and friends were invited to serve themselves. The chicken was so tender and juicy; no knife was needed.

Ingredients:

6 boneless chicken  breasts, halved crosswise
2 large white yams, halved crosswise then quartered
2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 celary stock (optional)
8 baby carrots, halved (optional)
3/4 cup dry white wine (or 50/50 water to apple cider vinegar)
1 ( 28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon drained capers
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves (I had to substitue flat-leaf parsley this time)
1 sprig of thyme

Directions:

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat lightly. I do this by using a large vegatable plastic bag from the grocery store. Just add the chicken, salt, pepper and flour and shake!

In a large heavy sauté pan, (again I used the 9 1/2 Ct Le Creuset Oval French Oven) heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and sauté just until brown, about 5 minutes per side. If all the chicken does not fit in the pan, sauté it in 2 batches. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Add the bell pepper, onion, garlic and white yams to the same pan and sauté over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, capers and oregano. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, include any juice resting in the plate, and turn them to coat in the sauce. Add the sprig of thyme.  Bring the sauce to a simmer.

Stop.   Wait!  Here is where I change it up.  Because I started cooking in the morning, rather than simmer for 30 minutes as the directions say to do, I turned the oven to 250 degrees and let the stew cook for approximately two hours.

Now, if you need this dish to be ready in 30-40 minutes, just pretend I didn’t say the above and follow accordingly:

Continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes for the breast pieces, and 20 minutes for the thighs.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter. If necessary, boil the sauce until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, then sprinkle with the basil and serve.

Kale, Chicken and Lentil Soup: Highly nutritious and warming in cold, winter weather

Kale, Chicken and Lentil Soup

Kale, Chicken and Lentil Soup

Ingredients:
3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olivie Oil
1/2 Cup Chopped Celery
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup coarsely chopped carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (I made mine from scratch)
1 tablespoon snipped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed (or other leafy herb, such as Italian flat-leaf parsley)
4 cups coarsely chopped fresh kale (about 8 ounces)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken (about 8 ounces)
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup dry red lentils (I used one 15 oz can of Westbrae Natural Organic Lentils)
Directions:
Coat a large saucepan (I prefer my Le Creuset round French oven) with extra virgin olive oil (non-stick spray works too). Preheat over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic to saucepan. Cover and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until vegetables are nearly tender, stirring occasionally.
Add *chicken broth and dried basil (if using) to vegetable mixture. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in kale, salt, and pepper. Return to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Stir in chicken, tomato, red lentils, and fresh basil (if using). Cover and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes more or until kale and lentils are tender.
Makes 6 servings.
*I made my chicken broth by boiling the 8 ounces of uncooked chicken breast in 6 1/2 cups of salted water.  Then used the chicken in the soup.

Portuguese Beef Stew

Image

This is the perfect dish for feeding hungry friends and family!  Whenever I make it I imagine my two brothers pushing past me to get firsts, then seconds of this stew.  My granny Mary used to make it during the colder months in California and bring it over on a Tuesday night – her day off.

Granny Mary

Hugs & Kisses wtih Granny Mary

Ingredients:

4 pounds bottom round, well-trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup olive oil (plus more if needed)
2 large onions, diced (2 cups)
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 cup Portuguese dry red wine
1 pound potatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
1/2 pound baby carrots (about 2 cups)
2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon Portuguese sea salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 cup frozen peas, thawed or 1/2 pound fresh haricot verts trimmed and halved
1 pound cooked egg noodles

Preparation:

In a large glass bowl, coat the beef in the flour. Heat a few tablespoons of the oil in a large French Oven over medium-high heat. I prefer using the Le Creuset French Oven.  Brown the meat, a few pieces at a time, adding more oil as necessary. If not using a French or Dutch Oven, transfer to a 4- 6-quart slow cooker, otherwise remove meat, set aside to add back later. Add the onions to your French Oven and cook over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and coat the onions; remove and set aside to be added back with the beef or transfer to slow cooker. Pour the wine into the French Oven and scrape up any browned bits; add to the cooker or leave in French Oven, adding back your beef and onions and stir in your potatoes, carrots, haricot verts broth, salt, thyme, and bay leaf. Cover and cook in the oven on 325°F for 7 hours.  If you’re using a slow cooker cook on low for 7 ½ hours or on high for 4 hours. Add the peas and heat through.

Serve over egg noodles.

Yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings

Prep time: 35 Minutes

Other: 7 Hours, 25 Minutes

Beef Stew

Beef Stew, Photo by Jason Homa

“The way to his heart is through his stomach.” The Very Best Lasagna Recipe

Photo by Kevin Twomey

This lasagna recipe is one of my favorites. I enjoy taking my time with it, allowing the sauce to cook for several hours in my favorite Le Creuset in the oven so that each of its distinctive spices have time to blend with one another. This is the perfect dish to impress “the one” if its true what they say, “The way to his heart is through his stomach.”

Ingredients:

1 pound dried lasagna noodles (I prefer oven-ready)
3 tablespoons Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground beef
3/4 pound ground Italian sweet sausage
1/4 pound ground Italian spicy sausage
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/2 teaspoon dried fennel
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 carrots, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tablespoon chopped oregano leaves
1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup red wine
1 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 quart ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 pound of fresh mozerella shredded or sliced
1/2 cup grated Grana Padana

Preheat oven on to 325°.

Coat a large skillet with olive oil, add beef and sausage and brown until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add anchovy paste, fennel seeds and season with salt and pepper. In a food processor, combine the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, basil, parsley, and oregano. Process until pureed, add to the pan with the ground meat and stir to combine. Stir in the flour. Add the wine and cook until it has reduced by half. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and add the heavy cream and the cinnamon.

At this point I like to slow things down. The entire apartment smells of fresh herbs, garlic and savory sausage.  Boyfriend and friends are growing hungry, but hold on.  Anything really good is worth  waiting for.

Remove your Le Creuset (or other cast iron oven) from stovetop and place into heated oven covered and cook for 4 – 6 hours on 325°.  If you don’t have time for this step, simply cook on medium temperature on stovetop for 1-2 hours.

Preheat Oven to 350°

In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta and the parmesan. Stir in the egg and season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the lasagna: Coat the bottom of a deep 13 by 9-inch pan with olive oil. Top with a spoonfull of sauce. Arrange 4 noodles lengthwise in a slightly overlapping layer on the sauce. Dollop 1/3 of the ricotta mixture over the pasta, spread to the edges with a spatula. Spread 1/3 of the sauce/meat mixture over the ricotta. Sprinkle 1/3 of the mozzarella on top of the ricotta. Top with a ladle full of sauce, spread evenly. Repeat with the next 2 layers of noodles, ricotta, sauce, and cheeses. Top last layer with noodles, sauce, shredded mozzarella and Parmesan. Tap the pan to force out air bubbles.  Cover top with alluminum foil, removing the last 15 minutes.

Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven. Let lasagna rest for 30 minutes so the noodles will settle and cut easily. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.