This week, I’m continuing on the theme of huge flavors in low-fat, healthy dishes. The dish I’m sharing today is loaded with so many yummy flavors that you’ll never even realize it doesn’t contain a lot of fat.
The trick to getting lots of flavor without adding fat is to layer in the ingredients to create depth. Learning to cook things long enough before adding more, such as with sweating onions and garlic. It’s a process that you shouldn’t rush. Give the onions time to fully soften, over medium heat, before you start adding other ingredients. If you are using wine or other alcohols, allow time for the alcohol to burn off before adding in new ingredients or the entire dish will be flavored with the alcohol instead of what you wanted.
Cooking is a lot about patience and love. My husband has learned when I’m in a bad mood, he buys dinner. The mood comes out in the food but when you slow down to get it right and add a little love, you’ll create a wonderful dish. It’s one of the reasons I admire the Italian culture so much. It’s nothing for them to spend all day, simmering a pot of pasta sauce and making homemade noodles, just to spend hours in the evening enjoying the wonderful food with friends and family. It’s about the connecting, talking and sharing the love of good company and food (and of course a glass of wine or two).
You’ll need a good wine for this dish (if you don’t use wine, use a strongly flavored beef broth or stock). Something slightly dry, bold, spicy and red. Use your favorite Pinot Noir or another red favorite of yours. Don’t use cooking wine; instead, when cooking with wine, only use wines you’ll drink. Like with anything else, the quality of the ingredients you put in, affects the quality of the dish you put out. I used a 2009 Cadet d’Orc Pinot Noir from France this time. While it was not my all-time favorite pino, it was a really good wine. Cherries, raspberries and a slight hint of leather that finished well.
The dish is Chicken Cacciatore and I even made homemade noodles to go with it (here’s the link to my favorite pasta recipe, I just change-up the flavors to match the dish I’m making. It works for all pasta dishes, including ravioli and is easy). YUM!!! Chicken Cacciatore generally uses a whole cut up chicken, but I had a bunch of chicken thighs in the freezer, so went with those instead. You can use whatever parts make you happy in this dish and it’s going to come out great. You also have the choice to use fresh or dried herbs. I used dried this time because once again, it was what I had on hand.
The sauce was sublime and deep in flavor after simmering for about an hour. My taste buds were thrilled at the depth of the flavors in the dish. The chicken tender and juicy; the noodles tender. My husband was thrilled and kept commenting on how awesome dinner was while he was eating. I did forget to make dessert but I’m not sure that I could have eaten another bite anyway.
1 – 4 lb. chicken or 8 pieces of your choice (I used 8 thighs)
1 tsp. ground fennel
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced small
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry red wine
4 fresh sage leaves or 1 tsp. ground sage
2 – 3″ springs fresh rosemary or 2 tsp. dried rosemary
3 bay leaves, fresh or dried
3 – 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes
lemon zest from 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut up chicken into 8 pieces if using a whole chicken. Wash chicken and pat dry. Season well with salt, pepper and the ground fennel.
Heat 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until simmering hot. Divide the chicken into two batches and cook in the pan until golden brown on both sides (you are not trying to cook through, just brown). Use a splatter guard, because the oil will go everywhere. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.
Pour off almost all the fat, leaving a thin layer in the pan. Lower the heat to medium and add the rest of the olive oil. Add the onion and the garlic to the pan, along with a pinch of salt, and stir, scraping up the browned bits of chicken in the pan. Cook until onions are completely soft, about 5 minutes. Add the red wine and cook until wine reduces by half. Add the tomatoes with their juices to the pan, along with the herbs and lemon zest (if using fresh herbs, tie into a bunch and add the bunch to the pan). Place the chicken back into the pan, uncovered, and gently simmer, turning the chicken occasionally, until the chicken cooks through, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Place the chicken on a serving platter. Remove the herbs from the sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.
This dish pairs well with noodles, rice, polenta or on its own.
Makes 4 servings.
Other Low-Fat but Flavorful Chicken Dishes that You Might Like to Try: