Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sunday Dinner #28: The Case of the Sad Cacciatore

When you're halfway through a dish, and you randomly scoop up something like this (above), it's a sign that all is not perfect with the dish, but our poor green olive-eyed, onion-monku mouth scoop of cacciatore just had to play itself out. We'd already put too much work into it. I'm still trying to figure out where I went wrong, but nonetheless, here's the case of the sad cacciatore.

Chicken Cacciatore with Crisp Polenta (from Martha Stewart)
Ingredients:
3 T. olive oil
8 skinless chicken thighs (about 3 pounds) - we doubled this recipe 
course salt and round pepper
10 oz. white mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes in juice, broken up with a spoon
1 c dry white wine
2 medium onions, cut into 8 wedges
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/3 c pitted green olives, halved
1 tube (16 oz) plain prepared polenta sliced into 12 rounds
Directions:
1. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot (we always go to our reliable Guardian Ware pot that we inherited from several aunties) heat 2 T oil over medium-high. Season chicken with salt and pepper and working in batches, sear chicken, meaty side down; transfer to a plate.
It's only seared for about 6-8 minutes, but don't worry, it will continue to cook.
2. Add mushrooms to pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until browned. Add flour, and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomatoes with their juice, wine, onions, garlic, olives, and chicken (with any juices). Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, and cook until chicken is cooked through, 15-20 minutes. Season stew with salt and pepper.

Here's where our sad face character showed up. I'm not sure what went wrong, but the instructions say stew and we definitely had a soup. Let's examine the possible culprits:
Mushrooms? Sometimes, mushrooms put out a lot of water, but it didn't say anything about draining the mushrooms, just adding flour.
Tomatoes? Yes, the recipe calls for whole tomatoes in juice, but I always have stewed tomatoes, so I used that instead. Do stewed tomatoes have way more juice than canned whole tomatoes? Could this be the culprit for soup vs. stew?
Green olives? Should the green olives be bottled or is it OK if it's canned?
3. While stew is cooking, heat broiler. On a rimmed baking sheet, brush both sides of polenta slices with remaining oil; season with salt and pepper. Broil, without turning, until deep golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve chicken cacciatore over polenta.
The verdict:We had way too much and had to go for the camping pot, but it did thicken up a little. I still think that the cacciatore needed to be more stew like. As far as the polenta, it was nice and crispy, but I just don't understand it. It must be like poi. Maybe it's an acquired taste. I liked the crispiness, but it doesn't taste like much.

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