Some memories come back to you by something you hear, like a song or an accent from someone talking nearby. Others by a certain scent - cologne, a flower, the smell of a school book. And others by the memory of a taste.
My grandmom on my mom's side made the best homemade sauce (yes, it's sauce, not gravy, in my family). She would cook chicken in the sauce which gave it a flavor so different from sauce cooked with meatballs. I can still remember the exact taste of the sauce, and that memory is what made me want to cook chicken cacciatore.
My friend Stacey was coming over for the night, and she is always so willing to try my new creations. I had never made this dish before, so I read a few recipes. I liked certain parts of this recipe by Giada, and other parts of this one by Emeril. After reading, analyzing, and thinking about both, I wrote my own. Here is what I did -
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Spices (I probably used an even amount of each): salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, paprika
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter (optional; use more oil and omit butter for healthier version)
- 1/2 c each chopped red and green pepper; I had a tiny bit of yellow pepper left too so I added it
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 14 oz can tomatoes with juice, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 c dry white wine
- 1/2 c chicken broth
- Bay leaf
- 1 tbsp (or more if you love it) fresh basil, chopped
- Mix flour with the spices
- Sprinkle both sides of each chicken breast with spices as well
- Heat olive oil and butter in a large pan or dutch oven over medium-high heat
- Add chicken to pan and cook for about 4 minutes per side. Remove to a plate.
- If the pan is very dry, add a touch of olive oil. Add onions, peppers, and garlic and saute 2-3 minutes.
- Add white wine, simmer until reduced by half
- Add tomatoes, juice, and broth; bring to a boil
- Add bay leaf, a touch of oregano, and a touch of dried (or fresh) thyme, and return chicken to pan. Cover most of the way and let simmer for 30 minutes, adding basil about 5 minutes before serving.
- Remove bay leave and serve chicken over pasta. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.
Stacey will be very, very honest with me about what she likes and what she doesn't. She loved this one so much and even said it smelled and tasted like something from a restaurant. I was equally impressed. The sauce takes on such a unique flavor by cooking chicken in it - it's hard to explain, but maybe rustic is the right word for the flavor. Rustic, comforting, fresh, light, but hearty at the same time. And even better, it smelled like my grandmom's kitchen in my kitchen, and that's a comforting smell.
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