Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Absolute Newbie's Guide to Chicken Cacciatore & Pasta

I know what you're thinking. can I possibly make this delicious looking meal myself? I am no gourmet cook. Ah, but you're wrong. You can and you will! Just follow these simple, newbie-friendly instructions!

First, a list of things you will need:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 
  • 1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts 
  • 1 3/4 cups Chicken Broth or Chicken Stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano 
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder 
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes 
  • 1 small green pepper, cut into 2-inch-long strips (about 1 cup) 
  • 1 medium onion, cut into wedges 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 
  • 2 1/2 cups uncooked medium shell-shaped pasta 

Boneless chicken breasts come in packages in the meat department and vary in size from one to two pounds. There's usually both a generic store brand and a name brand (like Perdue.) The store brand is fine. If you freeze the package, you have to take it out of the freezer and put it into the fridge the morning before you plan to cook it. (as takes at least a full day to thaw.) When you take the chicken out of the package you have to wash it. Just run it under warm water and rub it until it doesn't feel slick or gooey, and pull off any extra fat with your hands. It takes like a minute, tops. (Wash your hands after handling raw chicken, unless you're highly fond of extreme intestinal discomfort and/or food poisoning.) For this recipe, use a sharp knife to cut them into bite-sized chunks. This is about 1 1/2 lbs of chicken. Don't worry if you're a bit over or under what the recipe calls for. (A bit. If you have TWICE as much, double the rest of the recipe, obviously.)

The onion and pepper will be in your produce department (of course.) You'll see a lot of different onions, but I usually just buy a single, decent-sized Sweet Vidalia Onion. I usually buy one Green Pepper too. Your store probably separates the organic veggies in their own case...they are more expensive than 'regular' veggies, so be aware and don't buy from the organic case if don't care. How do you know if your produce is good? Well...if it's spotty, brown, soft or ugly looking, you should probably take a pass. It should be decently firm, and look like the pictures of produce you see on the walls at your local Subway. Here...are mine:

These are some sexy looking veggies!  To cut up an onion, use a sharp knife to chop off the top and bottom half and peel off that first layer of outer skin. (It just comes right off with your hand.) What you're left with is this:

Then cut this in half down the middle and chop that one half up. Because this recipe calls for 'One Medium Onion' and Vidalia Onions are big, just use half and save the other half in a baggie in the fridge for using in other things. A good sharp knife matters. It should slice through this like butter. If you're sawing at your onion, you're doing it wrong.

To cut up a pepper, cut around the top. Peppers are hollow and there's like this...mother ship of an internal stem attached to the top. When you cut into it, you'll see what I mean. You just cut right around that and throw it away. Then cut the pepper in half length-wise and remove any whitish spine parts and seeds. What you're left with is this, which is easily sliced into the sticks this recipe needs:

The recipe calls for about a cups worth of green don't assume you have to use the whole thing. Anything you don't use...stick in a plastic baggy and toss in the fridge. Be sure to make other cool gourmet stuff during the week to use up your leftover pepper and onion!

If you've never done these things them this week. Learn how to do will open an entire new world of recipes to you! And you'll be eating veggies in a cool, tasty way...which is never a bad thing!

Put your veggies on a happy little plate like this one and set them aside for a minute.

Now...let's continue with our recipe!

Heat your tablespoon of oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for ten minutes. Your chicken will create juices while it cooks.

Somewhere around the 7 minute mark, you might want to put the cover on the skillet and tilt it carefully over the sink and drain all those juices out. Takes like five seconds and it will get rid of the excess liquid and some of the oil, which is good. :) Put it immediately back on the heat and move your chicken around the pan for a few more minutes to get the pieces slightly brown.

Good enough. Now, we're gonna add all this stuff:

I buy my chicken broth in these boxes. They're just the right size for this recipe and hey, no tin can sitting in a land fill. You can use store brands. You can use name brands. I care not! Your hungry family cares not! Your Chicken Cacciatore cares not! We're all just that cool and carefree like that!  

I didn't use pasta shells. I had elbows laying around, so I used those, because I don't care!

You may want to drain the extra juice from the diced tomato can. Depends on how much you like tomatoes. No offense to tomatoes, but I drain mine. So yeah, let's stir in the broth, oregano, garlic powder, tomatoes, green peppers, onion and black pepper, and then stir in the pasta. And oh! Look at this! You've already created something that looks extremely PRO!

Reduce the heat to medium-low, put the lid on your skillet and cook for around 15 minutes. Unless you smell something burning, you shouldn't lift the lid to peek. The pasta is both cooking and steaming in there.

Pasta knows how to party! 

After 15 minutes, take off the lid and stir your Chicken Cacciatore up! Dole it into bowls. Wait..wut? Yes! We're done!! You did it!!!!!!! Now you get to eat your delicious food with the added pride of knowing that you did it yourself! Not only that, but you made something that's relatively healthy!! You're amazing! GREAT JOB!!!