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Friday, April 22, 2011

Chicken In Stewed Tomatoes

Many years ago,more than I wish to recall, my wife Doris made this Creole chicken dish,using boneless chicken breasts and stewed tomatoes.I believe she found it in one of our cookbooks,it was a simple dish, season the breasts with a spice mixture of paprika, cayenne, marjoram, salt and pepper,saute till lightly browned, add tomatoes cover, cook.
Well , it was good,but of course we needed to adjust it to our own preferences of spice and herbs, etc.It has since evolved to a base for many other meats, like Italian sausage, pork chops or cutlets, chicken on the bone, or rolled  stuffed boneless chicken breasts.The simplicity of this dish starts with a can or two, of Del Monte Italian Style seasoned stewed tomatoes,  our preferred choice,which are already seasoned,and cooked, creating a quick tomato sauce base.
 With the addition of a large onion chopped, a couple of cloves of garlic, meat of choice and the stewed tomatoes ,you will have dinner in about an hour or so, if time is not a factor, the longer it cooks the better.
The basic steps are as follows: brown meat in a saute pan with a couple tbsps of olive oil, remove to a warm plate, discard all but 2 tbsps of oil in pan, add onions cook till soft, add minced garlic cook 1-2 minutes,but don't brown.Add meat back to pan, add the 1 - 2 cans of stewed tomatoes which have been pureed in a blender or processor .You may add any additional herbs of choice, like basil ,oregano, or spice it up with hot pepper etc, but be aware the tomatoes are already seasoned, so taste first, we usually add a tsp or so of sugar as the tomatoes  can be acidic at times.
My favorite is Italian sausage with rigatoni pasta, but we limit that, so it's usually chicken .
now that you have a basic concept, follow along as I prepare dinner:
.Brown chicken, here I used chicken thighs, bone in, skin on, which were brined ( see note below about brinning).I browned the thighs skin side down till very crisp, about  8 minutes, then cooked on the other side 8 minutes.Removed to a warm platter and then sauted onions in the oil,till soft, add minced garlic cook 1-2 minutes don't brown garlic or it will be bitter.
When the onions were soft and garlic added for a couple minutes, added 1 can of the pureed stewed tomatoes, stirred all together
Cover ,bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for a couple minutes
Add browned mostly cooked chicken to pan, cover and let simmer about 1 hour, longer is better.I started this early in the afternoon, as I was busy with other  holiday baking, it actually cooked on a low simmered  for 2 & 1/2 hours
Time to serve, on  'warmed' plates, place some chicken, add the al dente cooked rigatoni to the sauce in the pan and toss a  minute or so to coat the pasta. Then add to the plate , open the wine, toss the salad, slice the oven warmed  bread and enjoy !

Brinning is simply soaking a meat in a brine of salt ,sugar, water and if desired herbs and spices. The brinning process litteraly plumps the meat with moisture and if seasoned  adds flavor , it also denatures the protein,making it more tender.Basic brine is per gallon of water add 1/2 cup coarse salt ( or 1/4 cup table salt), 1/2 cup sugar, add any seasonings desired, think of the brine as a soup, more you add the greater the flavor. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, let cool completely before adding the meat ( chicken ,turkey, pork ) place in the fridge .
whole chicken  or bone in parts, 24 hours , boneless 1-2 hours, fillet of fish 1 hour. As you see, the smaller and boneless needs less time. after the brinning, rinse and dry before cooking, discard brine.
Of course a smaller quantity can be made using the same proportions of salt and sugar to water.

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