Over the last couple weeks I have become a tad bit addicted to the show “The Worst Cooks in America” on the Food Network (despite the fact that Anne Burrell’s hair and personality are the most annoying things in the world).
The main reason that I love this show is because it makes me feel good about my cooking skills (haha!); but I also enjoy watching it because it gives me tons of semi-healthy and semi-easy recipes to try!
One of the recipes that I saw on the show last week was a chicken cacciatore; so, tonight (after Snowpocalypse 2012 hit and my plans got cancelled), I was happy to use the free night in to try it out.
What was especially cool about this cooking experience was that I had gotten to watch Anne teach a bunch of terrible cooks how to make it—AKA I felt like I had a professional chef teach me how to cook this meal.
Of course, on TV the recipe seemed pretty easy (those tricky TV editors and their magic!), but it had more steps than I expected. Luckily, I had some time on my hands (and a little helper puppy) so it was no skin off my back.
The first step (as Anne and Bobby tell me on TV) was to prepare my mise en place (pronounced “miz on plas”) which is a French phrase defined by the Culinary Institute of America as “everything in place.” Basically, this means that you have to get everything ready up front, so that when you are actually searing, sauteing, and boiling things, you aren’t having to pause and chop up an onion.
So, after preparing the mise en place (which was chopping up an onion, red and orange peppers, some garlic, and some mushrooms), it was time to cook the chicken.
Now, I can admit it when I don’t know how to do something–and cooking chicken is one of those things. Every time that I cook it, it turns out dry or burnt or I have to cut it up while it’s cooking because I can’t get the inside to cook evenly. So, instead of butchering another chicken breast, I decided to use the best tool at my disposal—Google.
Google helped me find a website that described “How to Cook Moist and Tender Chicken Breast EVERY Time.” Bingo.
This website taught me the right timing and temperature (plus, a little patience) and let me tell you… my chicken was cooked perfectly! Thank you World Wide Interweb.
After cooking the chicken, there were a dozen more steps involving all of the veggies that I prepared ahead of time. First, I had to “sweat” the onions with some red pepper flakes and garlic. Once the onions were golden and soft, I added the peppers and let them get soft… then the mushrooms. Basically, each item needed its own time in the pot to let all of the flavors release and develop alone before they can be combined with the rest. After all of the veggies softened and meshed, I added some white wine and let that “reduce.”
This is actually a new thing that I learned from the Food Network—similar to the veggies, you have to let the wine simmer and release it flavors. Let’s be honest, I don’t always have the patience to wait for wine to evaporate out of a pan while I’m cooking. BUT, guess what folks? When you do… you get a flavor instead of an overwhelming taste.
So, once the wine reduced, I added some tomato sauce and the chicken, brought it to a boil, and then let the sauce simmer. That was the final and hardest step… sitting in the kitchen, smelling the amazing smell, and (you guessed it) WAITING for another 20 minutes. (Needless to say, I was getting hungry!)
Finally the kitchen timer went off and I was able to dish up my yummy chicken cacciatore. Not only was the plate so pretty with the vibrant red colors, but also (and most importantly) the chicken was moist and tender, the flavors all meshed and came together well, and it was a little spicy and super savory. Basically, it was gone in an instant.
This was most definitely the BEST chicken dish that I have ever made—and I cannot wait to make it again!
I hope you enjoy this meal if you make it. Let me know how it goes!