Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Comforting Return

I am sick as a dog. It came on suddenly, but I have the nastiest cold I've had in quite some time. Stuffy, runny nose, dry, scratchy throat, cough cough cough.
I was supposed to get dinner with my father tonight, but he texted me this afternoon to say that he had to work late and couldn't play.
"Perfect!" I thought, "I can finish up at work and then go home and get cozy in my bed. And stay there for the next three days."
What I didn't take into account, however, would be my need for sustenance upon my return home.
I didn't just need any sustenance, I needed comfort food. And so, despite my stuffy nose and dry scratchy throat and cough cough cough, I found myself making chicken cacciatore at 8:00 on a tuesday night, Ingrid Michaelson playing in the background because I have just discovered her and I think I'm in love.
This recipe is amazing, mostly because of its method of joining our family's recipe lexicon. Standing in line at the supermarket one day, my mother started to make conversation with the woman in front of her. My mom's favorite question (which has become my favorite question, too, by the way) is "what are you making for dinner?" The woman was making chicken cacciatore, and after a brief description and a hasty exchange of email addresses, this recipe has become a favorite comfort food in the Abbiebabble house.

Mom has always complained that it is too time-consuming to make, but I think that's because she is used to cooking for a family of four hungry people who won't give her a break until dinner's ready. If the chicken's thawed when you get home, it can be ready in just over an hour. If you're like me and you can't be bothered to remember such things as putting the chicken in the fridge to thaw, then it'll take just a bit longer.
And so, beloved reader (hi Lisa), I make my return from a week away from the blogosphere with what is perhaps my favorite comfort food.

Chicken Cacciatore
Adapted from the lady at the grocery store.

2.5-3 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs and breasts (we use mostly dark meat, but I bet it would be good with only light meat, too)
3-4 tbsp flour
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Italian tomato paste (this has Italian seasonings in it, but I'm sure it would be fine if you used another kind, instead)
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2-1 cup mushrooms, diced (Mama Abbiebabble uses canned mushrooms, so that's what I do, too. It turns out fine, but the part of me that wants to be a food snob starts battling with the part of me that wishes she were from the midwest and grew up on casseroles, and I have an uncomfortable internal struggle and it's kind of ugly. Which is only to say that you can use whatever kind of mushrooms you want.)
1/2 bay leaf
1/8 tsp dried marjoram
1/8 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground white pepper (which I forgot this time around. oops.)

Cut the chicken into slightly-larger-than-bite-size pieces, dredge in flour, and saute in garlic and olive oil. (I find it helpful to do this in two batches, and add a little extra olive oil to the pan before the second batch.)
Add all other ingredients, stir stir stir to get all the good, flavorful bits off the bottom of the pan, and let simmer on super low for about an hour. (Mama Abbiebabble, and thus Abbiebabble herself, both use a flame tamer over a medium-low flame for this step.)
Serve over pasta.
Serves two for dinner with enough leftovers to make lunches for almost a week.

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