Saturday, June 25, 2016

"A Man's Whirled - Every Guy's Guide to Cooking with a Blender" - Uncle Gino's Chicken Cacciatore - for Father's Day!

Date I made this recipe:  June 19, 2016 – Father's Day

A Man's Whirled – Every Guy's Guide to Cooking with a Blender by Chris Peterson
Published by:  Simon & Schuster Paperbacks
ISBN:  13: 978-0-7432-7023-6; © 2005
Purchased at Powell's Chicago
Recipe: Uncle Gino's Chicken Cacciatore – P. 78

How timely.  My dad was a great cook and chicken cacciatore was one of his favorite recipes to make and so I present to you, this year's Father Day dinner selection!  ("And the crowd goes wild...")

When I acquired this book last year, I made a note in my calendar to use it on Father's Day.  And then a few weeks ago, when I was looking through it to select a recipe, there it was:  Uncle Gino's Lou Verme's (my dad's) Chicken Cacciatore.  How cosmic!

Except for a few minor differences, this was almost an exact duplicate of my dad's recipe.  My dad used celery, onions, green pepper and canned tomatoes, just like this recipe, but also added peeled potatoes and carrots.  And it seems to me he par-boiled all the vegetables for a bit before adding them to the roaster.  And he added also a few (secret) spices to his canned tomatoes although I don't think thyme was one of them before putting in the chicken and tomatoes.  Although he passed on adding Marsala or similar liquid ingredient to the dish, he sometimes enjoyed a glass of red wine with dinner so I think that counts.

This recipe was one of many in my dad's "go-to" repertoire of culinary delights.  Every weekend, we looked forward to his scrambled eggs and bacon and his doctored-up pancakes.  He was a master of the grill and the broiler and his barbecued chicken (grilled on a tiny Hibachi grill) and his steaks under the broiler (for mere seconds or he considered them ruined) were fabulous. 

In early years, he made a fantastic pasta fagioli (pasta "fa-jewel-eh") (beans and pasta) and in later years, linguine and clam sauce.  He was always – always – in charge of draining the pasta and serving it up to our family of four.  There was never a time when the plate wasn't heaping with too much pasta and yet he always encouraged us to "finish it [the food] up."

That said, he, like most men of his time, left the heavy lifting to the women and so didn't really operate any of the appliances or do the dishes (this is what dishwashers are for!) and so I cannot recall a time he used our blender although maybe he got sneaky and did so after I left home?

Luckily, this cookbook author, Chris Peterson, has it going on.  This book is subtitled "Every Guy's Guide to Cooking with a Blender" which suggests to me that this guy knows a thing or two about kitchen appliances.  The title alone though, is what sold me:  A Man's Whirled, a play on the song "It's a Mans Man's Man's World" by the late, great James Brown.  I often buy cookbooks based on the title and this one had me at "hello."

The recipes in this book range from soup to nuts and all of them are made in whole or in part in the blender.  The cacciatore recipe requires you to blend the vegetables before adding them to the pan but since I don't have a blender, I used my Cuisinart to the same effect.

The only downside of this recipe, and it is not a downside of the recipe itself, is that the temperature rose to a mighty hefty 92 degrees on Father's Day and I was not about to pre-bake the chicken at 350F for forty five minutes as directed.  Nope.  Not even for a minute, never mind 44 more of them, and not even in the memory of my beloved papa.  So I made recipe the day after Father's Day and made it during the day when it was not yet hot out and it worked out great.

As to other incredible edibles in this book, here are some of the chapter headings:  "Game Day Grub;" "Date Food;" "Mom's Best;" "Party Favors;" "Feel-Better Food" and "Sweet Treats."  Most of the recipes sounded really good and I actually had a couple others in mind before settling on the cacciatore.  And because my dad was a hunter, we often had other types of birds in the cacciatore, mostly notably, Ruffed Grouse (which tastes like chicken...well, chicken minus  a stray buckshot or two) so if you need to or want to adapt this, go ahead.  After all, "Chicken Cacciatore" translates from Italian to "Hunter's Stew" so you'd be right on point.  (By the way, I've mentioned in other blogs that my dad was 1st generation Sicilian-American so it was fitting that this was one of his specialties.)

So Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there.  As my dad would say, as he called us to the table, "A mangia" (which our family pronounced "Ah mahn-jaa") – Let's eat!

Uncle Gino's Chicken Cacciatore – makes 2 full-meal servings

What You Need
2 large chicken breasts, bone in (about 2 pounds)
½ cup olive oil (divided)
1 teaspoon salt
6 cloves garlic
1 medium yellow onion
1 small green bell pepper
1 small red bell pepper
1 stalk celery
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme

¼ cup Marsala (Ann's Note:  you can also substitute sherry or port or brandy)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

What You Do -- (Ann's Note:  This is not only a directive on how to cook it but also my Sicilian grandmother's question when she wanted to know what we were up do/doing at the moment:  "What you do?"  Makes me chuckle to think about it—so cute!)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Saturate the breasts with ¼ cup olive oil (Ann's Note:  reserve the remaining ¼ cup for later).  Sprinkle with salt and fresh-ground pepper, and rub into the breasts.  Put the breasts into a baking pan and bake for 45 minutes.  (Ann's Note:  I put the breasts in breast side down.)

Peel garlic and onion.  Chop coarsely and combine in blender with remaining olive oil.  Blend on medium for five 3-second bursts, or until well chopped.  Empty blender into large saucepan.

Seed bell peppers and cut off ends of celery stalk.  Chop into coarse pieces.  Blend each color pepper and celery on their own.  Blend for two to three 2-second bursts, or until the vegetables are coarsely chopped.

Put baked chicken breasts into saucepan and cook on high.  Sauté for 5 minutes, or until garlic begins to brown.  Add vegetables and oregano and thyme.

Add Marsala and bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer and add tomatoes.

Simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours, adding water if sauce becomes too thick.  Turn chicken after 45 minutes.  Serve with small side of spaghetti covered with some of the cacciatore sauce. Ann's Note:  In NJ and NY Italian restaurants, it is usual and customary to see [a small side of] pasta listed along with your potato choices that accompany meat and poultry entrees.  If I don't see it, I always ask for one and it is provided, no questions asked.  Gotta have my pasta with my meat, don't you know!

Good Guy Advice [from the author]:  If you have to blend a lot of vegetables to a coarse consistency, take this shortcut.  Put the vegetables in the blender canister and fill to just above their level with cold water.  Blend as necessary to chop the vegetables, then drain the water.

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