Ask Chef Phyllis:
This fall we became empty nesters, and because of that I sometimes work longer hours than I used to. I come home tired and want to get a nutritious and fast dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less. I buy chicken breasts often—they’re a fast, easy, good protein—and I do something with them about twice a week. Truth be told, I make chicken more often than that since I buy prepared meals like chicken cordon blue at the deli counter or frozen, breaded chicken breast cutlets that I have to deep fry. I’d like a specialty dish, not a processed food, that’s really a bit elegant and can be whipped up in a hurry for unexpected company or just for my husband and me. Any good dinner ideas?
—Jo-Ann Scott Copline from Osseo, Wisconsin
Judging from the many emails I receive on what to do with chicken breasts, I can say that a good, quick, gourmet chicken breast dinner is on everyone’s list. The following festive recipe for chicken cacciatore fits the bill, and the wine and mushrooms really take it over the top.
I’d also like to mention that a whole 6-lb. chicken roasted for a Sunday dinner will provide additional meals all through the week. A few interesting options to make from the leftovers for the 2 of you could include chicken Waldorf salad, chicken frittata, and chicken tacos. You can even save the bones, boil them for stock, and make a really good soup. But that’s another post…
Our recently retired friend David wanted to learn, in his words, a “sure-fire” different and special meal that he can prepare when it’s his turn to cook. We asked David to kitchen test this recipe for ease of preparation and timing. He gave it two thumbs up!
Everyone should have a great “go-to” meal in their repertoire. And according to David, this is one of them. Beyond most expectations—this 30-minute chicken dinner is elegant and easy!
Chicken Breast Cacciatore
¼ cup olive oil
2–3 tablespoons butter
½ lb. crimini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 large red or green bell pepper, or a combination of red, green, yellow, and orange bell peppers, cut into strips
1 medium red onion, sliced thinly (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced or shaved
4–6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 ozs. each), cut into 2-inch strips or 1-inch cubes
4 cups homemade marinara sauce or 2 (15 oz.) cans of organic diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1½ cups dry red wine such as Chianti or Burgundy
½ teaspoon each of dried basil, oregano, summer savory, and tarragon
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 teaspoon each sea salt and pepper
Zest of ½ lemon
- Heat olive oil and butter in a 12-inch sauté pan or a cast iron skillet. Add the sliced mushrooms and brown on one side. Flip mushrooms and brown the other side. Remove to a plate.
- Add bell peppers, red onions, and garlic. Stir until the onions caramelize, about 10 minutes.
- Add chicken pieces and brown for about 3 minutes per side to add flavor. Add marinara sauce or diced tomatoes. Continue cooking for 10 minutes on low heat.
- Turn the heat to high. Slowly add wine. Return mushrooms to the pan, then add the spices, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Next add lemon zest for freshness.
- Lower heat and stir well. Do not overcook. Once all the ingredients are coated with the wine and tomato sauce mixture, it’s done.
Serve with a crisp Romaine and Arugula green salad and steamed brown rice. Or for a change, try quinoa.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
- chemical- and hormone-free meat
- wild-caught fish
- pasture-raised, organic eggs
- whole, unrefined grains
- virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
- whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
- pure, clean, spring water
- sea salt
- raw and/or cultured milk and cream products
Creative Commons photo by Peter Sejersen