I once had a copy of Beaton’s Book of Household Management. Plainly printed on the inside cover was “facsimile”. Had it been an original copy, I would have kept it. It would be worth lots of money now and I could sell it on EBay but I gave it to a “cook”. It was truly a wealth of information but I didn’t need to know how to skin a rabbit or store root vegetables for the winter. Twenty five years later, I still love old book shops, flea markets and cooking and delve into the book section before anything else. Recently, I found a copy of Professional Cooking: Wayne Gisslen for Le Cordon Bleu for a $1.
Now I also have my mother’s cookbook. She only had one. There are asterisks next to her favorite recipes as well as few she never made. Her favorite is Chicken Cacciatore. That’s the dish she made for special occasions. She was always very proud of the finished dish. After grandma died, mom taught herself to cook by carefully reading and following the instructions. She wasn’t taught to cook as a kid. Her mother, an overworked domestic, didn’t want that life for her. She wanted mom to get an education and go into business. Mom would personally shop for and assemble all the ingredients. Everything had to be on the table before she began. She came late to cooking. There wasn’t any improvisation. She didn’t know what to substitute if an item wasn’t there.
Mom’s cookbook is the Better Homes & Gardens Complete Step-By-Step Cook Book. It has 122 cooking techniques and each introductory section is followed by recipes. The forward is on target as it sums up what I call “rut cooking,” making the same old thing because you are unfamiliar with other foods and techniques. I still put mom’s cookbook on the counter even though I’ve long since memorized lots of the recipes. That’s how I learned and I recently continued the tradition with my granddaughter when we made Chicken Cacciatore for Sunday dinner.
So welcome to Community Green Cooks as we begin with Chicken For A Month of Sundays: Chicken Cacciatore. Let’s explore life and a different chicken recipe for the next 30 weeks: A Month of Sundays. Let’s learn some techniques and explore culinary combinations that make eating a pleasure. Life isn’t a chicken in every pot, but chicken is a cook’s blank canvas. Let’s get cooking.
Technique: Braising chicken*
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 medium onions, cut in ¼-inch slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 2½- to 3-pound broiler-fryer chicken, cut up
1 16-ounce can tomatoes, cut up
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano or basil, crushed
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 or 2 bay leaves
¼ cup dry white wine
Hot cooked rice
- In a large skillet heat oil; add onions and garlic. Cook over medium heat till onions are tender.
- Remove onions; set aside.
- Rinse chicken pieces; pat dry. Add more cooking oil to skillet, if needed. In same skillet over medium heat, brown chicken pieces for 15 minutes, turning as necessary.
- Return the cooked onions to the skillet.
- Combine undrained tomatoes, tomato sauce, salt, oregano or basil, celery seed, pepper, and bay leaves. Pour over chicken in skillet. Cover; simmer 30 minutes.
- Stir in wine; cook, uncovered, over low heat 15 minutes longer, turning occasionally.
- Chicken is done when it is easily pierced with a fork.
- Skim fat; remove bay leaves. Transfer chicken and sauce to a serving dish. Serve with hot cooked rice. Makes 4 servings.
*A classic braise is done with a relatively whole cut of meat, and the braising liquid will cover 2/3 of the product while in the pan. Then, the dish is covered and cooked at a very low simmer, until the meat becomes so tender that it can be ‘cut’ with just the gentlest of pressure from a fork (vs., a knife).