Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

Captain's Log

Long time no see!

Memories of a Bridal Shower edition

My bridal shower was about (/exactly) ten days ago and I have to say: I was so honored to have so many amazing women present. Showers are such a strange thing, in a lot of ways... I can't help but wonder "What did I do to deserve all this praise and attention beyond saying yes to an incredible man?". Alas, as I sort my way through the wedding process, I am learning and appreciating the role that weddings and wedding-related events have in uniting families, in solidifying old (and new) relationships, and in expressing support for what we certainly feel is a strong and happy match just bursting with potential. 

It's awesome (awe-some) to look around a room and imagine a similar lineup at Christmases and Thanksgivings and Birthdays and Reunions to come in five, ten, twenty years from now. So much love!

Which brings me back around to the blog: It turns out most of the shower attendees are readers of OBC (Okra's Book Club) and I can't wait to continually express my gratitude to them by using the gifts I was given for new posts. I am pretty sure I am not supposed to be using any wedding-related gifts before the wedding, so today's post will circle around a gift and only partially use a different one. The recipe? Slow-cooker Chicken Cacciatore, as adapted from Fix-It and Forget-It Big Cookbook: 1400 Best Slow Cooker Recipes, by Phyllis Pellman Good. This mammajamma was a gift. I was also given a new slow-cooker, but that one will have to wait until after the wedding.

Here's the recipe, as printed in the book:

Low-Fat Chicken Cacciatore
  • 2lbs uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1/2lb fresh mushrooms
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 12oz can low-sodium chopped tomatoes
  • 6-oz can low-sodium tomato paste
  • 12-oz can low-sodium tomato sauce
  • 1/2tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2tsp dried basil
  • 1/2tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp black pepper
And here are the directions, as printed in the book:
1. Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker.
2. Cover. Cook on low 8 hours.
3. Serve over rice or whole wheat pasta. 

Suggested variations: 
* 2 cups fresh diced tomato rather than a 12oz can
* If you are not concerned about sodium, use 1tsp salt rather than 1/2tsp.

I chose this recipe because it looked delicious. I also have experience making Giada's Chicken Cacciatore, but browning the chicken can be kind of a P in the A and it also gets oil spatters all over the place. And the theme here is slow-cooking! Anyway, I took a hint from Giada with the white wine. Regardless of whether or not you like to drink wine, it's in awesome way to give flavor to the food you're cooking... it's just a little of that je ne sais quoi, the same sort provided by house brand hot sauce.  See what I did there?

...not to get too "listy" on you, but here's essentially what I did, working from the original above:
  • one package boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into smaller pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 32oz can diced tomatoes, partially drained
  • 8oz can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup sauvignon blanc (or other dry white wine, like pinot grigio)
  • couple dashes of hot sauce
  • Dried basil and oregano to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh lemon for a quick squeeze at the end

I chopped everything as needed and dumped it my ancient (but effective) slow cooker...
She doesn't photograph well, bless her heart.
Here you can see my piles of peppers, tomatoes, onions, herbs, chicken, and tomato paste:
We've talked about the horrible lighting situation, right?
I stirred everything together and let it rip (...on low) for a total of 7.5 hours. Recipe says 8 hours, but we were hungry, okay?

This is what it looked like after two hours:
Warmed, but still pretty, y'know, "fresh" looking
The apartment (and therefore our whole floor?) started to smell like a pizza restaurant. Not bad!

And after five hours:
And at the end, I turned the heat to high and left it uncovered (THE HORROR!) to try and evaporate some of the liquid. This technique was... minimally effective. Perhaps this is a drawback to using a crock pot rather than a stovetop soup pot... or perhaps a thin sauce strikes you as "who cares," in which case this meal turned out amazingly.
Home stretch
While whole grain rotini boiled, I finished up the cacciatore by tasting it for salt, herbs, etc. I added a gentle squeeze of fresh lemon juice to help wake things up.
And then it was time to eat!

I really liked this dinner. It was not a lot of work for me, which was nice, but it was also healthy and hearty and fresh. The chicken was tender and flavorful. The sauce tasted amazing. The tomatoes, onions, and peppers all melded together perfectly. The only negative was that the sauce was indeed a little watery, which is the same problem I had with chicken tarragon. For that dish, I solved the problem by pulling all the chicken out of the pot and using an immersion blender to make a smoother, pasta-coating pureed sauce. I added the chicken back later. I can't really do that for this particular recipe, though, because the chicken was already chopped when it went into the crock pot. Sure, I could just not cut up the chicken next time and do the Chicken Tarragon Technique instead, but I think the solution I most prefer would be to serve this recipe with some crusty bread which can then be used for mopping. Problem solved! 
I may also be interested in adding some carrots to up the veggie quotient, and... maybe torn basil at the end? Wilted spinach if those eating it are okay with greens? All in all: Recommended.


  1. I'm making this! We both have used Giada's recipe. Agree with the browning issue, but what the heck. No pain, no gain. I am going to go with your recipe but brown the chicken. Although not a part of the 'live' bridal shower, I totally enjoyed your visit...except maybe for going the wrong way after dropping you off at Dulles & ending up inside the beltway in a hugh traffic jam.....but, I'm over it! ;-) d.o.d.