Monday, February 25, 2008

Pollo alla Cacciatora

Nigella Lawson came into my life when I needed her very much. I was studying abroad in London in the Fall of 2000, but living in a town in the northern suburbs called Harrow. The majority of the kids from my school in my program were living in flats in the city--I had been duped into volunteering for a new home-stay arrangement that the study abroad office at my college wanted to try out. At the time I agreed to it, I thought that I would be living in the city also, so I was very disappointed that summer when I got a letter from the home-stay agency and realized that it was not to be. I pushed myself to be social and go out every night possible, but the truth was that most weeknights I ended up back home before the tube stopped running. Luckily, the family with whom I stayed was really cool, and I had a room all to myself with my very own TV. I spent many an evening curled up on my cozy bed, studying, drinking tea, and exploring British television.

Nigella Bites had just started that autumn, and she was getting a lot of press attention. My house mother had a copy of How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Foodsitting on the huge sideboard in the kitchen. The first time I caught her show on Channel 4, it was like taking a pleasant, mild sedative. I was stressed out with work, school, friend drama, and missing my boyfriend back in the States. I loved my temporary home, but I felt little peace there. It was wonderful to watch Nigella moving around on the TV screen, bringing elegance and order to her kitchen and family. I was soothed, knowing that in at least one corner of London, someone was leading a calm, beautiful life, or so it seemed!

Suffice it to say, I was very excited when Food Network started carrying her shows in 2006. I love her books, but watching her is the true Nigella experience. I think that her new series, Nigella Express, has been good, but not great. Her persona and presenting style are a little over the top now! I'm sure it's a purely marketing-related decision, but I miss the more subdued and witty Nigella of the Bites days. In the episode I caught this weekend she made an "express" version of chicken cacciatore that looked very tasty. Having most of the ingredients on hand, I decided to give it a shot tonight. I deviated from her notes a little bit, so here's my version!

1 tablespoon olive oil
5 strips of bacon, cut or snipped with kitchen shears into bite-size pieces
6 green onions, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat and cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
1-14 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper

Put the oil in a dutch oven or soup pot and warm over high heat. Put the bacon, green onions, garlic, and rosemary into the pot and fry for a couple of minutes. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and add to the pot, stirring well. Sprinkle in the celery salt. Cook for a few minutes until the chicken starts to brown a little.

Pour in the chicken stock and bring up to a bubble. Stir in the tomatoes, bay leaves, and sugar. Put the lid on the pot and let the contents simmer for 20 minutes. When the time is up, taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Remove the bay leaves and serve over rice.

Rating: This is awesome

It was a quick, comforting dish, just the thing for a chilly Monday night!