Grains: Chicken Cacciatore Recipe

Fall 2009 CSANews Issue 72  |  Posted date : Sep 22, 2009.Back to list

My husband and I had dinner at the home of a good friend of mine, Cathy Ruggieri-Davidson, who is originally from southern Italy.  She served us chicken cacciatore.  Knowing that I avoid white pasta when possible, Cathy served the cacciatore over barley.  I was delightfully surprised at how well the tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and chicken combined with this tasty and chewy grain.  We enjoyed Colio Estate Wines Gamay Noir. The acidity in this light, fruity red harmonized with the same taste sensation in the tomato sauce. A perfect partnership, indeed. I indulged in two helpings!

While munching, I shared with my friend how much I was enjoying the meal.  She said, "Well, my friend, you'll appreciate the barley even more tomorrow morning because it's great roughage."

Cathy was right. Barley is an insoluble fibre. Insoluble fibres (barley, couscous, brown rice, bulgur, whole grain breakfast cereals, whole wheat bread, carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, celery and tomatoes) help to move bulk through the intestines, promoting regular bowel movements and removing toxic waste more quickly, thus preventing constipation.  Insoluble fibre also reduces the risk of hemorrhoids, reduces bad cholesterol and reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. It is also believe to be a cancer preventive.

It's important to incorporate soluble fibres into your diet, too. Soluble fibres (oats, legumes, lentils, apples, pears, blueberries, strawberries, seeds) slow the transit of food through the stomach, thus reducing food intake and hunger, allowing sugar to be released and absorbed at a slower rate.  Soluble fibre is also believed to reduce the risk of fatal heart attacks, as well as reducing the risk of the ischemic stroke (one caused by blockage of blood vessels to the brain).

The average high-fibre diet should be comprised of approximately 75% insoluble and 25% soluble fibre. Try to consume at least 20 grams of fibre daily. Women need about 22 grams per day when older than 50. Men need about 30 grams after age 50.

Brown rice seems to be the healthy grain of choice when it comes to dinner entrees. Other grains are often featured for breakfast or in stews. But as Cathy showed me, other grains such as barley can be just as delicious at mealtime.

Entrees incorporating whole grains can marry well with wine, too. Pair your entree with wine in the same way as you would any other dish. Match the wine to the sauce or spices.

Cathy's Rustic Chicken Cacciatore

Serves 6

8 chicken breasts with bone (skinless) or boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Whole wheat flour (as needed)
Olive oil (as needed)
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 cooking onion, roughly chopped
1 tsp chili flakes
1 can (28 ounces) tomato puree
1/2 can (14 ounces) whole tomatoes, roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 heaping tbsp capers
1 heaping tbsp dried oregano
1 heaping tbsp dried thyme
1 ball of fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
2 cups of freshly grated Romano
4 cups of dried barley
1 cup coarsely chopped flat parsley

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Dredge chicken in flour.  In a large ovenproof skillet with high sides, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom.  Brown chicken all over.  Set aside.  Drain most of the excess fat.  In the same skillet, sauté garlic and onion and chili flakes.  Add tomatoes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add capers.  Add oregano and thyme.  Over low heat, simmer for about 10 minutes until flavours come together.  Add chicken.  Cover skillet and place it in the oven.  Cook for 45 minutes to one hour, or until chicken is done.

Meanwhile, rinse barley. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add barley.  Simmer on low heat for about 45 minutes to one hour, or until tender.  Drain barley.  Keep covered and warm until needed.

Remove skillet from oven.  Place slice of mozzarella on each piece of chicken.  Sprinkle 1 cup of Romano generously over whole dish.  Place skillet back into the oven, uncovered.  When cheese has melted, remove the skillet from the oven.  Fold parsley into barley.  Serve barley separate from cacciatore, giving guests the amount of barley desired. Slide chicken with tomato sauce over barley.

Wine suggestion: Choose Chianti or Gamay Noir.  Choose a light, fruity red with enough acidity to match the acidity in tomatoes.  If you want to sip a heavier red with this dish then, before making the cacciatore, pour the cans of tomatoes into a baking tray.  Slow roast the tomatoes at low heat for a few hours. This concentrates the fruit flavours and reduces the acidity, thus having your tomato sauce match a bigger red wine.

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