Hunter Style Chicken

December 14, 2009  •  Meat & Poultry

There’s something comforting about sticking a pot of food on to cook in a Dutch oven on a Sunday night in the winter. I’ve been buying all natural free range chickens from Eastern Plains Natural Foods for a couple of years, and it’s taken me awhile to figure out how to best cook these very lean birds. The answer is acid – something acidic to help tenderize them, like a yogurt marinade or a tomato based sauce. That’s how I came up with this idea for dinner (in case you’re wondering how I create my dishes!).

Let me apologize for the small photos in this post – I’m still trying to learn how to format things for the new site and I reduced the pixels in thses too much to enlarge them. Anyway, on with the steps! Start by seasoning the chicken breasts with salt and pepper on one side…

…then add extra virgin olive oil to a large Dutch oven on the stove – enough to lightly cover the bottom so the chicken doesn’t stick.

Once you add the chicken breasts you can salt and pepper the other side…

And cook them on each side until they get nicely browned – see that caramelization? That’s what adds flavor, baby!

Next you’re going to want to starting building the sauce and layers of flavor. Remove the chicken breasts to a plate (they’ll still be raw inside) and add the vegetables – carrots, celery and leeks or onions). Let them cook down just a bit, then deglaze with red wine. Add a can of tomato paste and two cans or diced tomatoes (I added two jars I had frozen from my garden this summer).

Next you are going to want to nestle those chicken breasts back down into the sauce, cover and bake at a low temperature for about an hour.

When the chicken is cooked, I like to pull it out and use a stick blender to puree all of the vegetables into a nice sauce. I also like to add either fresh basil, or if it’s winter like now, a heaping tablespoon of pesto that I froze from the summer.

You can serve this chicken solo or over rice or pasta. It’s both tummy warming and light at the same time!

Hunter Style Chicken
Serves 4-6

4 skinless chicken breasts (boneless or bone in)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups diced onion or leeks
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup red wine
2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes (with juice)
1 small can tomato paste
1 heaping tablespoon pesto

Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Add oil to a large Dutch oven set over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook until nicely browned on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a platter. Add onion, carrots and celery and cook until slightly softened, then deglaze with red wine. Add tomatoes and tomatoe paste, stirring to incorporate. Return chicken to pan, nestling under the sauce, cover, and bake at 300 degrees for about an hour.

When chicken is cooked, remove to a platter and puree sauce with a stick blender. Stir in pesto. If desired, return chicken to pan, cover with a little cheese and return to the oven to melt. Serve over rice or pasta.

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