What is it about Italian food? Is it the simplicity of fresh flavors we love so much? I have often wondered if basil comes in a perfume … the sweet aroma draws me in like nothing else. Garlic? Oh yes, please. Cheese, bread, wine … yes, the Italians have got it goin’ on.
Then there is Creole cooking, inspired by Spanish spices and French sauces, leaving its distinct mark on the culinary world. It is a party for our taste buds. Foodies from all over attempt to recreate the magic of this cuisine, though most will tell you the magic safely resides in the kitchens of Louisiana, but we can pretend.
Growing up on a farm in Missouri did not lend itself to culinary adventure, though I can make a mean country gravy. I did not fall in love with Italian or Creole food until well into my twenties, but when it happened, I fell hard. Just barely out of high school, a short trip to New Orleans is all it took to keep me chasing a good bowl of Gumbo ever since. Our trip to Italy solidified my love for everything Italian, not only the food they enjoy, but how they enjoy it. Like Italian, Creole is the kind of food that heightens your senses and encourages feasting; the sauces and flavors stir conversation.
So, why not marry the two?
Well, I can’t take credit for such genius. Emeril’s Chicken Cacciatore inspired this recipe, which should be no surprise since he has been known to kick many recipes up-a-notch. Though the inspiration came from Emeril, this recipe has been reworked to suit our family and preferences. Chicken Cacciatore is a light tomato sauce with hearty mushrooms and accents of fresh basil. The Creole seasoning infuses a pleasant heat and depth in the sauce, wrapping each strand of pasta in Italian-Creole bliss.
When my friend Pati and I make this, we always plan for extra chicken thighs … Creole seasoned, fried chicken thighs demand to be snacked on! I mean, they are right there on a platter, waiting while you to make the sauce, begging to be sampled. Just a warning to plan for such temptations, otherwise, folks might wonder where the chicken went for your Chicken Cacciatore (lesson learned). Another benefit is that it is an easy make-ahead meal and freezes beautifully, often landing on our Monthly Cooking menu.
What about you, is there a food fusion of your favorites you love to make?Emeril’s Chicken Cacciatore
Chicken Cacciatore, Creole-Style
- 1 cup flour (I use white whole wheat or sprouted whole wheat flour)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Chicken and Sauce:
- 4 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs -- trimmed of fat and cut into 2-3 inch portions
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion -- chopped fine
- 1 pound crimini mushrooms -- cleaned and sliced thick
- 2 tablespoons garlic -- minced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 14 ounces stewed tomatoes -- smashed by hand
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 whole bay leaf
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/2 cup fresh basil -- chiffonade
- 1 tablespoon parsley leaves -- finely chopped
- 1/2 pound angel hair pasta -- cooked and drained
- Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese -- grated
- In a medium size bowl, mix flour with next eight seasoning ingredients until well combined, then put flour mixture in a gallon size ziploc bag.
- Add several pieces of chicken to the bag of flour and shake until chicken is well coated. Add only enough so the chicken moves freely and isn't over crowded in the bag.
- In a large Dutch oven or skillet, over medium heat, add 1/4 cup of the oil. When the oil is hot, remove chicken from the bag one piece at a time, shaking off any excess flour.
- Add the chicken to the oil and brown for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken and allow to drain on a paper towel lined pan until needed.
- Repeat with remaining chicken in small batches so the chicken pieces have room in the flour and the pan without being crowded. Add more oil as needed to the pan in between batches, as needed.
- Once all the chicken pieces are browned, add the onions to the same pan and sauté over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add the mushrooms and garlic. Continue to sauté until the mushrooms begin to wilt, 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in the wine, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and stock. Bring the mixture to a strong simmer. Stir in the bay leaf, thyme springs, 1/4 cup of the basil, and parsley, simmer for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the chicken to the sauce, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and sauce is slightly thickened. Remove thyme sprigs before serving.
- To serve, mound the pasta in the center of each plate, spoon the chicken and sauce over the pasta and garnish with fresh basil. Pass the grated Parmesan cheese at the table for a finishing touch.
Looking for gluten-free options? Make this recipe gluten-free with just a few simple changes.
1. Substitute sweet rice flour for the regular flour
2. use GF spices
3. serve over rice or quinoa pasta
Follow the rest of the recipe just as it is written and you are set!