When it comes to cooking, one cannot underestimate the importance of mise en place. Often enough it even determines the level of complexity of a dish you are going to cook – chicken cacciatore is a good example of this point of view. Indeed, if you prepare everything properly beforehand, all you have to do is just to throw certain ingredients into a pan at a right moment and watch them transforming into a beautiful stew. And if you are not so organized, you will find yourself rushing to the refrigerator/ kitchen shelves in search of a necessary thing and it will be a really stressful experience.
Usually, as I chop all my vegetables and arrange them in separate bowls, I’m anticipating the moment when I can start the actual cooking. It reminds me of culinary shows where at the beginning of the programme all the ingredients, thoroughly cleaned, neatly sliced and meticulously arranged on the table, are ready to be used by a celebrity chef who tries to convince the audience that cooking is not a rocket science and it’s ultimately easy to prepare a quick and delicious meal – and you have a strong suspicion that he wouldn’t have such a relaxed and joyous look in front of the camera if he had to make all the mise en place himself. I for one don’t mind doing all the “hard work” myself – I find the process of preparation very calming and I can almost meditate while practicing julienne or brunoise cut of my vegetables. And I believe that it pays off: as you feel more involved in the ritual of making a dish, it’s much more pleasant to dig your spoon into the final result!
Recipe adapted from "Delicious" magazine (www.taste.com.au)
6 whole chicken legs
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 celery sticks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled, chopped
125g button mushrooms, sliced
100ml dry white wine
800g can diced tomatoes
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp rosemary
1 bay leaf
150ml chicken stock
1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
fresh herbs, to garnish
- Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook until browned on both sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Add the onion, celery and carrot to the pan and cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until the vegetables soften.
- Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for a further minute.
- Return chicken pieces to the pan, add the wine and allow to simmer 1-2 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, herbs and stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the olives and cook for a further 10 minutes.
- Transfer chicken to a platter, then reduce the sauce over high heat for 5 – 6 minutes.
- Serve hot over rice or couscous, garnished with fresh herbs.
- You can use the whole chicken for the dish – just break it down into pieces beforehand.
- I usually cook the poultry without a skin. If you have no concerns about the size of your waistline, leave the skin on – you will definitely enjoy this nice and crisp addition to the dish.
- The classic version of the Italian stew has pancetta in it. If you want to add some, put it into the pan together with the vegetable mirepoix (onion, carrot and celery).