One of my 2010 proclamations never really stuck. Because more often than not a busy Friday and Saturday turned into a lazy Sunday and the kitchen remained empty. So while “Sushi Sundays” became a regular occurrence, “Sunday Suppers” remained a blog post, and nothing more. But this Mexican Chicken Cacciatore and Pumpkin Polenta is all the motivation I need to make Sunday cooking a priority…
My initial plan for the day was upended by a morning stuck in bed. With Em finally fighting off the flu, it seemed inevitable I was next. So the pasta fagioli, beers, and disappointment of an Eagles playoff loss at a buddy’s had to be put on hold. That is, everything but the disappointment with the Eagles. But rather than spending my Sunday in bed, I decided a day in the kitchen was just the medicine I needed.
Chicken cacciatore is a dish I remember cooking away on the stove top through much of my child hood. The wonderful sweetness of the peppers and tomatoes, the juiciness of the chicken, and the heartiness of the pasta soaking it all up are all fantastic components of low and slow cooking; which is what makes cacciatore such a great Sunday meal. But to be perfectly honest, it’s a dish that I’ve always wanted more from. More spice, more texture, more something! Enter black beans, jalapeno, and pumpkin!
To make this dish as flavorful as possible, I wanted to go all out. Quartering the chicken on my own produced all the necessary meat for the meal, but also left me with bones for broth. While preparing the pumpkin polenta, the bones simmered away with onions, garlic and parsley creating a richness that would add a ton of flavor to the cacciatore. Dicing the pumpkin into small cubes and braising them in milk, garlic, and cinnamon allowed for a beautifully orange puree to be passed through my food mill. When combined with the quick cooking polenta, the result was creamy, rich, and packed with amazing flavor. Poured into a baking sheet and left to set in the fridge, the first major component of the dish was done.
After a dismal first half of the Eagles game, it was time to start the cacciatore. While this is a dish that benefits from a slow simmer on the stove stop, chicken breasts and thighs definitely don’t need hours to cook. Pan searing the chicken pieces quickly marinated in olive oil, oregano, chili powder, and garlic created that crispy skin that is always my favorite. Removing the chicken and adding green peppers, jalapeno, onions, and garlic to sauté in the rendered fat created the base for this awesome dish. A bit of white wine, a can of black beans, the chicken broth, and diced tomatoes w/ adobo were the final additions before adding the chicken back into the pot. With the heat turned to med/low, and my enthusiasm being re-energized as the Eagles pulled into striking distance, I was sure getting hungry!
Well, a missed field goal and an interception later it was time to eat! And with a bulk of my day spent in the kitchen working on this meal, I really wanted to savor the moment. But deliciousness got in the way! The sweetness of the polenta absorbing the spiciness of the cacciatore was awesome. Wonderful flavors making a wonderful Sunday Supper!