Friday, February 29, 2008


I appreciate Rachael Ray's recipes. In my opinion, her approach to explaining a recipe puts one at ease instantly and really speaks to someone who might not know what “double boiling” is or what “julienne vegetables” really means either! I love her use of phrases like “palmful” and “glugs” and “eyeball it,” how refreshing and easy to understand is that!? I also like her because she has a mean penchant for garlic and spice that just makes her a credible person in my book.

It was from a Rachael Ray recipe that I found my first “dish”. You know, a staple dish that you can rely on to whip up when you have to feed some friends, or yourself for the week. The discovery of that “dish” is such an exciting epiphany to the new food enthusiast because it allows us to begin to understand the processes of cooking and the way ingredients play and affect one another. I think I stuck onto this dish because when I made it the first time it was actually good, good enough to eat! And my friends were asking for more, I was amazed--espeically because it was rather easy!

The Finding-Your-Dish-Milestone is crucial to the development of the food enthusiast because it gives us confidence, and therefore gives us inspiration--inspiration to deviate from the template given, add a little more of this, less of that and even--gasp!--substitute ingredients! Could you imagine? I definately could not! If you really find the dish that is yours to experiment with--you'll play with it until eventually, you make up your own and know the recipe by heart. It's a great feeling.

So I present my “dish” it’s a Chicken Provencal “Stoup”— adopted from Rachael Ray’s recipe of the same name ( Basically I have found that I prefer to buy fresh Chicken Sausage (varying types—but Garlic & Herb is nice) instead of Chicken Tenders. The Chicken is basically marinated already & already cut down so there is not chopping involved of raw meat, which I appreciate. I also use a LOT of Herbs de Provence because it is one of my favorite spice blends (I really love the Whole Foods Kind—make sure there are Lavendar Flowers in your mix!). I have also played around with the vegetables in order to add a broader variety than she initially offers. Oh, and I have found—possibly my favorite ingredient ever—is wine. And lots of wine. Definitely not shy on the wine usuage, let’s just say I use a lot of “glugs.” Enjoy!


Large Pot: If you have a big stove and a HUGE pot then lean towards the “2” when I say 1 to 2. If you have a LARGE pot but don’t think it’s HUGE, just lean towards the smaller measurements, until you’ve made this once and you realize how much cooking space you’re working with. This is definitely a One-Pot Meal which is awesome!

1 to 2 Fresh Chicken Sausages (casings removed, if you are nice your butcher might do the dirty work for you!)
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Orange or Yellow Bell Pepper
1 Medium Onion (Sweet or White, just not Red)
1 Small to Medium Zucchini
1 Small to Medium Yellow Squash
2 Medium Carrots, Washed Thoroughly.
1 Can of Diced Tomatoes (with or without Herbs, your preference, I like Herbs)
1 to 3 cups of Chicken Stock
1 to 2 cups of Dry White Wine (something you will drink while you cook, nothing too cheap)
4 cloves of Garlic (chopped, not minced)
1 to 2 Palmfuls of Herbs de Provence
Salt & Pepper for Seasoning & to Taste

Olive Tapenade
Fresh Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley
Yummy Bread—I use Whole Grain, Toasted.

1. Prepping: In case your Butcher wasn’t nice enough—remove the casings from your Chicken Sausage, set aside and wash hands. Then chop the Bell Peppers, Onions, Zucchini, Squash & Carrots to similar size—diced. Chop the cloves of Garlic—you don’t have to mince, you can roughly chop, I like it better that way—I think there’s more a bite to the garlic if you don’t chop it down too small. Set all aside, away from raw chicken.
2. In your pot, spread the bottom with the EVOO. Turn to Medium Heat. Add the Chicken Sausage with casing removed. The goal here is to help the Sausage along by mashing it with your wooden spoon so that it resembles ground beef, chicken doesn’t naturally go into this shape so you have to guide it. Break into tiny pieces with the end of your wooden spoon or spatula. Cook for about 5 minutes or until it is cooked through (no pink, all uniform color). Then take out the meat from the pot, being careful to keep the EVOO & fat inside the pot to cook the veggies. Set aside meat to add to Stew later.
3. With the pot back over Medium heat, toss in the Carrots & Garlic. Sprinkle with Salt & Pepper. Let cook for about 2 minutes. You can add more EVOO if need be—the veggie should not be sticking to the bottom of the pan. Also, you might want to turn down the heat slightly depending on your stove, as you don’t want to burn or brown the garlic or carrots, so don’t be afraid to turn down the knob.
4. Add Onions, Zucchini, Squash & Bell Peppers to the Carrots & Garlic. Stir and coat them with the Fat & EVOO in the pot. Then Season with Salt & Pepper. Let cook for a minute. Then add a palmful or 2 of Herbs de Provence—this should start to smell like heaven! Cook the veggies down for another 5 to 7 minutes
5. My favorite part—adding the wine. Now you’ll add the 1 to 2 cups of white wine to your cooking, seasoned veggies to “deglaze” the pot—which just means, alcohol acts like a “cleaner” for your pot, especially when you have cooked meat in it. As you cook meat all those “brown bits” and fats release and can cling to pots (more than others) so adding alcohol in some fashion helps release these delicious pieces from the hardware. BUT the wine ALSO makes it just smell and taste delicious. Definitely adds a different dimension. Love it. I add half a bottle.
6. After the wine is in the pot, turn the heat on high and cook for about 5 minutes this way.
7. Add Can of Diced Tomatoes (not drained), then the reserved Chicken Sausage & then add 1 to 2 cups of Chicken Stock (depending on how much room you have left—“eye ball” it, you don’t want it to overflow so be careful, leave at least ½ an inch at the top!). Maintain the boil, you may turn down the heat just enough to keep the simmer going.
8. Oh wait—congratulations! You just made Chicken Provencal Stoup! I let my Stoup continue to boil at this point for another 15 minutes just to let the flavors mix thoroughly, I taste the broth, adjust salt & pepper, and almost always without fail, add more Herbs de Provence.
9. Serve Stoup with a large Spoonful of Olive Tapenade and generous sprinkling of parsley. Enjoy with toasted bread. Mmmmm.

*Also note that this stoup gets better the longer it sits. GREAT to make on a Sunday and have lunch for Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday at work—don’t be embarrassed to take the garnishings with you too!

*Be careful not to add too much Salt when you season, as you will be using Chicken Stock which is high in sodium—you can purchase Lower-Sodium Chicken Stock if High Sodium is a health issue for you.