Balsamic Chicken and Sweet Peppers

Peppers are great when combined with meat. In just about every culture, a cook can find recipes that pair the two. And most them are on the easy side to prepare.

chickenpeppersMexicans, for example, have fajitas. Head to the Orient, and you can find all sorts of stir-fry recipes that feature peppers and meat. Ditto for the Middle East and the Mediterranean countries, where peppers are stuffed with various types of meat. And go to Africa, and you’ll find peppers and meat are combined with other vegetables and fruit in tasty dishes.

Here’s a recipe that I tried recently. I’m not sure of its origins, but the fact that the only cooking container you need is a Dutch oven and takes less than an hour from start to finish makes it very desirable.

The cooking method, braising, is a favorite of mine. Even the tough cuts of meat come out tender when simmered slowly in a little liquid. 

Balsamic Chicken and Sweet Peppers
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, thinly sliced
1 large yellow bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock or broth
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leafed parsley
Heat oil in medium Dutch oven over high heat until it shimmers. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper. Place chicken in the pan, in batches, top-side down. Cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Turn over, continue cooking 3 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate.
Add peppers to Dutch oven and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the vinegar and cook until reduced by half. Add honey and broth, season with salt and pepper, cook for 5 minutes.
Return the chicken and accumulated juices to the pot. Reduce heat to medium, cover the pot, and cook until the chicken is tender, about 15 minutes.
Remove the chicken to a platter. Cook sauce until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Stir in parsley and pour sauce over the chicken.
Note: I substituted a dozen pheasant thighs and the result was more than satisfactory.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 380 calories, 28 grams carbohydrates, 30 grams protein, 115 milligrams cholesterol, 16 grams fat.

Barbecued Pork Chops

You don’t have to go Kansas City or Memphis for fall-apart barbecued pork these days. Just about every large restaurant across the country has either baby back ribs or pulled pork on its menu. But you can have them in your own home just as easy.

bbqporkchopsThese pork chops are baked to perfection, moist and full of flavor. Sticky and sweet, they also are easy to prepare on a busy day. They would be excellent with coleslaw and beans, but my favorite way is with mashed potatoes, whole-kernel corn and baked winter squash.

Barbecued Pork Chops
4 pork chops, any kind
4 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons cider vinegar
4 tablespoons, Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1 small, dried cayenne pepper, chopped
1 cup ketchup
1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
Saute the onion, garlic and celery in olive oil. Add remaining ingredients except pork chops. Bring to a boil then simmer sauce until thickened. Place pork chops in Dutch oven and cover with barbecue sauce. Place in preheated 325-degree oven. Bake for 2 to 3 hours or until meat falls apart. Serve with mashed potatoes, whole-kernel corn and baked squash.
Note: For added flavor, you can add some commercial barbecue sauce such as KC Masterpiece.



Hearty Winter Soup

There’s not much argument that vegetables are good for you. Most are rich in vitamins and minerals and have benefits that go well beyond nutrition. The cruciferous ones, such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, are considered “superfoods” because they have been shown to fight cancer and other diseases.

rootsoupAnd root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, parsnips and rutabagas deserve special mention, too. They are among the most concentrated sources of vitamins and minerals available to us. They also are starchy vegetables, which means they will fill you up quite well if you eat enough of them.  Yet they are far easier to digest than starches such as breads.

That’s why most soups that I make are loaded with crucifers and roots, such as the one I made the other night. It contained carrots, cabbage, rutabagas and turnips as well as tomatoes, onion and celery. Cooked in a nice pheasant broth, the soup was the perfect supper on a night when an Alberta Clipper was zooming through the Red River Valley.

Hearty Winter Soup
2 cups cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 pint whole tomatoes
1 small rutabaga, cubed
2 turnips, cubed
4 carrots, sliced thinly
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 can tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
Put all ingredients in stock pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 1 to 2 hours, until vegetables are cooked through. Serve with crusty bread or crackers.

Chicken and Dumplings

A meal of chicken and dumplings is good any time of the year, but the combo is especially welcome when the temperatures fall before the freezing mark, as has been the case for the past couple of months.

dumpchickenI’ve always been a fan of chicken and dumplings. Some of the best I’ve had were back before the Flood of 1997, at the old Whitey’s in East Grand Forks, Minn. A group of my co-workers at the Herald used to go to the restaurant on almost a weekly basis for the noon chicken and dumplings special.

I got to thinking fondly about those trips the other day, when deciding to make a chicken and dumplings meal. A recipe in my Fanny Farmer cookbook provided a starting point. I pretty much followed the recipe, which follows, except for a couple of changes, and the result was quite tasty.

Chicken with Dumplings
4 chicken breasts
4 carrots, sliced thin
1 cup frozen peas
2 stalks celery with leaves, sliced thin
1 large onion, chopped
1½ teaspoons thyme, crumbled
½ teaspoon rosemary, crumbled
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup flour
½ cup bread crumbs
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg, well beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon minced parsley
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Put chicken in a large pot and cover with water. Add all of the vegetables except the peas. Cover and bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Combine the flour, bread crumbs, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Stir to mix. In another bowl, lightly beat the egg, melted butter and milk together. Stir into the dry ingredients to make a stiff batter. Stir in the parsley and pepper. When the chicken has simmered 20 minutes, add the peas. Then drop spoonfuls of dough on top of bubbling broth. Cover and steam for 20 minutes without lifting the cover. Serve.