|Chicken and Andouille Etouffee|
Are you surprised?
Most people are. In fact, when friends ask me for recipe advice, the number one thing they want to learn how to cook is chicken. My immediate response is, "Why would you want to cook chicken?"
Not only do they want to cook chicken, but th cut is usually boneless, skinless chicken breast that while low in fat, is utterly tasteless. Especially grocery store chicken, which as a general rule, has been pumped full of water as to render it the blandest protein of all time.
And if you aren't buying fresh organic, hormone-free chicken from a trusted source like Healthy Family Farms, CSA (my local Farmers Market source), then you might be cooking what I consider to be the most shudder-inducing meat you could possibly cook. God knows from what chicken factory farm it emerged. It's no wonder handling raw chicken prompts a gag reflex in many people. We've been taught to handle it like it's actual toxic waste.
This also accounts for the utter blandness of chicken. Unlike duck or other bird game proteins, we've been taught to cook chicken all the way through, or risk gastroenteritis, or far worse. However, when I was traveling in Japan earlier this year, I had my first taste of chicken sashimi (yup, raw chicken) at a little kaseiki place called Grotto in Kyoto that was run by an adorable pot-bellied chef. Seasoned with a just a little salt, it was a chicken revelation. Who knew that chicken could taste like that?
Ok, so I wouldn't risk this in the U.S. for the above stated reasons. But I just want to open your eyes to chicken and all it's possibilities. So back to the bland boneless, skinless American chicken breast. Here's the deal, I LOVE roast chicken, believing it to be one of the best meals known to mankind. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if many a death row inmate requested it for their last meal. But it's so good because it's cooked with bones and fat and skin, all seasoning the meat as it becomes fork tender in the oven, and often topped with rich gravy.
Once you strip all the wonderful, flavorful ingredients away, you're left with the chicken breast. I think that most people want to learn to cook chicken because they believe it to be 1) healthy and 2) safe. Its flavorless-ness is precisely what draws them to it. All of this is my long-winded way to say that when tackling boneless, skinless chicken breast, you need to work hard to infuse it with flavor. And I'm always looking for new ideas for how to achieve this.
Last month, while flipping through my Food & Wine magazine, one of my favorite publications, and not just because they sponsor Top Chef, I came across a recipe for "Chicken and Andouille Etouffee." I love Cajun food - the spice, the flavor, the combination of ingredients that make your taste buds stand up and salute - and so this inspired me. Typically, etouffee is made with shellfish, like shrimp (my recipe here), but I loved the idea of making it with chicken and andouille sausage.
I made a few alterations to the recipe. Instead of the classic pork andouille sausage, I used a healthier chicken andouille sausage (Applegate Farms makes a great organic version that I love, and Trader Joe's is now carrying chicken andouille sausages, too). I also chose to plate the dish over a long grain brown rice instead of the traditional white rice. As a side dish, I served Spiced Okra that I'd roasted in the oven (see recipe here).
I loved this recipe. Not only is it a healthy meal, but it really made the chicken flavorful with its combination of spices and flavors. The final addition to the meal? Some jalapeno hot sauce to really make it sing.
Chicken and Andouille Etouffee
Adapted from Food & Wine magazine, September 2010
Serves 6 people
Cooking time: 40 minutes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
2 celery ribs, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
salt and black pepper
1 chicken andouillle sausage (about 3 ounces), cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch slices
Steamed brown rice and hot sauce, for serving
In a large, deep skillet heat he oil until shimmering. Whisk in the flour and cook over moderately high heat whisking constantly, until light browned, about 2 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic. Season the vegetables with salt and black pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened.
Add the sausage and tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Add the broth and simmer until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the chicken and simmer until cooked through, 5 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper and serve over the rice, with hot sauce. Enjoy!
Source for Ingredients
andouille sausages, organic boneless, skinless chicken breast, jalapeno hot sauce, organic green bell peppers, organic tomato paste, long grain brown rice, and organic low-sodium chicken broth from Trader Joe's
organic onions, organic garlic, organic celery from West Hollywood Farmers Market