Parents Need to Eat Too

Chicken Puttanesca with Mushrooms

Finally, a chance to do a little real cooking! On Thursday I had a doctor’s appointment in the late afternoon, and instead of returning to work I just went home. I’d thought ahead and defrosted chicken, but I hadn’t thought ahead enough to actually decide what to make. The fridge was nearly devoid of fresh vegetables. There was still a container of Ina’s barbecue sauce, but since I’d already blogged about that and I hadn’t written anything substantial in so long, well…clearly I put your needs ahead of mine! (OK, that may be an exaggeration. I get as much out of the cooking/writing as you do out of the reading—probably more.) The solution would have to come from my pantry, which is pretty well-stocked and recently reorganized.

I poked around and pulled out various items: Pomi chopped tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, anchovy paste (which I heartily recommend—I’m firmly in the anchovy-hating camp, but this stuff virtually disintegrates during cooking, leaving behind a complex, supporting layer of flavor and no fishiness whatsoever), capers…It was beginning to look like a Puttanesca party! I’d never made it before, but I’d certainly eaten enough of the flavorful sauce. It seemed like the kind of thing that could be adapted to a quick chicken braise, rather than just being served on pasta. There were some crimini mushrooms on their way to withering in the crisper, so I tossed them in. The end result was fabulous, rich and hearty, with bursts of intense flavor from the olives and capers—S and I licked our plates.

Note: between the capers and the olives and the anchovy paste, the ingredients struck me as being plenty salty on their own (plus I always cook with kosher chicken, which is saltier than non-kosher). The recipe calls for no salt to be added, and it really didn’t need it. If you leave out any of those three ingredients, or use non-kosher chicken, you may want to add a little.

And another note, for Weight Watchers readers: This is pretty much a Core dish. The anchovy paste probably isn’t core, but it’s so little for the whole dish that I didn’t count it. Olives are non-core, 1 point for 4, so I’m counting that as one point. And the pine nuts on top are 5 points for one ounce—I used much less than an ounce per serving, so I’m counting an additional two points there.

Chicken Puttanesca with Mushrooms
Serves 4, with maybe a little leftover

Olive oil
6 large or 8 small skinless, boneless, chicken breast
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
½ to 1 t. anchovy paste (to taste)
5 oz. crimini or white button mushrooms, quartered
½ to 1 cup chicken broth, as needed
10 sun-dried tomato halves, slivered
15 black olives [I used kalamata], pitted and halved
1 T. capers, drained and rinsed
1 28-oz. can plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juice [I used a carton of Pomi chopped tomatoes]
1 T. fresh thyme leaves
2 T. roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 bay leaves
Tomato paste (optional)
Toasted pine nuts (optional)

In a large dutch oven or stock pot, heat a few glugs of olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown chicken breasts on both sides, in batches so as not to crowd the pot, and remove to a plate. Add onions and sauté three or four minutes, until they begin to brown. Add garlic and sauté another minute, until the fragrance fills the kitchen. Add anchovy paste and stir around to break it up. Add mushrooms and sauté another three or four minutes, until they release some of their liquid. If pan appears too dry and brown bits are sticking, pour in a little chicken broth to release all that good stuff from the bottom of the pot. Add next seven ingredients, and bring to a boil. When mixture boils, return chicken to pot with accumulated juices, pushing the meat beneath the tomato mixture. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and let it bubble away gently for another ten minutes, until chicken is cooked through. If sauce looks to thin, remove cover for the last five minutes and let it cook down, or stir in some tomato paste to thicken. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Serve with your starch of choice—I used Israeli couscous, but it would go equally well with pasta, rice, roasted or mashed potatoes, etc. If desired, top with toasted pine nuts.

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