Friday, 21 March 2014

Chicken Creole

A spicy Louisiana dish with traditional flavours from the Deep South

Having been set the challenge of coming up with some healthy, yet authentic-tasting versions of dishes from the USA, this is where I'm starting - because you can't go far wrong with chicken, onions, peppers and tomatoes as a base, and a bit of a kick!

Traditionally, this would be made with chicken portions (with skin on), but to cut the calories, I've used skinless chicken breasts (or half-breasts, as those from the USA would call them!) and cut down the oil and butter in the sauce. And you know what... I doubt you'd even be able to tell the sauce was lower fat, because it has all the flavour!

This serves four, at 203 calories per portion and is simple to make, and a great family meal.

The amount of cayenne I've put in, gives you a dish which I would rate at 'medium'. So reduce or increase to suit your palate! Calories in square brackets.

  • Four chicken breast portions (450g) [495 calories]
  • 1 tsp oil [45]
  • 1 tsp / 5g butter (use oil if cooking dairy free) [37]
  • 1 medium onion (100g), diced [41]
  • 1 small stick celery, cut into two or three lengthwise, then sliced (70g) [7]
  • 1 medium green pepper, diced (100g) [26]
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed/finely chopped [12]
  • 50ml white wine (substitute chicken stock for Paleo/clean eating) [33]
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes [100]
  • 1/4 level tsp cayenne pepper (or use hot chilli powder) [1]
  • 2 sprigs of thyme, or 1/4 tsp dried [1]
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 level tsp cornflour (optional, omit for Paleo) [12]
  • Handful flat leaf parsley, chopped, or 1 tsp dried (reserve some fresh parsley for garnish) [2]

1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6 /  200C / 400F.Heat a large, heavy-based, non-stick pan over a high heat, and add the oil when hot. Add the chicken breasts, and briefly brown for a couple of minutes, then remove and place in an oven-proof dish, just big enough to hold them in one layer.

2. Turn the heat down to medium, then add the butter to the pan and swirl around. Add the onions and celery and cook for 5 minutes, trying not to colour, then add the green pepper for a further two minutes. Add the garlic and bay, and stir in for 30 seconds, then add the wine and stir again for another 30 seconds.

3. Add the chopped tomatoes, cayenne, thyme, parsley (if using dried - if using fresh wait until near the end), freshly ground black pepper and 1 level tsp fine sea salt. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down and continue to simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Halfway through, mix the cornflour with 1 tbsp cold water (if using), and quickly stir through the tomatoes (this will stop you getting tomato-y watery liquids separating from the sauce when you serve it). If at any point the sauce starts to really dry out, just add a little boiling water, although you shouldn't need to. You should have a reasonably thick sauce by the end.

Pour the sauce over the chicken, and put into the middle of the (pre-heated) oven. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through (try not to over-cook, or it will become dry). The cooking time will depend on the size and thickness of your dish, and the accuracy of your oven temperature, so be sure to check around 15 minutes, just in case!

If using fresh parsley, stir through before serving, then serve scattered with the reserved fresh parsley. Serve with steamed rice, or cauliflower rice if you want to keep the calories down, and a green salad.

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