Friday, September 2, 2011

who needs wheat?

Sometimes now when I look at older recipes, both mine and those of others, I am dumbfounded at how often we add gluten when it doesn't even add to the dish, certainly not substantially. The same holds true with dairy and soy, though I'm still holding fast to my right to whine where heavy cream and luscious cheeses are concerned. I'm thinking of this today partly because I'm reviewing dozens of my own chicken dishes and partly, too, because I recently read a comment from a newly diagnosed young mother who is cooking separate meals for her family and looking for better options.

When I look at my old notes---I don't often write recipes per se, at least not for my own use---I notice wheat flour and bread crumbs in most dishes. Few, if any, of these need the wheat. It was just always our go to grain. It was just there. It almost feels quaint now and a little foolish that I never questioned it. It would not have occurred to me that breading didn't have to be wheat or that gravy didn't have to start wit a wheat flour roux. Of course, I was familiar with corn meal or arrowroot or corn starch for these uses, but they never seemed adequate, and I never thought of any as good substitutes. Still, that was then, this is now, and I'm delighted to see that wheat is almost always replaceable with something, often something better.

For many, many dishes, sweet rice flour makes a beautiful sauce or gravy. It can even be used as you would wheat flour to make a roux with oil, pan drippings, or butter if you can use it. If you haven't tried sweet rice flour, you're in for a pleasant surprise. It is milled from short-grained, sticky rice, so it's more glutinous than that from long grained rice, making perfect as a thickener.

One way to use sweet rice flour when preparing crock pot dishes that adds a good deal of flavor is to dredge the meat in the flour and then brown it in small batches. Chicken pieces are especially good this way. Though they can be tossed into the crock pot raw with good results, coating the pieces in rice flour and browning first by sauteeing them on the stove in oil is worth the extra effort. When using whole chickens, sprinkling the rice flour over them before placing in the crock pot also works well. Whole chickens will usually brown nicely on their own in the crock pot.

With almost any recipe, you can mix the spices, herbs, salt, and pepper with the rice flour first and then use this mix to coat your chicken pieces before browning. Any unused seasoned flour should be added to the crock pot to flavor and thicken the dish.

Chicken Chile Verde is quick and easy in the crock pot. This dish can be made more or less firey by adjusting the quantity of hot peppers. Remember to check them when your cutting them if using fresh jalapeno or serrano  peppers. The heat varies so much from one to another that some may taste like bell peppers and others set your mouth on fire. I usually cut off the stem and touch the stem end, the part headed for the compost bucket, to my tongue. Do NOT do this if you are particularly sensitive to to hot and spicy foods. If you're really in a hurry, skip the browning step and layer all ingredients in crock pot. Browning adds to the flavor, but the dish is still very good without it. This recipe can easily be doubled. Note, too, that by leaving out the rice flour, which is in the dish to thicken primarily, this fits into a Paleo plan.
  • 1 onion, sliced or diced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 cans, about 8 ounces, of mild whole or diced chiles
  • 1 15 ounce can tomatillos, drain most of the liquid
  • 2 to 4 serrano or jalapeno chiles, or a few tablespoons canned
  • 4 ounces chicken broth
  • 2 ounces sweet rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons oil
  • 8 chicken thighs, cut in eighths (boneless, skinless thighs make it easier)
  1. Mix rice flour with dried herbs, salt & pepper. Add chicken pieces and mix well to coat.
  2. Brown onions and chicken pieces in a small amount of oil.
  3. Place chiles, garlic, and tomatillos in crock pot with any leftover flour mixture. Add browned chicken and onions.
  4. Pour broth evenly over top.
  5. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.
  6. Check seasoning, add more salt and pepper if desired.
This is great served with rice, gluten-free tortillas, noodles, mashed cauliflower, or spaghetti squash.
Add a garnish of avocado slices, finely sliced green onions, and sour cream (if dairy works for you.)

More crock pot recipes to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We'd love to hear what you think about this?