Go Gluten-Free with Chicken Ratatouille
Cast iron is an excellent conductor of heat, and most skillets or casseroles moulded from this metal are apt to outlast an individual owner. While American pioneer history and fable have made the skillet famous, that wasn’t the first culture to use this fantastic cooking method. They simply used it more than anyone else. Today, seasoned and unseasoned cast iron cookware is available for purchase online, so if an heirloom skillet isn’t in your future, you can still purchase and enjoy the wide variety of dishes that can be made using cast iron.
One of today’s concerns is a rising awareness of Celiac and other immune system issues that render people sensitive to gluten. Want to know what’s most magical about cast iron cookware? You can make any number of gluten free dishes in the same pan or casserole. They come out cooked to perfection with very little effort on your part. If you’re anxious to try something new, whether you’re intentionally avoiding gluten or not, try our spin on Masterchef Adam Liaw’s inspired Chicken Ratatouille. It’s delicious and the whole family will enjoy it.
• Salt and cracked black pepper
• 5 sprigs thyme
• 3/4 c fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonnade*
• 5 cloves garlic, chopped
• 2 large sweet onions, chopped roughly
• 3 zucchini, sliced into 2 cm pieces
• 1 eggplant, chopped roughly
• 2 red capsicums, chopped roughly
• 2.5 cups of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved.
• ¼ olive oil
• 5 Butcherman Chicken Thighs, with skin intact
First, cut your chicken thighs in half and generously season with salt and cracked black pepper. In a large skillet or cast iron pan, heat the olive oil on high. You’ll use this to brown the chicken on all sides, allowing a nice crust to form. Remove the chicken and set it aside, once this is done.
Then, sauté the onion and garlic until the aromatic oils are released. Add your vegetables and brown them thoroughly, stirring to ensure they’re combined. Once this is done, nestle the chicken pieces in the vegetable ratatouille with the skin side up. Simmer for eight to ten minutes until the chicken is cooked thoroughly.
Finally, remove your pan from the heat and allow the dish to stand for ten minutes, so that the flavours combine and the chicken is tender. You can serve the entire skillet at the table, but be sure to rest it on a heatproof trivet. Garnish with your basil leaves.
*A chiffonnade is easily accomplished with fresh basil leaves. Wash and pat dry the leaves, stacking them together. Then, roll them tightly along their long axis. Use a sharp knife to cut across the leaves like a jellyroll.
Origins & Exploration
Ratatouille, as the name indicates, has its origins in southern France, around the present day city of Nice. In the beginning, as with so many delicious dishes, it was prepared by poor farmers who made the most of the fresh summer vegetables available to them. In fact, the very name of the dish comes from the French word touiller, which simply means “to toss.”
But it is no older than the 16th century, in spite of older parent dishes that are known in the area. The Age of Exploration brought both the tomato and the eggplant—both members of the Solanaceae family, and thought originally to be poisonous. That they appear almost immediately in peasant fare of the day is an indicator that the poor could not afford to be selective, and often functioned as gustatory guinea pigs.
As is often the case, many of todays most satisfying and healthy dishes originated as peasant fare in various regions. Ratatouille originally consisted of zucchini, green and red sweet peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and onions, and was likely a way to use vegetables that could not be sold. In modern incarnations, eggplant has been included, often because of its brilliant colour contrast, nutritional content, and the tendency for the flesh to absorb the flavours of other spices and ingredients.
This dish is truly a cosmopolitan affair—with versions in many cultures from the Basque region to Italy. It may incorporate any fresh vegetables available—from aromatics like celery to spicy peppers readily available in many areas. While it was originally a vegetarian affair—served as a side dish alone, or over a starch, such as rice, potatoes, or bread—the current availability of meat and poultry combined with a cultural affinity for it, have made it into something new.