Cave-Chicken Casserole (Introducing “The Cooking Irishman”)

25 Mar
Cave-Chicken Casserole: I love me some cave-chicken!

Cave-Chicken Casserole: I love me some cave-chicken!

Champ: “Do you know what they call bats?”
Ron: “Bats!?”
Champ: “Chicken of the cave”
Ron: “No one calls them chicken of the cave”…

After careful investigation I later discovered that, in fact, bats are not known as “Chicken of the cave”!

I was however left with a hankering for some chicken… just not the deep-fried, fast food, could possibly be a bat, kind of chicken. With last week’s article on the Paleo Diet still fresh in my mind, and with the necessity of having to feed my family  (Mam, Dad and four hungry Man-boys) for dinner, I set about rustling up a Paleo-Chicken caserole that would make any prehistoric foodie whip out his iPhone and Instagram the s#!t out of that foodgasm (I’m not sure if “foodgasm” is an appropriate word to use but I really think it’s the word a prehistoric hunter-gatherer would whisper, with his eyes closed in ecstasy, upon tasting this paleo-poultry.

(I really enjoyed writing that last paragraph 😀 )

On top of all that, I’ve also wanted to write a recipe post for a while. I love food blogs and this is my chance to spread my writing wings a little and try something new… (it’s fairly obvious I haven’t been dancing for a while, right!)

Cave-Chicken Casserole
The chicken used in this recipe neither lived in a cave nor was a creepy, flying mammal. It gets it’s name from the fact that everything used in the recipe is Paleo Diet (otherwise known as the Caveman Diet) friendly . Can I get a “Wuhoo”?

It’s high in protein, high in fat (none of which are damaged or refined), high in fiber and antioxidants, low in carbs, dairy-free, grain-free and gluten free. It also taste’s like what the God’s of Mount Olympus eat every Tuesday night… you know, the night they all make sure they’re home early so they can get an extra large helping of this awesomeness. It’s that good!

And I think that’s the important thing about this. I call this recipe “Paleo” because it fits in with the guidelines of some famous diet, but the truth is that this is just a healthy and importantly, delicious meal. I wouldn’t change anything about it. There is no need to add non-paleo ingredients to it because it is just THAT good. I might play around with the spices but that would be for a different taste experience. Trust me, I know my food!

The recipe is at the end but the pictures will give you an idea of how it all comes together. You’ll also notice that I cooked loads. This made 9 portions, so it fed everyone for dinner and had plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day (because I’m lazy and didn’t want to cook again).

Materials & Method
(Yes, I’m a science nerd). Cut up some carrots into bite-sized chunks. Chuck ’em in a big casserole dish!

Mmm, cavemen love carrots. Reminds them of their clubs!

Mmm, cavemen love carrots. Reminds them of their clubs!

Next, cut some onions into quarters, separate the layers and chuck em’ into the casserole dish. I got fancy and used half yellow onions and half red onions. Yes, I’m that fancy.

Chickens love onions... Fa

Chickens love onions… Fact!

Next up I added some quartered button mushrooms but you can add whatever type you want. Chestnut or portobello would be great. I really recommend using mushrooms as they really add to the flavor of the sauce when cooked… unless you’re allergic to mushrooms. In that case don’t add them… that would be stupid.

I killed all these mushrooms myself. Super Mario would be so proud... or horrified... I can't remember.

I killed all these mushrooms myself. Super Mario would be so proud… or horrified… I can’t remember.

Next, chop up some bell peppers into chunks. I once again went with my theme of using two different colours. Aren’t I artistic? At this point I realized that the dish was getting pretty full.

On a related note, red and green are the colours of my village's Gaelic Football team. Nice!

On a related note, red and green are the colours of my village’s Gaelic Football team. Nice!

Some of you may disagree with my next choice. I finely chopped two sticks of celery and add that to the veggie mix. Here’s the thing, if you ask anyone in my house what they think of celery they will all say that they hate it. I can’t blame them. It’s not on the top of anyone’s favorite foods list. However, used as a seasoning agent, it adds a savory depth to the flavor of many meat dishes. I started adding it to my lasagnas and now my lasagnas are pretty damn spectacular. Anyway, just chop it up finely and no-one needs to know.

It'll be our little secret ;-)

It’ll be our little secret 😉

For a final, antioxidant-punch I added a chopped up head of broccoli, one of my favorite vegetables (when it’s cooked well). It doesn’t seem I will be fitting much chicken into this casserole dish.

Studies have shown that when cavemen went "courting" they would rub themselves with broccoli to attract mates. True story!

Studies have shown that when cavemen went “courting” they would rub themselves with old broccoli to attract mates. True story!

Next, I needed to make the sauce, the main ingredients of which are coconut milk, tomato puree and seasoning.

Coconut milk has become a staple in my kitchen.

Coconut milk has become a staple in my kitchen.

So to make the sauce, in a separate jug, I mixed up the coconut milk, tomato puree, oregano, a full head of chopped garlic, cayenne pepper for a little kick, sea salt and a generous dose of freshly ground black pepper. If you have it I would also add the juice of half or a whole lemon. Citric acid is a great flavor enhancer. Once mixed together, it came out looking a little like this…

The coconut milk and tomato puree are the two most processed ingredients in this entire recipe. The Gods of Paleo are smiling upon me.

The coconut milk and tomato puree are the two most processed ingredients in this entire recipe. The Gods of Paleo are smiling upon me.

At this point, the one very full dish was worrying me so I snapped my fingers and…

Holy crap. How'd he do that?

Holy crap. How’d he do that?

Next comes the part everyone’s been waiting for. To satisfy the beast-like appetites of my family, I added a beast-like… beast!? Anyway, I threw in some chicken thigh joints on top of the veggies. I recommend using thighs for a few reasons. The meat of the thigh is higher in fat than the breast and so tastes better. The bones in the legs, once they get cooked, add much more flavor to the sauce than chicken breast alone can. They look a lot better once they’re all cooked (you’ll see the photo later) and to top it off, it’s much cheaper than buying chicken breast. However, if you want to go with chicken breast for convenience, go for it. The same goes for other cave-beasts too: cave-pig, cave-sheep, cave-cow etc. As you can see in the photo, I left the skin on but you can remove it before cooking (just give it a firm tug) if you want to reduce the fat content of the dish.

I also tracked and hunted these chicken thighs myself. I have no idea how they were getting around without being attached to the rest of the chicken.

I also tracked and hunted these chicken thighs myself. I have no idea how they were getting around without being attached to the rest of the chicken.

We’re almost there folks. Next I just poured the sauce haphazardly over the chicken and veggies. If you want to slather the sauce over the meat more evenly, go for it. I like to slather… or maybe I just like saying “slather”. I’ll stop now. It will appear that you don’t have enough sauce, don’t panic. Stay calm and add a little extra water into the bottom of the casserole dishes (I used less than  500 ml of extra water between both dishes).

It will look like you don't have enough sauce but don't worry, I got your back!

It will look like you don’t have enough sauce but don’t worry, I got your back!

The last step before cooking is to cover the dishes, this will keep keep steam in the dish and prevent the sauce from condensing too much. If you have tight fitting lids for your dishes, perfect, if not, use aluminium foil sealed tightly around the sides. I don’t like using aluminium foil but sometimes it really is indispensable.

Look at how well I covered that!

Look at how well I covered that!

Now, if we were real cavemen we would collect wood, build a fire using a piece of flint and throw the casserole dish into the fire. We, however, are more civilized than that. We’ll use science (hurrah!)  and put the dish into into a preheated oven at 170° C for about two to two and a half hours. You don’t need to stir it or mess with, just leave the magic fire box do its work and you should get something that looks a little like this:

Oh yeah, that's the money shot right there.

Oh yeah, that’s the money shot right there.

As you can see, all the coconut-tomat0 mix has sunk down to the vegetables and mixed with the juices from the chicken meat and bones to make a sauce that would bring a tear to a caveman’s eye.

The chicken served with the veggies is a meal in itself but if you feel the necessity for extra carbs, it goes great with roasted sweet potato.

Ingredient List
For those of you who at this stage are probably going bonkers due to me not mentioning the exact quantities of my ingredients, here the list (people like lists):

  • Carrots: 6 med-large
  • Onions: 4 small-med
  • Mushrooms: ~500g
  • Bell peppers: 2 large
  • Celery: 2 large sticks
  • Broccoli: 1 large head (~400g)
  • Chicken legs & thighs: 9 (~2.8kg)

Sauce:

  • Coconut Milk: 2 cans (400ml each)
  • Tomato paste: 1 tube (200g)
  • Oregano: ~2 tsp
  • Garlic: 1 head
  • Cayenne Pepper: ~2 tsp
  • Black Pepper: ~2 tsp
  • Salt: 1-2 tsp
  • Lemon juice: ~whole lemon (optional)

 

Nutritional Breakdown
I used the USDA Nutrient Database to help me calculate the nutrient values for this meal. If you tend to get a little OCD about food I recommend staying away from this site, it’s got soooo much information.

Each portion of cave-chicken casserole contains approximately:

  • Calories: 695
  • Fat: 45g
  • Protein: 47g
  • Carbs: 33g
  • Fiber: 7g

On top of that it’s bursting with antioxidants and phytonutrients from the mini vegetable garden we chopped up at the start. Packed with high quality protein and the fat is saturated (which is not “bad” as it has been demonized to be over the years) and a lot of it consists of medium-chain triglycerides from the coconut milk, which are easily metabolized for energy. I personally would have this, as is (i.e. no extra carbs on the side) on a low-carb day as it’s a little high in fat so avoiding carbs will help you to avoid wearing them later 😉 .

The Cooking Irishman
And that’s that. My first endeavor into the world of recipe blogging. May it be the first of many. A very healthy, very paleo feast for all you wanna-be cavemen and cavewomen out there. I hope you like.

On another note I’m aware that my photos don’t look quite as sexy as the ones you can see on Food Porn Daily but I’ll try and improve for the next one. Promise.

Eat well, folks.

**********************************************************************

Have you been working-out lately? Because you look spectacular 🙂 If you liked this article go ahead and share it with your friends via the Facebook or Twitter buttons below and if you use Stumbleupon please give it a “Thumbs Up”. I’d really appreciate it 😉

 

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One Response to “Cave-Chicken Casserole (Introducing “The Cooking Irishman”)”

  1. david March 28, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    wow, that looks really good, specially that sauce, i’m trying it this weekend…

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Fiona Uyema

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