After a quick sear and a long simmer, the chicken in this ragu will melt in your mouth. A little wine adds flavor to the sauce (a glass for the chef doesn’t hurt either!) and the fact that this dish is economical is the icing on the cake (or the cheese on your spaghetti…)
I like to use boneless skinless chicken thighs for this dish. They are butterflied open (making them thin and quicker cooking) and the dark meat is so tender and flavorful. Not to mention that thighs are much cheaper than breasts. Lightly season the meat and pan sear both sides. You aren’t trying to cook the chicken through, you just want a little brown on them. The meat will finish cooking (and fall to shreds) in the sauce.
Once you’ve got the meat browned (you may need to cook the pieces in batches) it’s time for the onions. Don’t worry about any chicken or brown bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan – put the onions right on top. Moisture from the onions will help pull some of it up (and a douse of red wine will finish the rest!) Cook the onions for about 10 minutes, or until softened.
Time to reach for the wine (the bottle, not your glass…) and pour in about 1/4 cup to deglaze the pan. Use your spoon to scrape up all the stuck on bits, and then bring the wine up to a simmer. It’s best to let it cook for a few minutes before adding anything else – this will allow the alcohol to cook out and the wine flavor to concentrate. Now you may be wondering what kind of “red” wine to use. Personally, I’m not real picky about wine…in fact, we tend to go with cheap or on sale (or my favorite of all cheap and on sale). Avoid a sweet red, or anything labeled “table wine”. But anything you already have on hand (or wouldn’t mind drinking) will work great.
Now everybody in the pot – tomatoes, chicken stock (boxed stock is perfectly fine here), brown sugar, seasonings and chicken. Stir it up (make sure the chicken is covered) and bring it up to a simmer. Put a lid on the sauce and reduce the heat to low. You want the pot to be slowly simmering – not boiling. One to two bubbles surfacing for second is ideal. After the first hour, you’ll want to remove the lid to allow some of the moisture to evaporate.
For the best results, the chicken needs to simmer for about 3 hours. I know, this is a long time – the long slow cooking helps keep the chicken tender and juicy, while turning it into bite sized shreds. But if you don’t happen to have 3 hours before dinner time, there are a few shortcuts that work great as well. Option 1 – dice up your meat. Obviously smaller pieces cook faster. I would season, sear, them cut into 1 inch pieces. Option 2 – use chicken that’s already cooked. But depending on how the chicken was previously cooked, will yield different results. Leftovers from a Beer Can Chicken, a store bought rotisserie chicken, or meat left from making stock would be best.
Every so often (half hour or so) you will want to give your pot a stir. Your chicken may need a little encouragement – use your spoon to gently break it apart. If you are worried the pieces aren’t shredding in a timely manner, feel free to pull it out and shred with two forks.
Once your chicken has successfully broken down, and your taste buds are drooling, it’s time for the pasta (yay, finally!). I like linguine for this sauce. The flat noodles are more substantial than say an angel hair, and the texture goes well with the sauce. Boil it up, drain it, then add it to the sauce. Let it cook for a few more minutes, to allow the sauce and pasta to become one. To serve, add a little torn basil, parmesan cheese, and fresh black pepper.
- 1 1/2 Lbs. Boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 T. Cajun seasoning
- 1 T. Italian seasoning
- 1 T. Olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 C. Red wine
- 1 C. Chicken stock
- 1 box Pomi strained tomatoes (or large can of pureed tomatoes)
- 1 T. Brown sugar
- 2 tsp. Salt
- 1 tsp. Black pepper
- 1 lb. Linguine
Combine cajun and Italian seasonings and lightly coat both sides of chicken. In a dutch oven, brown chicken in olive oil (do not worry about cooking through). Remove chicken from pan.
In same pot, saute onions until soft. Add in garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Deglaze the pot with the wine. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot. Allow wine to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Add in stock, tomatoes, brown sugar, salt, pepper and chicken. Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce to low.
After 1 hour, remove lid. With a wooden spoon, gently break apart chicken. Simmer for 3 hours. Stir and break up chicken every half hour.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and add to sauce. Allow to cook in sauce for 5 minutes before serving.