Comfort Chicken Chasseur (and it’s gluten-free)

The food: Chicken Chasseur

Chicken Chasseur Hungry Novelist Style

The story:

Fall has arrived (begone, overly hot, overly long summer!), and while I dislike the cold weather as much as the next person – no, wait. I like cold weather. Or rather, I like cool sunny days of the autumnal variety. I like turning off the a/c and NOT turning on the furnace. I like putting the hot water bottle into play at bedtime. I like jumping back into the local literary scene at Toronto’s Word on the Street festival at the end of September.

Guest speakers Luba Lesychyn and Emily Niedoba at one of the talks I hosted at the WOTS Scribendi Wordshop Marquee featuring the Humber School of Writers

And I like bringing back to the regular home cooking rotation fall/winter comfort food dishes like Chicken Chasseur (poulet chasseur, more properly, but I work from the Joy of Cooking recipe I’ve used for years, the one that is amusingly and Americanishly titled “Hunter’s Chicken, Chicken Cacciatore or Chasseur”: take your pick.)

The recipe suggests serving the chicken, which is cooked in a wine-scented, mushroomy, tomato-rich sauce – over boiled spaghetti (wtf?). But in a nod to my multicultural origins (and cooking influences) I serve it over Japanese white rice, and top it with challah croutons for gluten-eaters and rice bread croutons for the gluten-free among us.

Gluten-Free Chicken Chasseur Hungry Novelist Style
(adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

Rinse and dry with paper towels:
4 half chicken breasts, bone-in

Dredge with:
3-4 T. cornstarch

Saute till golden brown in a large saucepan in:
3-4 T. olive oil
2-3 shallots, peeled and minced

Mix and add to the pan:
1 small can tomato paste (about 1/2 cup)
1 c. dry white wine
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 and 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf, 1/2 tsp. thyme, 1/2 tsp. marjoram
2 Tbsp. brandy or cognac

Simmer mixture, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour until chicken is tender and sauce has thickened nicely. Keep an eye on it to ensure it doesn’t burn. If too thick, thin with a little more chicken stock or wine.

Meanwhile, saute 2 c. sliced mushrooms in olive oil until browned and tender.

Make steamed rice.

Make croutons by frying 1 slice per serving of bread (of your choice) in 1 Tbsp. olive oil until browned and fragrant. Fry gluten-free bread slices in a separate pan from gluten-full bread, obvi. Cut fried bread into crouton-sized pieces.

When chicken is tender, remove breasts from sauce, cut meat from bone and into bite-size pieces/shreds, discard bones, and return chicken pieces to sauce. Stir in sauteed mushrooms and keep mixture warm.

To serve, place a mound of cooked steamed rice on a plate, top with 4-6 croutons, and pour a ladleful of chicken and mushrooms in sauce over top of both.

Serves 4-6.


Luba Lesychyn Answers the Hungry Novelist Questionnaire

Soon after finishing her graduate studies in history, Luba Lesychyn landed on the doorstep of Canada’s largest museum, the Royal Ontario Museum, where she worked for more than twenty years. Life after working at a museum included completing the Humber College Creative Writing program. Her debut novel, Theft By Chocolate, is a sassy museum mystery about a woman looking for chocolate, love and an international art thief in all the wrong places. The book was ePublished in May 2012 by the UK digital publishing company, Attica Books, and the novel is now also available in print. Luba currently works in the educational sector and teaches yoga in her home town of Toronto.



What’s going on in your writing life right now?

Having just published Theft By Chocolate, I have been focusing on promoting the book and writing masses of posts for my extensive blog tour. In addition, the next installment to Theft By Chocolate is playing out in my head and I am so looking forward to doing the research for it as it will involve consuming copious amounts of chocolate, hopefully around the world.

What’s your writing routine?

Upon waking, I laze in bed for about a half hour and do my imagining and creating. I then like to get active, i.e. running or going to the gym, yoga, etc. Only then can I settle down in front of a computer and get my fingers tapping on a keyboard. Even though I break between my creating and writing, I always trust that my best ideas will stay with me until it’s time to get them up on a computer screen.

What do you usually eat for breakfast?

As I am in the habit of eating or snacking late in the evenings, I tend not to be ravenous in the morning. So, I start my day with a home-made vegetable or fruit smoothie to which is added a vegan protein powder, powdered sea vegetables, açai, maqui berry, and greens. It’s 100% organic and super tasty. That gets me through my workout. Following the workout, I’ll have a banana and a quinoa power bar or almonds. I know, sounds far too healthy. That’s why I don’t feel too guilty when I snack on chocolate later in the day.

What good books have you read recently?

Still Alice by Lisa Genova about a victim of early onset Alzheimer’s. It was heart-wrenching and told so skillfully and authentically. The down side to reading this book is that anytime you accidentally put something in the wrong place, you begin to wonder if you should have yourself tested. I’m currently reading Lucille Duff Gordon’s A Woman of Temperament. This remarkable woman created one of the first fashion empires, paved the way for women to become entrepreneurs, and broke through many Victorian barriers. She also, invented the catwalk as we know it today, was a single mother, has some Canadian connections, and if that weren’t enough, she survived the sinking of the Titanic. I’ve been spending so much time promoting my book with very little time to read, so this account has been such a great escape as it transports me to another world.

What did you eat for dinner last night?

First let me explain that I eat my main meal during the day, usually later afternoon. So dinner to me is what others might consider a snack. I had dried kale chips with baba ganoush. I never seem to tire of that combo.

Writing rules you live by:

Always keep honing your craft and listen to your mentors, even when you it’s difficult to admit they’re right! [Haha, way to suck up, but I like it – HN.]

A scene you’ve written that features food:

Chocolate is obviously a primary theme in my book, so it was hard to pick just one scene, but a representative passage starts with my lead character Kalena Boyko receiving a gift of Jeff de Bruges chocolates from her colleague, Brenda, who’s trying to cheer her up.

A favorite restaurant:

I was in Rome last fall and I was a little skeptical when I read in a guide book about the oldest and best pizzeria in Rome. But I was exhausted and the location was not far from my hotel, so I headed to what I expected to be an uninspiring tourist trap.

Possessing the worst internal GPS and wandering in a city with winding and twisted streets, it was a miracolo I even found the street for which I was searching. Dal Ricci was what I was looking for, but the sign at the noted address read Est! Est! Est! I looked up the restaurant once again in the guide book and there it was, “Dal Ricci, aka Est! Est! Est!” Whatever.

I snagged the last outdoor table available even though the establishment had just opened for dinner five minutes before. The universe was with me as it was a perfect night in the Eternal City. And no one was more surprised than I when served a rainbow colored salad, far superior to what most Roman restaurants offer. And the pizza, well, it was worth the trip to Italia. I ordered a vegetable pizza and it came loaded – and I mean loaded. It was saltier than what I am accustomed to, but once my palette adjusted, I was in paradise.

It was my last evening in Rome, so no doggie bags for me. I ate the whole thing and found myself in explode-mode. But I was also determined to have one last piece of tiramisu before heading back to Toronto. Luckily for me, it was a version that was so light it could have floated away.

What’s your idea of comfort food and comfort reading:

Comfort food: Chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate (really).

Comfort reading: I’ve made it a habit to read, over and over again, Gary Zukav’s Soul to Soul Meditations: Daily Reflections for Spiritual Growth. I love waking up and consuming a few pages of Zukav’s wise words. It really helps set the tone for my day.

What do you do when not writing, eating, or reading?

When not working at my survivor job or looking for my next chocolate fix, I can be found in dance classes, doing body combat workouts, trekking to remote waterfalls in the mountain rain forest in Puerto Rico, running through the streets of Paris, or any other number of calorie-burning activities that help offset my chocolate intake. I can also be found far too often in the darkness of movie theatres as I love film even more than I do food, if that’s possible. I’ve been blogging about film before the term even existed, sharing my experiences at the annual Toronto International Film Festival with my readers. This year, people can follow me on Twitter for daily tweets about TIFF 2012. My twitter handle is @LubaLesychyn.