One of my favorite dishes, this Cajun Chicken Ragu is a comforting and filling meal that can still be healthy! Typically this calls for bacon and sausage, but even without those two ingredients, this dish is still a hit and packs a ton of flavor and comfort. It also involves a lot of veggies and protein to make a well-rounded dish! Originating from the Cajun/Creole style of cooking, you don't need to go down to New Orleans to enjoy it - it can be made right in your kitchen here in New England.
Many of the ingredients are common ones that can be found in your kitchen pantry. The base of the recipe is the ''Holy Trinity'�of Cajun and Creole Cooking - onions, celery, and bell peppers. However, I am one of those who are not big fans of celery, and I also didn't have it on hand, but feel free to use celery! The beauty of cooking is being able to adjust a recipe and experiment with different ingredients and flavors, or remove them, and still make something fantastic.
This recipe is based off Chef John's blog with outstanding recipes. I omitted a few ingredients from the original recipe, but the full recipe can be found here.
2 Red Bell Peppers, diced (any bell peppers work)
2 medium yellow onions, diced
3 ribs of celery (optional if you don't like celery)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup of flour
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
Black Pepper to taste
Salt to taste½ tsp oregano
1 ½ tsp paprika
½ tsp tsp cayenne (optional)
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
3 Cups COLD chicken broth
3 cups pulled chicken thighs (or chicken breast, whatever you have on hand)
1. Prepare all your vegetables - dice the bell peppers and onions. Mince the garlic
Tip: Use a damp paper towel or tea towel under and place it under your cutting board. This will ensure the cutting board does not slip!
Tip: I like to use a garlic press for the garlic to save time on mincing it
2. In a large pot or high sided pan, heat up 1 ½ TBSP of vegetable oil and sauté the peppers and onion until they turn translucent, on medium heat. Add salt and pepper, to taste, while cooking them.
3. Add in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes (I used a lot of garlic, more than what the recipe calls for - I love garlic!
Tip: Garlic burns easily, make sure to keep an eye on it and not to have the heat on too high. Make sure to stir when you are cooking in garlic.
4. Add the remaining 1 1/2 TBSP of vegetable oil. A roux is being made for the gravy of this dish, and needs some more fat to turn into a delicious gravy base.
5. Sprinkle in the flour to coat the vegetables. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until all the white of the flour is gone. This will also ensure the rawness of the flour is cooked off. It will look like a sticky clump at first, but do not worry - this will become a creamy gravy soon.
6. Add the spices into the vegetable mixture
7. Add in the chicken broth, 1 cup at a time, and stir frequently.
Tip: Make sure the stock is cold! Cold stock poured into the hot roux base will avoid any lumps forming from the flour. It may not look thick right away, but it will thicken up very quickly
8. Raise heat to medium/high and to bring it to a simmer. A simmer is just gentle bubbles starting to form, you do not want to bring it to a rapid boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. By now, it has turned into a savory roux that is ready to coat all the pulled chicken that will be added in soon.
Tip: If the roux coats the back of a spoon, and does not slide off quickly, that is exactly the texture we are going for here. You can also slide a spoon through the mixture - if it makes an indentation and is slow to collapse, that is also a good sign.
9. Add in the Worcestershire Sauce. I always have this ingredient on hand. It adds a meaty, rich flavor on top of the other flavors that are already incorporated.
10. Add in the pulled chicken and simmer until the chicken is heated thoroughly.
Tip: A leftover chicken roast is perfect to shred and use. Both thigh and breast meat can be used. For this recipe, I decided to use thigh meat that I had poached earlier and shredded. I prefer the thigh meat to the breast for flavor and moisture, but the roux will stick nicely to the chicken.
I added in a little too much chicken, but decided to add some more chicken broth in to add more moisture into it.
11. Make sure to taste for seasoning. I needed to add some more salt and pepper, and I also added in more paprika and Cayenne as I like my food spicy. It's always better to add at the end, as you cannot remove an ingredient at the end.
Serve and enjoy! This can be served over rice, or paired with a piece of bread. Or served on it's own like I decided to do. I did not have any fresh herbs to garnish with, but threw a large pinch of red pepper flakes on the top and a dusting of even more cayenne.
Recipe shared by Special Olympics Massachusetts staff member Matt Vaghi