Chicken Cacciatore

Sometimes I get these ideas that we need to cook new recipes that we have never made and in this case… never eaten. Chicken Cacciatore rolls off the tongue with such panache that for a brief moment you feel compelled to lift your fingers in the air with mock Italian flare (think Joe Pesci in any gangster movie ever made). While researching different recipes, I found out that Chicken Cacciatore translates to “chicken casserole prepared with tomatoes, mushrooms and herbs in the Italian style”. Sounds good to me!

Like any stew, the flavors only get better the longer you let it do its thing on the stove. The meat starts to fall apart as the sauce thickens into a rich broth. The onions and mushrooms provided a nice hearty base for the wine and tomatoes to glom onto. I tossed in 4 or 5 sliced pickled hot peppers and was happily surprised to find that these little buggers added a nice spicy undertone. Piled high atop polenta and garnished with fresh basil, this meal left us impressed and incredibly satiated!

Makes 4-8 servings

1 (2-3 lb) chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces (we used 6 chicken thighs, skin on)
1 3/4 teaspoons table salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, sliced thinly
1/2 cup crimini mushrooms, sliced
5 hot pickled peppers, sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 (28-oz) can whole plum tomatoes in juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 fresh basil, chopped

Accompaniment: polenta, cooked brown rice or buttered noodles

Pat chicken dry and sprinkle on all sides with 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and pepper. Heat oil in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chicken in 2 batches, turning over once, about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken to a plate.

Reduce heat to moderate and add onion, mushrooms, hot peppers and garlic to skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally and scraping up any brown bits, until onion and garlic are golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add wine and simmer, scraping up brown bits, until liquid is reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice and simmer, breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon, 5 minutes. Add chicken stock and nestle chicken pieces in sauce.

Simmer, loosely covered with foil or with lid slightly ajar, until chicken is fork tender, 3o to 4o minutes. Season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. For a thicker sauce, transfer cooked chicken to a platter and keep warm, covered, then boil sauce until it reaches desired consistency.

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