What’s in a name? In common parlance, this dish is known as chicken cacciatore. Isn’t that a little odd: half the name in English, and the other in Italian? I’m guessing the name was conjured up by Italian-American restaurateurs hoping to entice Americans into their doors. In Italy, the dish is known as pollo alla cacciatora and translates in English to chicken, hunter’s style. Cacciare is the verb to hunt in Italian.
This dish is traditionally made with tomato sauce in it
but sometimes, I leave the tomatoes out.
Cooking “alla cacciatora” includes the step of sautéing wild game in an acidic liquid such as wine, vinegar, or lemon juice to tame the gamey-ness of the meat. If the cook is sautéing rabbit, the dish is called coniglio alla cacciatora, and if wild duck is used it is called anatra selvatica alla cacciatora.
A few words about ingredients: Make sure the bay leaves you use are fresh. They should have a woodsy, fragrant smell when you open the package — every time you open it. If they are no longer fragrant, it’s time to get a new package.
Chicken cacciatore is typically served over polenta, wide flat noodles, or rice. Lately, as part of the Whole30 way of eating, I’ve been serving it over roasted spaghetti squash, and my husband and I love it. If you decide you want to serve yours this way, then start cooking the squash before you proceed with cooking the cacciatore. For instructions on how to prepare spaghetti squash check out Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Asparagus and Chicken on my blog. The squash will take an hour to roast.
2-3 bell peppers (1 pound), sliced
1-2 sweet onions (1 pound), sliced
1-ounce garlic cloves (about 1 small head of garlic), peeled and smashed
½ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 stems rosemary leaves
3 stems oregano leaves
4 bay leaves
1 cup white wine
2 cans “Italian Style” stewed tomatoes, puréed
1 pound mushroom, sliced
Mise en Place:
Mise en Place Instructions:
1) Prep peppers and onions: Remove core, stem and seeds, slice mushrooms.
2) Prep garlic: Smash peeled garlic with a mallet and rough chop.
3) Prep chicken thighs: Rinse, pat dry, trim fat and cut into 2-inch chunks
4) Prep herbs: Separate leaves from stems, use a scissor or knife to mince leaves. Never chop a bay leaf!
5) Purée stewed tomatoes.
6) Prep mushrooms: I like to use an egg slicer.
1) Coat bottom of a 12-inch heavy-bottomed deep sauté pan with olive oil. Warm the olive oil over high heat until it is hot, but not smoking. Add peppers, onions, garlic, salt, and cracked pepper to the oil and sauté for 5-7 minutes, stirring regularly. Turn off heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove cooked vegetables to a bowl and set aside. Leave remaining oil in frying pan. You will be sautéing the chicken in that oil.
If I am making this in the summer when tomatoes are in season and abundant, I add chopped tomatoes to the peppers and onions and omit the canned tomatoes.
2) In a separate bowl, season the chicken pieces with salt and ground pepper. Add flour and mix well, so each piece of chicken is evenly coated with flour. Do not do the step ahead of time because the chicken pieces tend to absorb the flour and the pieces clump together.
3) Brown chicken evenly on all sides for about 8-10 minutes on medium-high heat. Stir often, so the chicken does not stick to the pan.
4) Add the herbs and wine to the browned chicken and stir. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes.
5) Add the bowl of sautéed vegetables and the tomatoes to the chicken. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
6) Add mushrooms, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. This dish tastes even better the next day.
Serve over spaghetti squash, fettuccine, rice or polenta. This dish is a great party dish because you can easily increase the number of servings and make it ahead of time.
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