Chicken Cacciatore

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

but sometimes, I leave the tomatoes out.
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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, it’s anatra selvatica alla cacciatora.

A few words about ingredients: Make sure the bay leaves 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.

Ingredients:
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2-3 bell peppers (1 pound), cut into bite-sized chunks
1-2 sweet onions  (1 pound), sliced
1-ounce garlic cloves (about 1 small head of garlic), smashed and peeled
½ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
cracked pepper

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

3 cans “Italian Style” stewed tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1 pound mushroom, sliced

Mise en Place:
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Mise en Place Instructions:
Prep peppers and onions: Remove the core, stem, and seeds, slice mushrooms.
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Prep garlic: Smash garlic cloves and peel.

Prep chicken thighs: Rinse, pat dry, trim fat and cut into 2-inch chunks DSC_0410

Prep herbs: Separate leaves from stems, use a scissor or knife to mince leaves. Never chop a bay leaf!
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Prep mushrooms: I like to use an egg slicer.
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Cooking Instructions:

Coat bottom of a 12-inch heavy-bottomed deep 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 heat off and set aside.
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If I am making this in the summer when fresh tomatoes are abundant, I add chopped tomatoes to the peppers and onions and omit the canned tomatoes.

In a separate bowl, season the chicken pieces with salt and ground pepper. Add flour and mix well. Do not do the step ahead of time because the chicken pieces will absorb the flour and clump together.
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Brown chicken evenly on all sides for about 5-10 minutes on medium-high heat. Stir often, so the chicken does not stick to the pan.
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Add the herbs and wine to the browned chicken and stir. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes.
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Add the bowl of sautéed vegetables and tomatoes to the chicken. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add mushrooms and broth (to thin liquid), cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. This dish tastes even better the next day making it a great make-ahead dish.

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