First, I want to thank you for following me on 74 Main Street. Life has been very busy the past 2 weeks and I wasn’t able to sit down and write a post. I’ve missed writing and hope you’ve missed my recipes.
Unlike many Italian American families, my family did not gather together on Sunday for a big pot of sauce and pasta. Actually my Dad preferred a good roast for a family dinner. Still, my Grandma or my Great Aunt would occasionally make sauce and they would definitely cook it all day with sausage, meatballs, and pork to add flavor. But my personal favorite was when they put chicken in the sauce. For me chicken cooked in tomato sauce until it’s falling off the bone is a beautiful thing! So, one very popular Italian chicken dish has long been a personal favorite… Chicken Cacciatore.
That being said, Chicken Cacciatore is derived from the Italian preparation “alla cacciatora” or hunter style — or more literally “prepared in the style of the hunter’s wife.” In Italy, this dish was traditionally prepared with rabbit (congilio alla cacciatora), pheasant, or other game. But today it is more commonly made with chicken.
Chicken alla Cacciatora is a dish that appears to have no true identity. There are hundreds of versions throughout Italy and no two seem to be exactly alike. And there are no real common threads among the recipes aside from the name and the main ingredient being chicken.
Many regional recipes for cacciatora do not contain any tomato products at all, but generally consist of meat braised with wine (often red wine in the south and white wine in the north), garlic, onions, and herbs. Some recipes contain sweet or hot peppers… and many recipes include mushrooms, as this is commonly considered an ingredient in “hunter style” preparations — I guess hunters somehow find time to gather mushrooms while stalking their prey.
In most Italian American versions of Chicken Cacciatore it is common to find tomato sauce, red or green bell peppers, and mushrooms in the recipe.
The recipe I’m featuring here is an old school recipe that comes close to the southern Italian roots of the Lista family. I really like this version of Chicken Cacciatore because it doesn’t contain mushrooms (which my wife can’t eat) and it does contain olives which we both love.
Although the original recipe calls for a whole chicken cut up — I have chosen to use only bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. First, because it’s economical and second, because the dark thigh meat brings a richness to the dish. You certainly can use whatever cut of chicken you prefer, but since this is a braised dish, I would suggest staying away from boneless, skinless breasts since they tend to become dry when cooked for a long time.
Chicken Cacciatore (pollo alla cacciatora)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
8 Bone-in, Skin-on Chicken Thighs (about 3-4 pounds)
Salt and Pepper – to taste
1/4 cup Olive Oil
5 cloves Garlic – peeled and crushed but left whole
1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
2 sprigs Fresh Rosemary (or 1 tsp dry)
1 medium Green Bell Pepper – sliced
1 medium Red Bell Pepper – sliced
1 cup Red Wine (like Chianti or Merlot)
1 (28 oz) can Whole Peeled Tomatoes (like San Marzano)
1 cup Whole Pitted Kalamata Olives
Chicken Stock or Water as needed
Pecorino Romano Cheese – for garnish (optional)
1. Season chicken on all sides with salt and pepper.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet or dutch oven with lid over med-high heat. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary and chicken pieces. Cook, turning chicken occasionally, for about 20 minutes until chicken has browned on all sides.
3. Pour off some of the accumulated fat (leaving just a coating on the bottom of pan) and add the sliced red and green peppers. Cook turning occasionally until peppers begin to soften. Add the red wine and allow to simmer until liquid reduces by half. About 10 minutes.
4. Pour the canned tomatoes in a small bowl, squeeze them with your hand until they are broken up and add them, along with the olives, to the chicken. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes until chicken is thoroughly cooked. If sauce becomes too dry add some chicken broth or water.
5. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and serve spooning the sauce over the chicken and sprinkling with some Pecorino Romano if desired.
There you have it, old school Chicken Cacciatore. This goes great with a heartier long pasta like linguine, or try it over some creamy polenta, or even alongside some fresh mashed potatoes. The richness of the chicken thighs works so well with the briny olives and the acid from the wine and tomatoes. I hope you give this recipe a try… and I won’t mind if you throw in some sliced mushrooms in honor of those Italian hunters.
Until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”