Ever have unexpected guests show up for dinner? Such was the case when my husband failed to tell me he had invited some friends to dinner. “It was a casual invitation,” he said. “I didn’t think they had accepted.”
We had just gotten back from doing errands on Saturday when the call came and Andrew’s friend said he and his wife would be arriving at 7. “Great,” Andrew stammered. “Looking forward to seeing you.” That gave me, who wasn’t looking so forward, about two and a half hours to get dinner ready.
The only protein I had in sufficient quantity was some frozen chicken, which led me to a pressure-cooker recipe in my files for a “30-minute cacciatore.” All the ingredients it called for were on hand; in addition to the chicken, it needed stock, canned tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, bay leaf, and some black olives. I also thought that a couple of bell peppers I found in the fridge would extend the dish as well as add flavor. For a starch, some whole wheat couscous in my pantry would have to do.
Followed by a green salad and, for dessert, biscotti with affogatos (espresso over vanilla gelato), this cacciatore could make a pretty good meal with a minimum of effort.
Within a half hour, the chicken was ready to go. I set the timer for 15 minutes under high pressure, knowing that, with the time it would take for the pot to reach pressure, I had at least three quarters of an hour before the final step of adding the olives and reducing the cooking liquid. Altogether, the dish took about an hour to complete and I left it on “Warm” while we had cocktails that were perfectly executed by my husband, who seemed quite relieved that we pulled this dinner off.
As I went along, I made a few substitution and changes to the recipe. I used imported finely chopped tomatoes rather than the whole ones called for and red onion rather than yellow. To up the flavor, I substituted minced fresh garlic for the garlic powder, added a few tablespoons of capers, and tossed in two peperoncini for heat. Although I prefer a more traditional, stove-top preparation, with browned chicken pieces, this quick version, with frozen chicken, surpassed my expectations. And with my gracious, albeit forgetful, husband, who knows when I may need to make it again.
30-Minute Chicken Cacciatore (Adapted from a recipe by Laura Pazzaglia on TheKitchn.com)
Serves 4 to 6
1 cup salt-free chicken stock (I used salted canned broth.)
1 teaspoon salt (withhold if using salted stock)
1 bay leaf
6 to 8 bone-in chicken drumsticks (1 1/2 to 2 pounds, fresh or frozen), or a mix of drumsticks and thighs (I used 6 very frozen thighs.)
1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped (I substituted half of a large red onion.)
1 teaspoon garlic powder (I substituted a large fresh clove of garlic, minced fine.)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (I used 2 teaspoons and crushed it to release more flavor.)
1 (28-ounce) can whole stewed tomatoes in purée (I used 2 14-ounce cans of imported finely chopped tomatoes.)
2 bell peppers (any color) sliced, 1-inch thick, my addition
1/2 cup black olives (about 2.5 ounces), pitted
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained, my addition
2 peperoncini, my addition
1. Preheat the pressure cooker (by pressing brown/sauté mode).
2. Add chicken stock, salt, and bay leaf and mix well.
3. Then, in the following order, add chicken, onion, garlic powder, oregano, and tomatoes.
4. Close the lid and pressure-cook for 15 minutes at high pressure.
5. When time is up, open the pressure cooker with slow normal release: Open the valve on the lid slowly, or if the valve only opens at full throttle, in small bursts.
6. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you. Mix the contents well, remove, and discard the bay leaf. If the meat isn’t almost falling off the bones (it should be), take the internal temperature with a meat thermometer to ensure the chicken is at least 165°F.
7. Add olives, capers, and reduce the cooking liquid. Serve over chicken and cooked pasta.
Wine Pairing: Zinfandel, Primitivo