You can find at least half a dozen recipes for chicken cacciatora or cacciatore on this blog; it’s truly one of my go-to comfort dishes. Unfortunately, as with most fricassee dishes, the required step of browning the chicken wreaks havoc on the stove top. However, my recent experiments with roasted chicken thighs prepared from one of Sam Sifton’s “You Don’t Need a Recipe” columns on the New York Times “Cooking” website led me to develop a version of cacciatora that eliminates the mess and has plenty of flavor. Moreover, because it doesn’t require separately cooking the vegetables, it takes less time. Read more
Say “chicken cacciatore” to most people and, more than likely, it will conjure up an image of sautéed chicken pieces simmered in tomato sauce along with vegetables like peppers, onions, mushrooms, etc. Until the other day I was among those people. In fact, I’ve posted several recipes for the dish on this blog.
Yesterday, however, I came across a recipe in Italian Country Cooking by Loukie Werle for an Umbrian-style version of the dish that has neither tomatoes nor peppers but in their place uses olives, capers, and pea-sized cubes of lemon. Its sauce starts with a savory and aromatic soffritto of minced pancetta, onion, rosemary, and garlic and then finishes with white wine, vinegar, capers, lemon and chili flakes.
One of the cookbooks I remember from my youth was chef-restaurateur Romeo Salta’s The Pleasures of Italian Cooking, which was published in the early ‘60s. In its time, Salta’s New York City tony restaurant was a haven for celebrities and was well reviewed by the likes of Mimi Sheraton and Gael Greene. In fact, Sheraton is quoted in Salta’s NY Times obituary as saying: “New York has never had an Italian restaurant as good as Romeo Salta was in its heyday.”
The only recipe I vaguely recall from Salta’s book was one for a chicken cacciatore that, compared to my Neapolitan aunt’s, was far more involved and more heavily sauced.
About ten years ago, I came across another recipe for this classic dish in Giada De Laurentiis’s Everyday Italianthat evoked a recollection of Salta’s. Since that time, I’ve cooked it often, tweaking it and, in so doing, have probably made the dish less authentic and more Italian-American. Nevertheless, it’s one of my favorites and so I decided to share it here with my readers, even though I’ve already posted at least two others for this dish.
I’ve included a link here to the original De Laurentiis recipe.
8-9 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (approximately 3 pounds) well trimmed of excess fat and skin
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup all purpose flour, for dredging
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large red bell peppers, cut into 1.5- to 2-inch chunks
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¾ cup dry white wine
1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano whole tomatoes with juice, crushed
3/4 cup chicken broth
3 to 4 tablespoons non-pareil capers, rinsed and drained
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
1.5 cups frozen peas, thawed
1.5 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
¼ cup coarsely torn fresh basil
1. Season the chicken with 1 teaspoon of each salt and pepper.
2. Dredge the chicken thighs in the flour to coat lightly, shaking off any excess.
3. In a large heavy sauté pan, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and sauté until brown, about 5 minutes per side. If all the chicken does not fit in the pan, sauté it in 2 batches.
4. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. You may also want to remove any excess fat from the pan.
5. Add the bell peppers and onion to the same pan, season with salt and pepper, and sauté over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes.
6. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant about 1 minute, being careful not to burn it.
7. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.
8. Add the broth and simmer for another 2 minutes.
9. Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, capers and oregano. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, along with any juices that may have accumulated in the dish, and turn them to coat in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer.
10. Continue simmering uncovered over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
11. Add the peas and the mushrooms.
12. Cook for another 10 minutes, or until the chicken is just cooked through. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
13. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter. If necessary, boil the sauce until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Spoon off any excess fat from the sauce. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, then sprinkle with the basil and serve.
Wine Pairing: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Sauvignon Blanc