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May 28, 2010 02:23 PM

Chicken Cacciatore! Plus suggestions?

Went to another monthly car-club board meeting the other night, at our usual really dismal Italian restaurant. I keep searching the menu for something reasonably edible and not too expensive, and this time I figured I'd try the cacciatore. Well, the pasta was good - that always is - and the house marinara isn't bad. The chicken was OF COURSE breast, naturally overcooked, the sauce not bad, but the mushrooms were canned and the shreds of bell pepper still very crunchy. And with a couple glasses of Chianti, almost thirty bucks.

So yesterday I bought a Family Pack of chicken thighs - seven in all, is how they come at Fresh & Easy - and decided I'd like to have some GOOD cacciatore. I went looking for recipes, picked up some ideas from several sources on and offline, and discovered that this is one of the nicest, quickest, easiest Italian dishes I'd ever made, considering the number of ingredients. "Hunter's Chicken" indeed - this is something you really could make over a campfire!

Here's how it went:

Chicken Cacciatore

chicken thighs - 4 to 8. Recipe is infinitely expandable...
flour for dredging
oil for browning, about 1/3 cup

1 lg. onion, sliced thin
1 or 2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
2-4 cups sliced mushrooms
chopped or pressed garlic as desired
small handful dried oregano

14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, w/juice
1-4 fresh tomatoes, cut up
8-12 oz. red wine
S&P as needed

Preheat oven to 350º

Season thighs and let sit for about an hour, covered. Dredge in flour. Heat large pot, add oil. When oil is hot, add thighs - cook in batches if necessary, just one layer at a time. Brown both sides and set aside.

Add onion, pepper, mushrooms, garlic and oregano to pot, still over fairly high heat. Stir constantly until onion is quite limp and beginning to brown. Return chicken to pot, stir to mix all together. Pour tomatoes and wine over all, stir, season to taste. Cover pot and place in center of oven.

Now cook a pot of pasta - macaroni, spaghetti or linguini are good with this. When the pasta is cooked and drained, the cacciatore should be ready. Serve on the pasta. (We've also had this over garlic mashed red potatoes, which was awfully good.)

Notice how instead of carefully cooking the onion and pepper, then removing those and sautéeing the mushrooms, in this version everything just goes in and cooks! And the tomatoes are pretty much left to fend for themselves, too. This really is Guy Cooking, and I enjoyed it a lot. Enjoyed eating it, too!

Okay, now I'm sure there are other things people like in there. Some recipes I saw called for capers, and I've had it made with bacon, though I think guanciale or prosciutto would be better. Any more suggestions or alternate methods?

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  1. Your version sounds delicious! I often use Marcella's "Chicken Cacciatora, New Version." It's quick, simple & excellent -- each flavor shines through. The recipe goes like this: chicken cut into parts (I usually use thighs only), no vegs except tomatoes & onions (+ of course garlic)...a small amount of wine...brown, cover & cook until tender, about 30-40 mins. Can be made ahead of time & is almost infinitely expandable.

    It's from Essentials of Classic Italian 331 in my hard cover edition

    3 Replies
    1. re: fauchon

      If, for some reason, you can't use wine, or even in place of wine, add a few splashes of red wine vinegar. It really brightens up chicken cacciatore.

      1. re: fauchon

        I like this version, too. Perhaps not the most jaw-dropping, but a reliable standby.

        1. re: fauchon

          "It's from Essentials of Classic Italian 331 in my hard cover edition"
          my favorite Italian cookbook hard cover too

        2. It does sound very good, and chicken thighs are the way to go with this dish, rather than breasts, but, (there's always a but, isn't there) I use green bells peppers, basil along with the oregano, and a little tomato paste in the sauce to tighten it up just a bit.

          Chianti "should" be the red wine of choice but some cooks use dry white wine.

          10 Replies
          1. re: bushwickgirl

            I can't use bell pepper of any kind, as Mrs. O despises it, though she loves hot ones. Poblanos (sold as pasillas in California) are my pepper of choice when sweet ones are called for. I'd have used basil if I had some growing.

            To Leper, below, my thanks for mentioning anchovies, and the parmesan as well. I'm taking notes here, guys...

            1. re: Will Owen

              Not all are bell pepper fans, I understand. Pasillas here East Coast side are hit or miss hot, not an issue with me, and I would consider them, but I think they are probably more generally available where you are. I will file away your suggestion for their use in this dish...actuallly, I haven't made this for awhile and it seems like it's long overdue.

              1. re: bushwickgirl

                Poblanos/pasillas are a staple item with that portion of our population now approaching the majority here in SoCal, so they are universally available, at prices ranging fro $2 to 50¢/lb. Not only are they usually a bit spicy - yes, they are all over the map, even picked from the same plant - but their skin is as tender as a bell's, so they don't have to be peeled, and they have an excellent rich flavor that compliments onions and tomatoes beautifully. I love to use that combination plus potatoes in a salt-cod stew I've mentioned here a few times, too.

              2. re: bushwickgirl

                Would you mind posting your recipe? I might try that tonight...ingredients are easily accessible and given our limited cookware, another fricasse may be the way to go tonight!

                1. re: ChristinaMason

                  No written recipe, I just season well, flour, shake off excess, and brown bone-in, skin-on chicken parts, thighs (but please feel free to use bone-in breasts if you want) in a large sauté pan, remove chicken from pan when well colored, sauté onion to a nice color, add crushed garlic, a little oregano and basil, and a few teaspoonfuls of tomato paste, sauté for a few more minutes, deglaze with the wine, scraping pan bottom (use a wooden spoon here) add the chicken, tomatoes in juice, crushed by hand, green peppers, quartered mushrooms of choice and simmer gently with pan lid on. If you're using the browned breasts, add them after about 30-40 minutes cooking time, and cook for another 10-15 minutes until the thighs are very tender and the breasts are just cooked through.

                  Remove chicken from pan and reduce juices on high heat if the sauce is too thin, until it reaches the desired consistency. Adjust seasoning. Pour sauce over chicken to serve. If adding anchovies, I would put them in when sautéing the onion to let them dissolve in the sauce.

                  I'm going to try Will's poblano for bell pepper suggestion next time I make this.

                  1. re: bushwickgirl

                    Thanks a bunch! This will be dinner tomorrow.

                    1. re: bushwickgirl

                      I must say I'm starving. These all sound so good. Oh and are fricasee and cacciatore the same thing? If so I'm out of the woods with friend

                  2. re: bushwickgirl

                    Last count I had 36 bottles (not drinking has it's perks you always have lots on hand) in the house so I use which one is more as per the recipe orders. I agree chianti is the choice here for me at least.

                  3. Add 2-3 anchovies when you add the wine (I would add chicken stock too) then add 1/3 cup of grated parmesian 20 minutes before serving. Stir well to dissolve, it will add a nice richness to the finished dish.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Leper

                      Mm, anchovies, or a little pancetta, or guanciale, as Will mentioned.

                      1. re: Leper

                        Totally agree on the anchovies, but I more often use fish sauce, because it's always on hand. Basically anchovy juice...

                        1. re: Bada Bing

                          Really about the anchovy juice/fish sauce thing?

                          1. re: iL Divo

                            Totally. I know several northeast USA Italian Americans that swear by anchovy fillets in red sauces. And fish sauce is simply anchovy juice, with some fermentation and salt as preservatives. Careful, though, to use a very modest amount of either--like a few splashes (maybe a teaspoon) of fish sauce in a dutch oven worth of soup or chili (or cacciatore). Also, it needs to cook a few minutes at least. Fresh is not good eats all by itself.

                      2. Looks great!

                        FWIW: I prefer white wine in this dish, and I also think it's a great application for rinsed, dried porcini mushrooms (or fresh porcini, if you happen to be in Heaven).

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Bada Bing

                          I had a bag of dried ones I was going to use here, but when I got it out of the cupboard about half of the mushrooms seemed to have sprouted wings... so they went out to the outside garbage bin and I made another trip to the store.

                          1. re: Will Owen

                            Wings are not good, except in Heaven...

                            1. re: Bada Bing

                              I am convinced that there are no meal moths in Heaven!

                              1. re: Will Owen

                                That's because St. Peter gives everyone a trip through the deep freezer before entering, just to assure them that they haven't gone to Hell. It also treals for meal moths.

                                I was going to suggest some porcini or shiitake powder as a dredging component for browning, and as an enricher of the liquid.

                            2. re: Bada Bing

                              I have a big bag of dried porchini mushrooms from Serfa's in Los Angeles, fantastic store for all hounds to explore..

                            3. Martha Stewart had a guest cook ( named Eleanor and she was from Brooklyn )on TV, who made her family recipe - I can't find it - but the main thing was she used red wine vinegar instead of wine and it really works. It only involves a few tablespoons, not 8-12 oz, and it gets added at the end with some fresh parsley. I made it a lot when I was cooking for a shelter that housed a 12 step program and didn't permit wine in the food.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Berheenia

                                I remember her from several of MS's cooking segments