Chicken Cacciatore is an easy to make dish and a comfort food crowd pleaser. There are variants of this classic dish to be found in many regions of Italy. Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian. In cuisine, alla cacciatore refers to a meal prepared “hunter-style” with onions, herbs, tomatoes, bell peppers and sometimes wine. Served with pasta, a simple salad, crusty Ciabatta bread and a glass of red wine, Chicken Cacciatore is a basic but deliciously elegant, supremely satisfying meal. This recipe has been handed down to me from the imaginary Italian side of my family, the DiMuccis of Piedmont.
Chicken Cacciatore Recipe: 4 Servings
4 ½ Lbs. Bone-In Chicken, Breasts, Thighs and Drumsticks
½ Cup Virgin Olive Oil, Separated
1 – Large Red Onion, Coarsely Chopped
6 Garlic Cloves, Minced
2 – 28 oz. Cans Whole Peeled San Marzano Tomatoes and the sauce. Don’t argue, don’t be cheap, they are the best. Use authentic San Marzano tomatoes, you will thank me later.
1 – Large Red or Green Bell Pepper or ½ each, Sliced in 2-inch pieces
1 Lb. Fresh Large Mushrooms Coarsely Sliced
2 Cups Kalamata Olives
1 ½ Cups Dry Red Wine
2 Tbsp Thyme
2 Tbsp Dried Oregano
2 Tbsp Dried Basil
Red Pepper Flakes – I like to use a few whole dried chile arbol peppers and chop them up.
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to Taste
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and drizzle ¼ cup of the olive oil over them. Liberally sprinkle salt and freshly ground black pepper on the chicken and mix well by hand. Yes, you are going to get your hands greasy. Go ahead, it’s good for your dry skin. Keep a cloth handy to wipe them with. Turn the chicken pieces into a 3-quart baking dish and bake for 45 minutes. That’s right, none of this half-assed fry the chicken in the pot crap. We want to give the chicken a nice serious browning. That’s where a lot of the flavor is produced. Place the pan on a center rack and periodically check to make sure the chicken is not getting overly browned.
While the chicken is getting an oven tan, sauté the onion and garlic in ¼ cup of the olive oil in a large pot over a medium flame until translucent. I prefer a cast iron Dutch Oven because cast iron heats so evenly. I like to add the herbs at this point and heat them a little before the liquids are introduced. Turn the flame down to the lowest setting and get ready to get your hands full of tomato sauce.
Pour the contents of the cans of whole peeled San Marzano (You did buy San Marzano, didn’t you?) tomatoes into a large bowl and squash them with your bare hands until they are nicely pulped. Pretend that it’s someone you dislike. Satisfying, isn’t it? Now add the squashed tomatoes, the wine, the bell peppers, the red pepper flakes and the olives to the aromatics in the pot and turn up the heat until the sauce starts to reach a slow boil. Add the sliced mushrooms, cover the pot turn down the flame and let it simmer while the chicken is finishing getting browned. This may make too much sauce for the pan of chicken, but you can use the leftover sauce another time for pasta or bruschetta. Too much is better than not enough!
Remove the pan of browned chicken pieces from the oven and pour the sauce over them to almost the top of the pan. Stir gently to mix the sauce with the juices released from the chicken. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil to keep evaporation to a minimum. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and place the pan back on the center oven rack for an additional 40 minutes. Have a glass of nice Nebbiolo and enjoy the aromas wafting from the kitchen. Play some Bocci Ball.
I like to serve the Chicken Cacciatore with pasta, some like polenta, your mileage may vary. My favorite pasta to serve with Cacciatore is Orecchiette the “little ear” pasta. Toss the pasta with a liberal amount of the pan sauce, plate with Chicken and enjoy! Watch out for bones! Ciao bella!