Warm up with Big Joe’s Chicken Cacciatore
Temperatures are dropping, albeit slowly this year, and I love to prepare a good chicken caciatore that will warm your body and soul. It is such a comforting dish that is easy to make.
In Italy, the word cacciatore means hunter, and the dish was made after hunters would return with rabbit. In a pinch, chicken becomes a substitute protein in the dish.
The completed meal is packed with flavor and enjoyable to eat. The dish also varies in different regions of Italy each using slightly different ingredients that are available and abundant in the specific region.
I use chicken thighs and not chicken breasts. The flavor from the thighs is perfect for this dish. It has heartiness and is not as dry as the breast after it cooks. I also prefer thighs better than rabbits.
I first made this recipe back in the mid-’80s and just perfected or simplified this dish over time. I was craving the “old world” flavor of a good caciatore and think I hit upon a recipe that ended up tasting close to that flavor.
I have tasted many recipes for cacciatore and the one thing I don’t like about other recipes is that some chefs make this dish more like a watery stew rather than a hearty textured dish. I think the water boils and overcooks the vegetables washing them out a bit rather than letting the vegetables have a little texture and keep their flavor.
With that said, you can serve this dish with a little pasta or polenta and a nice glass of Italian red wine. Enjoy your hunter’s dish.
8 chicken thighs
¼ cup of olive oil
½ cup of flour for dredging
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 ½ stalks of coarsely chopped celery
1 green or red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
¾ cup of carrots diced
10-12 button mushrooms (white), cut into ¼ pieces
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cloves of finely chopped garlic
2 ½ tablespoons of drained capers
2 ½ teaspoons of oregano
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 ½ cup of dry red wine (Chianti, Merlot, Cabernet)
1 can of diced tomatoes (28oz.), including juice
¼ - cup of chopped flat Italian parsley
How to put it together:
Salt and pepper the chicken and then dredge in flour. In a large Dutch oven pan, add ½ the oil heat over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken in batches for about 5 – 7 minutes per side. Once golden brown remove chicken and set aside.
Discard excess oil, but don’t scrape the pan. Add remaining oil and once the oil is hot add celery, onions, carrots, mushrooms, and bell pepper. Reduce heat to medium – medium-low and stir vegetables scraping the bottom of the pan to get all the pieces up. Cook vegetables for a total of 10 – 12 minutes.
Add garlic and oregano and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes. Add the red wine and increase the heat to high. Stir constantly adding tomato paste. Mix sauce well, add tomatoes, lower the heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally. Add capers and simmer partially covered for 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Add chicken back to pan, cover, and place in oven, cook for about 35 minutes. Remove chicken from pan to plate, cover with foil to keep warm. Skim off excess fat from the surface. Bring the pan over high heat on the stove to a quick boil to reduce the sauce. Add parsley. Stir and then ladle sauce over chicken and serve. Serves 6.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.
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