Traditionally, pollo alla cacciatore (hunter-style chicken) features chicken, pan-braised in a tomato sauce with mushrooms, served over pasta, very often spaghetti. I say “traditionally” because this is not the cacciatore Mom made. Her recipe did not result in a tomato sauce and Mom never served this dish over pasta. Although I will agree with the purists who’ll be quick to point out that this is not a true cacciatore, I very much prefer it Mom’s way if, for no other reason, than that I already make a number of tomato-based sauces. Making another one with chicken holds little interest for me. All of this doesn’t mean that tomatoes aren’t used in this recipe. I’ll add a diced tomato or about a tbsp of tomato paste “for color,” as Mom would say. Additionally, this recipe uses chicken thighs with the skin-on and bone-in because the combination adds so much flavor to the final dish. Of course, you may use whatever chicken parts you wish, with or without skin or bones, but your choices may affect cooking times. Use an instant read thermometer when in doubt. If you do not wish to use wine, one cup of chicken broth/stock may be substituted.
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Mom’s Chicken (that’s not really) Cacciatore Recipe
total time: about 75 minutes.
yield: 5 or 6 servings
- 1 pkg chicken thighs (5 or 6 thighs), with bone-in and skin-on
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 slices of bacon (or 1/4 lb. of pancetta), chopped
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 large yellow or sweet onion, halved and sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 bell pepper, cut into strips
- 8 oz. crimini or button mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tomato, diced, or 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 – 3 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 cup white wine (or low-sodium chicken stock/broth)
- 3 tbsp capers (optional)
- 3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish
- salt & pepper, to taste
- Heat olive oil in a large frying pan with lid over medium heat. Add bacon/pancetta and cook until crisp and the fat is rendered. Remove meat from pan and drain over paper towels.
- Meanwhile, season chicken with salt & pepper. Place flour in a plastic bag, place 2 chicken pieces in bag, and shake to coat. Remove chicken to a plate and repeat until all the chicken is coated with flour.
- Once the bacon/pancetta has been removed from the frying pan, increase the heat to medium-high and add the chicken pieces, skin-side down. Sauté until chicken is lightly browned, about 5 – 6 minutes, turn the chicken pieces over, and sauté until they, too, are lightly browned — another 5 minutes or so. Remove chicken to a plate.
- Remove all but about 3 tbsp of oil from the frying pan. Add the onion and begin sautéing. Lightly season with salt & pepper. Use a wooden spoon to clean the pan’s bottom of the brown bits. (These are where the flavor is.)
- After about 5 minutes, add the garlic & bell peppers and continue sautéing.
- After 5 minutes more, add the mushrooms.
- 5 minutes later, add the tomato/paste and sauté for 2 – 3 minutes. Season lightly with salt & pepper.
- Return the bacon/pancetta to the pan, season with the rosemary, return the chicken to the pan, and add the wine.
- Bring the pan to a boil before covering and reducing heat to medium-low.
- Continue cooking for 45 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked. (Use an instant read thermometer if in doubt.) Periodically, throughout the cooking, slightly shift the chicken pieces to prevent their sticking/burning. If the pan looks too dry, add a little water/chicken broth. A few minutes before serving, sprinkle the capers over the pan’s contents. Taste the sauce to see if salt or pepper is needed.
- When finished cooking, remove to a serving platter and garnish with parsley.
Strictly speaking, I do not have any variations for this recipe. It’s pretty much the same recipe that Mom used. Where we part ways is in the serving. As was mentioned earlier, Mom never served her cacciatore over pasta. On the other hand, I’m a pasta fanatic and I’m always on the look-out for ways to include pasta in a meal. For me, this recipe is delicious when served over wide noodles that have been buttered and lightly sprinkled with freshly chopped parsley. And on those extremely rare occasions when I’m not in a pasta mood, I’ll serve it atop polenta. Either way is aces in my book.
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