Have you had this before? It’s completely fabulous!
Just look at all the peppers and tomatoes and capers and juices and deliciousness.
Chicken Cacciatore is one of those rustic, peasant style dishes — Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian — that cook in one big pot full of wine and whatever veggies you like. Most Cacciatore dishes include onions, peppers, and tomatoes. If mushrooms are your thing, toss them in too.
Here’s what you need:
Chicken (I have a whole cut up fryer), white wine, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, onion, bell peppers, garlic, capers, olive oil, flour, fresh basil, tomato paste, dried basil, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper.
You can use whatever parts of the chicken you prefer. Since this is a dish where the chicken “stews” with the veggies and tomatoes, I like a combination of white and dark meat.
If you buy a whole cut up fryer you will get 2 legs, 2 thighs, and 2 breast halves. You’ll also get some wings and maybe even some other parts like the back or neck. Take those extra parts and toss them in a zipper bag in your freezer for making homemade chicken stock or soup some other time.
Grab your 6 parts and season them with salt and pepper. Remember that you now have raw chicken cooties so you need to wash your hands, your cutting board, your counter top, etc.
Before I hear from any of you (you know who you are), yes – I skinned my chicken. Personally, I despise chicken skin so I don’t eat it. If you’re having a seizure over the lack of chicken skin, by all means, leave it on and skip the dredging in the next step.
Since my chicken is naked, I’m going to dredge it in flour to give it a nice little crispy coating.
Put a bit of flour (1/4 to 1/2 cup) in a small pan and season the flour with salt and pepper. Toss in the chicken pieces, roll them around to coat, and then shake off the excess flour.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan*. Use just enough oil to coat the bottom but not to make a huge puddle of oil. Add the chicken pieces and saute over medium high heat to get a nice golden crust on each side.
Depending on the heat and size of your pan, this will take about 3-4 minutes per side. No need to cook the chicken all the way through as it will be cooking for almost an hour in the sauce.
While the chicken cooks (or before you begin if you’re super prepared) chop up a large onion and a red and a yellow bell pepper.
I really like the color and flavor of the yellow and red peppers. You could use green peppers, but to me they have a bit of a bitter flavor when cooked so I stick with the orange, yellow or red varieties.
Smash, peel and chop up about 5 or 6 nice big cloves of garlic. Yes, 5 or 6 of those little garlic pieces. This will cook for quite a while so the garlic will be nice and mellow. I promise it won’t run you out of the dining room.
*Now is the time when I realize that my frying pan is WAY too small. What was I thinking? Don’t be like me, start with a really big pot.
Remove your chicken from your appropriately large pot and set it aside. Add a little more olive oil to the pan if needed and add the onions and peppers.
Give the onions and peppers a little head start over medium heat. Cook until they are tender but not browned and then add the chopped garlic. If you just toss in the garlic at the beginning with the other veggies, it will likely burn and become bitter.
Add 1 cup of wine to the pot and stir to scrape up all the little browned bits from the bottom. Remember to always use a good quality dry white wine…something you wouldn’t mind drinking like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. NEVER buy anything called “cooking wine”. ick.
You could use either white or red wine in this dish. I usually use white because I want to taste the flavors of all the vegetables. Red will also be fine but will create a heartier sauce with a more prominent wine flavor.
Next add 2 (14 ounce cans) or 1 big can of diced tomatoes and their juices. I have my good old friends the fire roasted tomatoes but any diced tomatoes will do.
Also pour in 1 cup of low-sodium chicken broth.
Put your chicken pieces back into the big pot and nestle them down in the saucy goodness.
Now for some spices. Basil, Oregano, and Red Pepper Flakes.
To be honest, I don’t measure these but if I had to guess I would say a good hearty tablespoon each of the basil and oregano and about 1 teaspoon of the red pepper. Use more red pepper flakes if you like things on the spicy side.
Don’t forget the salt and pepper!
Bring the sauce up to a simmer and then turn the heat down to low, cover with a lid and let everything cook for at least 45 minutes.
Helpful hint – the longer this cooks, the better. The parking dude was seriously late coming home from work and this cooked for about 90 minutes. The chicken was more or less falling off the bones but SO tender. 90 minutes was may be a bit much so I would recommend aiming for 60-70 minutes or so of cooking time.
When the chicken has cooked, the sauce may still be a little thin. Remove the chicken pieces to a separate plate and stir about 2 Tablespoons of Tomato Paste into the sauce.
Have you ever used this nifty tube of tomato paste?
I love, love, love this stuff. It’s super tomatoey and in a handy squeeze tube like toothpaste. No more cans of half used tomato paste sitting in the back of the fridge! In my store, I usually find this in the Italian section rather than the canned tomato section – somewhere near the dried pasta and that gross cheese powder in a green can.
Add the tomato paste and a couple tablespoons of capers if you have them.
Capers are the little pickled buds of the Caper Berry Bush. They have a sharp, slightly briny taste and add just the nicest little zip to many sauces. I usually drain before adding them to the sauce.
Look for them in the pickle aisle of the store in a skinny jar like this.
If you’ve never tried capers, give them a chance. I think they really add something special to the sauce.
See the tiny little bits of capers?
Serve your lovely Italian Chicken Cacciatore on rice, or with a side of pasta, or even with garlic mashed potatoes. Yum!
Top with a little chopped fresh basil. So pretty and tasty too.
Cue up the Pavoratti CD, grab a glass of wine and pretend you’re in Italy. That’s what I’d do.
Here’s the recipe!