Cacciatore (Hunter-Style Chicken)
“Regionally, this braised dish can be prepared with or without chile pepper. It can be made with rabbit or dark-meat chicken, and the add-in vegetables can vary. My favorite basic recipe is Marcella Hazan’s from her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking: chicken, onion, garlic, wine, tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Basic. Delicious.
Though I cannot improve on Marcella’s, I do love this recipe, too. I use earthy mushrooms (meaty cremini or portobello) plus reconstituted porcini and their rich broth. As with many Italian American versions of the classic, the dish includes sweet bell peppers, but I roast them first for a smoky flavor. Serve with charred bread (toasted, rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with flaky sea salt) to mop up the sauce. Or serve with pasta alongside or as a first course (see Tip).” – Rachael Ray, from her latest book, Everyone is Italian on Sunday
- 2 cups chicken stock
- A fat handful of dried porcini mushroom slices
- 12 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- Salt and black pepper
- Flour, for dredging
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ pound cremini or Portobello mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 or 4 large cloves garlic (to taste), sliced or chopped
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 (28- to 32-ounce) cans San Marzano tomatoes (look for DOP on the label)
- 1 large red bell pepper, roasted and chopped (optional)
- A few fresh basil leaves, torn
- A handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley tops, finely chopped
In a small saucepan, heat the stock along with the porcini to soften, 10 to 15 minutes. Scoop out the mushrooms and chop them, reserving the soaking liquid in the pan.
Season the chicken with salt and black pepper on both sides and dredge lightly in flour. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil (2 turns of the pan) over medium-high heat. Working in two batches, add the chicken and brown until crispy on both sides. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
To the pan drippings, add the cremini and cook until browned. Add the onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes and stir to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the wine, stir to deglaze the pan, and cook to reduce by half. Hand-crush the tomatoes as you add them to the pan, then add the juices from the cans. Add the roasted pepper (if using), basil, and chopped reconstituted porcini. Carefully pour in the mushroom soaking liquid, leaving the last few spoonfuls in the pan as grit may have settled there. Cook the sauce at a gentle bubble for 20 to 30 minutes to thicken a bit.
Return the chicken to the pan and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a warm serving platter and cover with half the sauce. Garnish with the parsley.
Pass extra sauce at the table.
TIP: I like to serve cacciatore with hearty whole wheat or farro spaghetti. Cook 1 pound pasta in boiling salted water and reserve 1 cup of the starchy cooking water before you drain it. Then toss the drained pasta with 2 tablespoons butter, half the cacciatore sauce, lots of grated pecorino cheese, and the starchy water. To serve the pasta as a first course, just cover the chicken with foil and keep it warm in a low oven.