In my mind a great recipe is one that offers the essence of all its fresh ingredients. Authentic Italian cuisine in my opinion gives you that. Real Italian food is all about allowing the food to speak for itself in a very especial way. This chicken cacciatore today is about all that and about my husband memories of his Italian grandfather making a dish with lots of whole tomatoes.
My husband kept talking about a dish his grandfather used to make when he was young with all these tomatoes. So to please his soul and take advantage that my friend Lina was visiting from Colombia I decided to make this dish. I asked Ben to request the recipe from his mother; however, instead of a written recipe with instructions he brought me a list of: chicken, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, oil, water, salt, black pepper and red wine (covered and simmer for ½ half hours, add red wine and simmer for ½ half hours more.) After I read the list I decided that this sounded like a chicken cacciatore or chicken hunter style. So I decided to compare the recipe against one I have by Mario Bateli and although the two were not the same, the dish sounded very similar. Mario’s dish contains mushrooms, onions and pancetta. I have mushrooms, lots of tomatoes, red peppers, and as always lots of garlic and onions. I also have sausage which I thought was a good substitute for the pancetta and that’s how I made the dish.
The magic of this dish is that it is very basic, familiar and full of flexibility. It does not rely on one ingredient, but many which complement one another. The sweet and sour of the tomatoes is perfectly balance by the sweet Italian sausage, the chicken, the sweetness of the red and green peppers; onions, garlic and parsley are also added to give this dish that homemade quality that it is only possible with fresh ingredients. This recipe is similar to what a pollo guisado is for us or estofado in the Latin word.
So here it is. The dish is yours to play with; intermix with different ingredients if you wish. Swapping elements this summer is a must as there are plenty of fresh vegetables available everywhere, but if you can, go to your green local market. Whatever you do though do not leave out the tomatoes as they are the main reason I made the dish. The good news is that tomatoes are abundant in the summer and this dish calls for plenty of it. This dish can be done ahead and serve as canapé if you cut the chicken in small pieces or any other summer party. Pair it off with rice, pasta or bread and of course a good wine. Enjoy.
Pollo alla Cacciatora
- 8-10 Boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 2 ½ lbs)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4-1/2 cup all-purpose flour (to dredge the chicken)
- Extra virgin olive oil (about 3 tablespoons)
- 1 pound Italian or Argentinian sausages
- 1 cup red wine
- 3/4 cups water
- 5 -6 beef tomatoes (blanched, peeled coarsely chopped or cut in half)
- Red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 large yellow onions (chopped)
- 4 -6 garlic cloves (minced)
- 2 large red bell peppers (chopped)
- 1 large green bell pepper (chopped)
- 1 Pound baby portabella mushrooms (whole)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons thyme (minced)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons rosemary (minced)
- Parsley (minced)
|Season the chicken thighs with salt and the black pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour to coat. In a dutch oven pot heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and sear or brown the chicken. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside. Try to get the brown sucs or protein out of the pot and add to the chicken. Remove the sausage case and add the sausage meat to the hot pot. Cook the sausage over high heat for about 5 minutes. If the sausage had released any oil discard it or strain the oil. Place the sausage meat back to the pot and add the onions and cook for 5 minutes stirring it constantly. Add the garlic, bell peppers, mushrooms, thyme, rosemary and pepper flakes. Cook for a few minutes; add wine and deglaze. Return the chicken to the pot add water and cover the chicken with the tomatoes. Cover the pot and simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Adjust salt and pepper if necessary. Garnish with minced parsley and a little bit of extra virgin oil. Serve alone or with pasta, rice or bread.|
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