The other day, I was watching Lidia Bastianich (of Lidia’s Italy fame), on ‘CreateTV’, making chicken cacciatore. And I realised that I hadn’t made it for a while, though it was one of my quick go-to recipes a while back. To pick out the recipe from the file (I do keep a physical file of my favourite recipes!) and create a shopping list was just a five-minute job!
According to Lidia, the dish must have been based originally on some kind of wild game birds, as ‘caccia’ means ‘to hunt’ in Italian. Somewhere along the way, chicken replaced the wild game, and other tweaks happened as well I’m sure, and we have the modern day cacciatore!
Usually, this dish is cooked with a whole chicken cut up into large pieces. But I prefer to make it with bone-in chicken thighs. The uniform sized pieces make it easy to calculate the cooking time.
The way I use the garlic and red chillies in the original cacciatore recipe, is the unique twist to this version. And believe me, it makes a big difference. Marinating the chicken in a mix of finely crushed garlic and red chilli powder, instead of the chilli flakes, lets the flavour penetrate into the meat.
And mushrooms… though shitakes are preferred, I use portabellas in a crunch. Lots and lots of them. You can even do away with the stock as the juice of the mushrooms will add sufficient flavour to the dish.
Chicken cacciatore is very versatile in that it can be served with pasta, rice, or any other starch. I prefer mashed potatoes with a slice of crusty bread on the side to mop up the gravy. And a green salad on the side…
Recipe for easy printing
- 2 to 3 lbs chicken, skinless thigh pieces
- 6 large cloves garlic
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- ½ cup flour
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onions
- 1 cup each red and green pepper pieces, cut lengthwise
- 2 cups sliced mushrooms, shitake or portobello
- 2 cups tomato pieces, seeds and pulp removed
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups chicken stock
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- A few springs of fresh thyme
- Fresh basil leaves
- Crush the garlic finely and mix with the chilli powder and enough salt and sprinkle all over the chicken pieces and rub in well to coat. Keep aside for at least an hour (up to 24 hours) in the refrigerator.
- Season the flour with salt and pepper, and dredge the chicken pieces in the flour.
- Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a wide pan. Add the flour dredged chicken pieces to the oil and fry till browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Note: If there is more chicken than can be accommodated without crowding in the pan, fry them in batches.
- Drain the chicken pieces on a plate. Into the same pan, add the chopped onions and stir fry till they start to wilt.
- Add the mixed vegetables and cook for two minutes.
- Add the mushrooms and let it cook for five minutes.
- Now add the wine, bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add the stock, tomatoes, and thyme.
- Place the chicken pieces back into the pan. Add enough salt and mix everything together. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
- At the end of 20 minutes, the chicken pieces should be done, with enough liquid to coat the pieces. If there is more liquid, cook uncovered to let the extra liquid evaporate. If there is not enough liquid, add enough stock or water and allow it to boil for 2 minutes.
- Add the fresh basil and stir. Serve with pasta, brown rice, or mashed potatoes.