Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chicken Cacciatore

Sort of. Cacciatore is traditionally braised meat (chicken or rabbit) and involves wine, and this is neither braised (because it's not covered while in the oven) nor is there wine in it. Why is there no wine in it? This was a serious oversight on my part.

Ugh, when I googled cacciatore to find its Wikipedia article, I discovered that The Pioneer Woman has posted a recipe for chicken cacciatore. It involves not only wine but also butter! Why do I even bother? You should probably desert this page and go use her recipe.

Unless, of course, you are a classy and refined human being and do not like bell peppers. Because, for some reason, all recipes for cacciatore involve bell peppers.



Why would anyone ever want to ruin perfectly good food with bell peppers, of all revolting things? Blech.

Dear friends, I am here to assure you: you can make a sublime chicken cacciatore sans bell peppers. Without even a trace of those nasty little creatures that are worshiped by tastebudless rubes everywhere.

Not that I feel strongly about the issue or anything.

Actually, mostly I'm still upset that I missed an opportunity to put wine in a dish. Tragic, really.

On to the recipe.

 Chicken Cacciatore ala Katie

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil in a large skillet.

In case you forgot what that looks like.
Sprinkle 2 chicken leg quarters or 4 thighs or really whatever bit of the chicken you like to eat with a bit of salt and pepper. (N.B.:  This makes a sort of half-batch of chicken cacciatore, enough for two people plus a bit of leftovers. Feel free to double everything.) Rub the salt and pepper into the skin.

Cook chicken on medium high heat for four minutes on each side until browned.

Ideally a little browner than that.

Remove chicken and keep warm. I advise you to set it in the dish you're about to bake it in, kept on top of the preheating oven. That's warm enough.

Appropriately brown.

Dump 1 cup chopped onion, about three stalks chopped celery, 1 tsp. marjoram (or rosemary, if you prefer--traditional, but the DDH hates it), 4 cloves garlic, minced, and some salt into skillet. Cook for three minutes or until beginning to soften, stirring frequently.

Wouldn't hurt to add more celery.

Add 8 oz. sliced mushrooms and cook for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Fresh mushrooms are of course the most delicious, but fresh mushrooms and I, we're not friends. For the life of me I can't manage to use them before they go bad. I can buy them for a specific recipe I plan to cook that very day and the things will still slime-rot on me (usually because I end up not cooking it that night and that night turns into tomorrow turns into three weeks later...but still). The DDH and I both love mushrooms, however, so I always keep a can or ten on hand. Not as good as fresh, but cheap and tasty nonetheless.

Add 1 1/3 cups tomato sauce (aka one can). The recipe I was adapting recommends jarred marinara sauce of all things, but loves, I simply don't believe in jarred marinara sauce when you can get cans of plain tomato sauce and have a fully-stocked spice cabinet. Here's my marinara sauce:

Spices in sauce.
A bunch of spices dumped on top of the can of tomato sauce. Nom nom nom. As I recall, there's basil, oregano, marjoram, fennel (trust me on the fennel, it totally adds das gewisse Etwas to the sauce), black pepper...parsley, maybe? Anyway. For this dish, you're cooking the sauce anyway, so the flavors will meld and permeate the sauce deliciously while it cooks, so there really is no reason to buy a pre-made marinara sauce. Dumb.

Anyway, where were we? Yes. So add that in and cook for a minute, stirring to make sure everything gets mixed together well.

Looking good.
Scrape your proto-sauce out into a glass baking dish. The one that's smaller than the 9 x 13 pan that comes in the set with it and you never use it because all the recipes are for the big pan...that one. Unless, of course, you've doubled the recipe to feed more people, in which case use the 9x13 one. Obviously.

The smaller pan.

Nestle your browned chicken on top of the vegetable mixture.

 Bake at 350 for twenty to thirty minutes or until chicken is done.

Doesn't really look that different.

Cut into the fat part of the drumstick to check or you will spend the entirety of dinner puzzling over bits of chicken going, "Does that look cooked to you? I don't know if it's cooked all the way. It's pretty red. But I mean the texture is right. I'm sure it's fine. Yes it's fine. Though I don't's sort of pink right there. Is it cooked all the way?" because you skimped on cooking time and cut into what apparently was a thinner part of the chicken than you thought. On the other hand, maybe someone will finally buy you that new meat thermometer for your birthday or maybe even sooner not that that's a hint or anything.

Sprinkle with pecorino romano or parmesan cheese

Do not neglect this step.
Other than the quoted worrisome chicken conversation, this dinner received A+++s all around. Somehow the time in the oven takes all those disparate vegetables and spices and turns them into magic.

I wish I had made five times as much of the sauce and canned it so I could keep that flavor forever, because here is the problem with making up cooking as you go along: it never turns out the same way twice. Shocking revelation, I know.

But I have people profess profound admiration for me because I can just toss ingredients together, experiment and fudge around with them without measuring every pinch. This is in fact a nifty skill, namely because it cuts down on the number of measuring spoons I have to wash, but the downside is that nothing. ever. turns. out. the same way. twice. EVER. Perhaps the madskillz of not measuring AND replicating recipes will come with age (my mother seems to be good at this, though she is only thirty). In the meantime, here we are.

Tastes much, much better than it looks.
 I've already eaten all the leftovers and I am so sad....


  1. That looks wonderful! I used to make a very similar chicken cacciatore when you guys were little, but cooked in a big skillet on top of the stove, served over pasta to stretch it.

    Cacciatore means "hunter's style", and is supposed to be made out of ingredients hunters would have in the field. So, they kill a bird or rabbit, and scrounge around for ingredients. There are no such things as wild growing bell peppers! So any recipe that includes that is nowhere near authentic! Mushrooms are traditional in this recipe, as is rosemary and any other herbs growing in the maquis (shrubby area where you often find wild birds and bunnies). So you were right to exclude those bell peppers :-)

  2. I thought it tasted a little familiar. ;-) And it did remind me very strongly of pasta sauce--now I know why.

    Right. I guess Italian hunters carried bell peppers with them into the woods. Or something. Because seriously every recipe called for them. Mushrooms were awesome in it.



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