Sunday, May 21, 2006

Chicken Cacciatore

Coming from a multi-ethnic family, I grew up eating a lot of Italian food. Specifically, since my father was an immigrant of mixed Italian-Spanish-Basque (with a wee bit of French) heritage, my mother cooked the northern Italian dishes familiar to him. Italian-American food was a mystery to me.

My mom was a wonderful cook, and I have been trying to duplicate and improve her chicken cacciatore. I finally found a recipe that I love more than any others that I've tried, and after tweaking it a bit, share it with you.

Chicken Cacciatore
Adapted from Eleanora's Kitchen, by Eleanora Scarpetta

1/4 c olive oil
3 (or to taste) garlic cloves, pressed or finely chopped
1 large onion, diced
2 t dried oregano
2 t dried parsley
1/4 t dried rosemary, minced
1/4 t red pepper flakes, dried (or to taste)
1/4 c tomato paste
4 chicken thighs and drumsticks, about 3 pounds
2 whole split chicken breasts, about 2 pounds
1/2 c red wine vinegar

32 ounces crushed whole plum tomatoes
1/4 c dry white wine
1/2 c pitted good quality olives - Kalamata or Gaeta
2 or more red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch strips
4 ounces white mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and quartered
1/4 roughly chopped fresh basic leaves
2-3 T fresh chopped parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet (or dutch oven) over medium heat, until you see ripples in the oil. Salt and pepper the chicken. Lightly brown the chicken on both sides. Remove to plate. Leave about 2-3 tablespoon of oil in the pan, and pour off the rest.

2. Reduce heat. And the onion, 1 t oregano, basil, rosemary, dried red pepper, parsley, and tomato paste. Stir often, until the onion is translucent but not browned. Deglaze the pan with the 1/4 c of vinegar. Cook, stirring, for about one minute. Sometimes I add a little bit of white wine, if I seem to need a bit more liquid to deglaze.

3. Take the pan off the heat while you proceed to step four.

4. Add the garlic to the pan. Then, skin the chicken. That's right - get rid of the skin. If you do not like the flabby, wet, nasty texture you end up with after braising chicken, just get rid of it. If you do, then leave it on.

5. Add the chicken, juices from the plate, the remaining 1 t of oregano, and the tomatoes to the pan. Place back on low heat and cook until the tomatoes have reduced and slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. If the sauce is too thick for your tastes, add water until you reach the texture that you prefer.

6. Add the basil, wine, olives, sweet red peppers, and mushrooms. Cook until the peppers have softened and the chicken is very tender, about 15- 20 minutes.

7. Serve over rice or pasta.

  • This is a very forgiving dish. You can use all thighs or drumsticks, and it will turn out well. No mushrooms? Leave them out, or substitute another type. Missing one of the herbs? The dish has such bold flavors, other herbs will pick up the slack.
  • Add more or less of garlic or herbs, to your taste. I am not a big fan of dried red hot pepper, so I use very little of it.
  • Be careful with the salt. Most canned tomatoes are salted, and the olives can be very salty. Be cautious, taste as you go, and adjust seasoning accordingly.
  • Remember to pit the olives!
  • If you deglaze the pan with the white wine, remove the pan from the heat, first.


Blogger rowena said...

First of all, I like what is said in your profile to the I'm hoping to see pics of your canine companions soon. I miss my dog so much!

Secondly, reading your recipe makes me homesick (for Italy). Although I was born/raised in Hawaii, the flavors, aromas, and culture of Italia is calling to me again. Hawaii is great, but it's all about cold beer and raw fish culture over here. Good wine and even better cheese has not really caught on yet.

Regarding your question about the camera. I use a Konica Minolta Dimage G600 when I'm on the run. And a Canon EOS 350XT when I want to get serious. Lighting is always tricky, but I prefer to shoot during mid-morning (9-10) or late afternoon (4-5).


May 21, 2006 4:26 PM  
Blogger rowena said...

Oops...I meant profile to the right!

May 21, 2006 4:27 PM  
Blogger Madam Chow said...

Mahalo, Rowena! My husband is from Hawaii, and I lived there for about 14 years - we're on the mainland now. It's a mixed blessing; the availablity of many wonderful foods that are hard to find in Hawaii (like good Robiola, fontina, and parmeggiano cheeses), but we miss local foods (like Okinawan sweet potato!) and our friends and family.
I've been having camera problems and I'm in the market for a new one. As soon as I get one, pics will follow!

May 22, 2006 2:08 PM  
Anonymous rowena said...

Wow 14 years in Hawaii and a surinam tree in your yard?! I'd like to make some jellies with them but probably won't be able to collect enough to make it worth the effort.

Looking forward to your photos in the near future...I can never get enough of food pics, but what I really wish I could get my hands on is some fresh fiddlehead ferns just picked from the mountains. Been craving those lately...

May 23, 2006 2:09 AM  

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