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RECIPE: Chicken Cacciatore - an oldie but a goodie

The rich tomato sauce for this Chicken Cacciatore dish is accented with lovely salty notes from the olives.
The rich tomato sauce for this Chicken Cacciatore dish is accented with lovely salty notes from the olives.

This classic braised chicken and tomato dish originates in Tuscany. Cacciatore actually translates to "hunter" in Italian and "alla cacciatora" refers to a meal prepared "hunter-style" with onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, bell peppers, and sometimes wine. This dish was so popular that it even has its own day of celebration. Yes, it is true, National Chicken Cacciatore Day is Oct. 15.

Chicken Cacciatore is one of those retro dishes that was big in the ’70s. I had not made it for a very long time and was so happy that I did. I combined some of the recipes that I had saved over the years and came up with this version that got great reviews at home.  The skin doesn’t fare well in braised form but does add amazing flavour, so it is up to you. You can also choose to use other chicken pieces, but thighs are always my favourite choice.

This is a one-pot meal that needs to be made in a high-sided frying pan with a lid or a Dutch oven. You can choose to braise it either in the oven on low or on the stovetop. It is delicious served on rice or with crusty bread, but atop cheesy polenta is my absolute favourite.

Chicken Cacciatore

  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 medium onion, sliced into half-moon
  • 1 medium red pepper, sliced into half rings
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1-28 ounce can crushed Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • ½ cup pitted black olives
  • 2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 3 cups water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • pepper

Pat chicken dry, season well with salt and then dredge in flour and shake off excess.

Heat olive in a deep-sided frying pan or Dutch oven on medium-high and then cook chicken for three minutes per side until golden brown in two batches and set aside. Wipe out the pan and add a tablespoon of oil and turn heat to medium. Add onion and pepper and sauté for three to four minutes or until the onions are translucent.

Add the garlic and mushrooms and sauté for another two minutes and then add wine. Simmer and stir for one to two minutes to allow some of the wine to evaporate and then add the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and crumble in the bouillon cube and stir well. Add the oregano, olives and season with pepper.

Make sure that the size of your cooking vessel allows the chicken to be almost completely submerged in the sauce. Cover, turn down to low and cook for 1 hour, turning chicken halfway. The chicken will be fork tender when ready. Turn off the heat and then prepare the polenta (remember this only takes 5 minutes and you need to serve it hot).

Note: if the cacciatore sauce is too watery, make a slurry with a ½ teaspoon of cornstarch and some of the sauce and then stir into the sauce and bring back to the boil to thicken for a minute or two.

Serve poured over polenta and sprinkle with parsley.

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