Chicken Cacciatore is an Italian country-style braised dish perfect for the cold weather that includes onions, mushrooms, carrots, garlic, peppers, herbs and tomatoes. The word cacciatore means hunter in Italian, so any dish that’s prepared “alla cacciatora” or “hunter’s style”, is going to contain either chicken or rabbit cooked with onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and an assortment of vegetables. Every Italian family has a different recipe for this dish, but this is the version I like to prepare for my very not-Italian family.
Before I dive into the recipe, it’s important to understand the cooking technique we’re using to prepare it, which is braising. Braising is hands down my favorite way to cook protein because it’s a very satisfying process, and although it does take some time and love, the end result is incredibly rewarding.
The technique of braising is mostly reserved for tough cuts of meat that get a lot of exercise. The low and slow moist cooking process breaks down the connective tissue which in turn makes the meat moist, tender, and really delicious!
Let’s go through the five steps of braising:
- A braise begins by heating a heavy pot with a lid. Using a neutral oil, brown the meat and then remove it from the pan. For our cacciatore recipe, the extra step of dredging the meat in flour is added to give the sauce additional body.
- Aromatic vegetables are then added to the pan and lightly caramelized. Sometimes an acidic ingredient like tomato paste is added to the pot at this time to create a rich flavor and soften the tissues of the meat. Sometimes flour will be added at this point to create a roux for thickening the braising sauce.
- Next, add wine or fortified wine (e.g., sherry or port) to deglaze the pan and lift up all of the browned bits known as fond, stuck to the bottom of the pan.
- Pour in enough cooking liquid, usually a stock but in this case tomatoes, so the meat you are braising is submerged halfway. Season the braising liquid with salt and pepper to taste, bring the braise to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover tightly.
- Simmer the braise gently on the stovetop or in the oven until the meat is tender and can be cut using just a fork. Poultry will need 45 minutes to 1 hour. Beef and pork will require 2 to 3 hours depending on the size of the pieces you’re braising. A bonus with braising is that flavor is released into the cooking liquid, which becomes a delicious sauce.
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yield: 4-6 servings
Active time: 45 minutes
Start to finish: 1 hour, 30 minutes
4 bone-in chicken thighs
4 chicken legs
Salt and pepper to taste
All-pourpose flour for dredging chicken
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1/2 pound white or cremini mushrooms, quartered
1/2 onion, sliced
1 stalk celery, medium dice
1 carrot, peeled and cut into medium dice
1 roasted red pepper, medium dice (see note, below)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups canned whole tomatoes with their juice, crushed
2 roma or 1 large tomato, medium dice
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or fresh rosemary, chopped
1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Dredge in flour, shaking off any excess.
2. Heat a heavy pot with a lid over medium-high heat, and add the oil. Brown the chicken, skin-side-down, until golden brown and crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over and repeat on the second side. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
3. In the same pan, sauté the mushrooms until golden brown. Add the onion, celery and carrot and saute until softened. Next add the roasted red pepper along with the garlic, and cook for one additional more.
4. Deglaze the pan with the wine and allow it to reduce by half of its original volume.
5. Add the canned and fresh tomatoes and the bay leaf. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and return the chicken to the pan.
6. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook the chicken, covered, until it is tender and falling off the bone, about 45 minutes.
7. Finish the dish by stirring in the fresh herbs, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
8. Serve the chicken and sauce over your side of choice.
To roast a pepper, place it directly on your gas burner and cook, turning occasionally, until the skin is completely blackened on all sides. Place the pepper in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to steam for about 15 minutes. Remove the skin and seeds from the pepper, resisting the urge to rinse it, and cut as needed for your recipe.
Understanding the basic steps of braising opens a door to using different proteins, flavor profiles and spices. Some really great examples of this include some of my favorite recipes I have blogged about in the past, such as Pozole Verde, Braciole, Beef Paprikash and Tuscan Chicken.
I typically like to serve my braise with a complementary starch or grain such as mashed potatoes, quinoa or farro to soak up the braising liquid. To stick with the Italian theme, I made a pot of polenta to accompany the cacciatore, which was an excellent pairing for the chicken!
We’ll be making Coq au Vin (one of my all-time favorites!) in our virtual class on Thursday, November 18, 2021 at 6pm CST.
Then join us for our Virtual Cook Along: Soup and Stew Workshop on Sunday, November 21, 2021 at 11am CST, and learn how to prepare Chicken Braised with Apples, Onions and Sage along with a Corn, Bacon and Potato Chowder.
Braising is this week's challenge for our private Facebook group of home cooks. Join, make a braised dish like this Chicken Cacciatore or Coq au Vin with us on Thursday, and share your creations with the group.