Start to Finish: 1 ½ hours
Difficulty Level: Beginner
Numerous cooks have their own spin on the classic Italian hunter’s stew known as chicken cacciatore, but the rustic winter-warmer’s soul is in the thick tomato, onion and garlic sauce. Chicken thighs allow for consistent cooking and neat portions, but any bone-in chicken joint works. Above all, there’s no rushing chicken cacciatore, a dish that intensifies in flavor with each minute of simmering. Chef Lidia Bastianich provides the inspiration for this version.
- 8 bone-in chicken thighs, skin on, or a medium-size chicken cut into pieces
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons pepper
- 6 garlic cloves
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 red pepper, sliced into thin strips
- 1 onion, chopped
- 10 ounces mushrooms, stalk-in and chopped
- 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 1 1/2 cans (14.5-ounce) tomatoes or passata
- 8 to 10 basil leaves
Season the chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper, rub them with two cloves of crushed garlic, and marinate them overnight in a 1/2 cup of red wine in a resealable plastic bag in the refrigerator. At cooking time, take the chicken out of the marinade and allow it to reach room temperature.
Pat the chicken dry and toss each piece in the flour until lightly coated all over. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan or skillet and saute the chicken pieces for 5 minutes over medium heat, turning them to brown the outside and taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Remove the chicken pieces from the pan with tongs and set them aside.
Reserve the oil and fat in the pan, along with any chicken remnants; lower the heat slightly, and saute the pepper, onion, mushrooms and garlic for 10 minutes.
Add the remaining wine to deglaze the pan, scraping free any residue on the bottom; stir and add the stock. Simmer the sauce for 5 to 8 minutes until it thickens and the mushrooms reduce in size. Stir in the herbs and the tomatoes, breaking down any large chunks with a wooden spoon.
Return the chicken to the pan, stir it to work the sauce around evenly, cover with a heavy lid and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes. Check and stir the sauce occasionally, spooning off any excess fat from the surface. Remove the chicken pieces and set them aside, then reduce the sauce for 10 minutes until it turns thick and unctuous.
Plate the chicken pieces and adorn each one liberally with the reduced sauce, garnishing with chopped fresh basil. Serve the stew hunter-style with a modest hunk of crusty bread, or get the most out of the sauce as an accompaniment to pasta, polenta or even rice.
Tips and Suggestions
Slow cooking brings out the best in chicken cacciatore. All of the ingredients can be combined in a slow-cooker and left to simmer on low for approximately 8 hours. Nevertheless, coating and browning the chicken first is worth the extra step. Because slow-cookers require less stirring, layer the chicken thighs at the bottom of the cooker. Aromatics on the bottom layer may burn.
As with any poultry, observe safe cooking temperatures by checking the internal temperature of a thigh with a cook's thermometer. To destroy any potentially harmful bacteria, the temperature should be at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Under no circumstances should you add the marinade that contained raw chicken to the cooking sauce. Refrigerate any leftovers within an hour of cooking.
- Photo Credit Radu Dumitrescu/iStock/Getty Images
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