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Classic Chicken Cacciatore

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Serves 4

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 119

Cacciatore, or alla cacciatora, means hunter's style, since this dish is traditionally made in Italy with wild game like rabbit, boar or pheasant. In the U.S., it's typically made with chicken: a whole chicken, cut into eight pieces and then seared in hot olive oil. Once browned, the chicken slowly cooks in a tomato sauce infused with fresh herbs and red wine. It's a simple combination that yields deep flavor.

  • 1 4-lb. chicken
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into small dice
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 3-inch sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • 1 28-oz. can whole plum tomatoes, finely chopped, juice reserved

Cut the chicken into 8 serving pieces: With a boning knife or chef’s knife, cut each leg off the chicken above the thigh bone. Then separate each leg into drumstick and thigh following the line of fat on the underside. With kitchen shears, cut out the back bone and discard. With a chef’s knife, cut through the breastbone so you have 2 breast halves with the wing attached. Cut across each breast to separate it into 2 pieces.

Pat the chicken dry and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in an 11- to 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Working in 2 batches, cook the chicken until golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side. (Reduce the heat to medium for the second batch if the brown bits sticking to the pan get too dark.) Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Pour off all but a thin layer of fat from the pan. Lower the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spatula, until the onion is tender and lightly browned, about  5 minutes. Add the red wine, raise the heat to medium high, and boil until the wine is reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes. Tie the herbs together in a bouquet garni and add to the pan along with the tomatoes and their juice. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, turn to coat them in the sauce, and gently simmer, uncovered, turning the chicken occasionally, until just cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to plates or a serving platter. Remove the herbs and season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, and serve.

Serving Suggestions

In Italy, starchy dishes like polenta and pasta are typically served on their own as a first course, but if you’re being nontraditional, either would make a great accompaniment to this dish.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 600; Fat (g): fat g 29; Fat Calories (kcal): 260; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 8; Protein (g): protein g 61; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 12; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 9; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 6; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 500; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 190; Fiber (g): fiber g 2;

Photo: Scott Phillips

I don't know what went wrong but the dish turned out with a terrible flavor. A bad can of plum tomatoes? Although, they tasted ok in the can. Comments: I can't imagine Chic Cacc without some garlic and diced red peppers.Traditional spices should include basil, thyme,and maybe rosemary? Often the dry red or white wine is ameliorated with chicken broth. And how about caned cubed tomatoes in place of the plum. Sorry a lot of nit picking here. Later this week will try this recipe one more time as written.

Simple but excellent. This is a keeper.

Excellent. I would cut the chicken breasts in half as they took quite a bit longer to cook. I did not have twine and left the herbs loose, but next time would wrap them in cheesecloth. Served over papardelle. Loved by my family.

For something so simple, I did not expect this to be so delicious, but the sauce and meat are rich, perfectly flavored, and yummy. Browning the chicken takes a while-- have the splatter screen ready-- but otherwise this recipe is very simple and easy, with great results.

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