Cook the Book: Lidia's Simple Chicken Cacciatore
Growing up in the 70's (I know some of you weren't even born yet), Chicken Cacciatore was a big deal in many American homes.
It was basically a big stew with chicken parts on the bone, simmered for hours w/ green peppers and mushrooms in a tomato sauce. Served over pasta, this was a cheap and delicious Sunday dinner. It was actually one of the few dishes my mother made well and we kids would beg for it.
"Cacciatore" means Hunter in Italian, and this is a dish made in every region of Italy.
Each recipe a little bit different.
The hunter would come home with his rabbit or game and the wife would cook it up with whatever she had, usually in a tomato based sauce. Sometimes it would be a rooster, too old and tough to eat any other way, except cooked in a stew for hours.
I made this for a dinner party recently, and though I did not hunt and kill the chicken, I bought a nice kosher bird and cut him up. I made Lidia's recipe from Maremma, in the Tuscan Hills. It is nothing but a ton of garlic, lots of rosemary and pepperoncini (hot peppers). Simple and delicious.
I did it the Lidia way and served it over polenta with some other Lidia classics.
She makes this the day before and advises cooling the chicken in the pot with sauce.
Reheat just before serving the next day. Gets better each day.
A good bottle of Chianti was perfect with this meal, I think it must be what this wine was invented for!
Lidia's Simple Chicken Cacciatore (adapted from Lidia's Italy):
She calls this "Hunter's Style Chicken w/ Rosemary" from Maremma.
4 pound organic chicken, cut in 8 or 10 pieces
1½ teaspoons coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, with lots of needled
1 tsp peperoncino (hot pepper flakes), or to taste
28 oz. canned Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand
Rinse the chicken and pat the pieces dry. Season all over with 1 teaspoon kosher salt.
Pour the olive oil in the big pan and set over medium-high heat. Lay chicken pieces in the pan, skin side down, to brown for 5 minutes. Turn them over and brown another 2-3 minutes. Scatter the sliced garlic into the hot fat, in between the chicken pieces, drop in the rosemary stems, and sprinkle the peperoncino over.
Keep turning the chicken pieces until they're nicely browned all over, 10 minutes or so, then pour in the tomatoes. Slosh the tomato can with a cup of water and pour that in too. Sprinkle over another 1/2 teaspoon salt, raise the heat and turn and stir the chicken in the tomato juices as they come to a boil.
Cover the pan, leaving a crack open, adjust the heat to maintain a steady bubbling in the pan and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and turning the chicken. Remove the cover and cook another 20 minutes or more until the chicken is tender and cooked through and the tomato sauce is slightly reduced but still loose.
Prepare this the day before and let the chicken cool in the pot.
Reheat on a low simmer for about 30 minutes before serving.