A few posts ago, I reported that Maggie and I had made a rich tomato sauce according to the recipe in Mastering the art of French cooking, and that we anticipated using it in dishes such as beef goulash and chicken cacciatore. We made the latter last weekend and it was stunningly delicious, far and away our best-ever rendition of this popular Italian dish.
In our recipe collection, I have given the dish the nickname that appears in the title of this post. You might think that is a play on words or, more precisely, the sound of words. Yes, but my playfulness does not end there. Cacciatore is an Italian word that means ‘of the hunter’. It is not limited to a braise in a tomato-rich sauce. It could be an open-air grill over a rustic fire and it could involve meat-on-the-bone from any number of animals that might be caught by a ‘hunter’. So, to make chicken cacciatore, first you must ‘catch’ your fowl.
The recipe that we have followed in the past appears below. It has served us well but it has gradually fallen down the pecking (groan) order of our repertoire as we have added dishes inspired by our overseas travels or the capabilities of our Weber Q. For this week’s occasion, we made some changes which, in cahoots with our French tomato sauce, took it to a new level. As follows.
Chicken pieces: we used skinless chops (thighs with the outside bone removed) and skin-on middle segments of wings (to make the texture luscious), about 2:1 by weight (we only used 750g in total)
Cooking the onion and garlic: we sauteed these for a good 10 minutes until just before they began to caramelise
Adding the liquids: we added the wine and let it bubble and reduce for a couple of minutes. Then we added the vinegar, stock and about 170ml of tomato sauce (equivalent to about 350ml for the full-sized recipe), brought them to the boil and let them simmer for about 10 minutes, to intensify the flavours
Olives: we happened to have some ‘ligurian’ olives in the fridge, so we used those. Maggie cut the pips out before they went in the pot. You could use any olive you like, provided it is one you LIKE
Finishing the dish: once it was cooked, we removed the chicken pieces and kept them warm in the oven. Maggie then used a soupspoon to deglaze the sauce and thickened it slightly using cornstarch
Side dishes: we had basmati rice cooked in a 50:50 mix of water and chicken stock, infused with saffron; and a lightly-dressed green salad
It doesn’t look all that special in our photo, but the experience of eating it was utterly delightful. I can’t wait to do it again; ditto for making goulash using the tomato sauce!
1½ kg of chicken pieces (thighs, wings and drumsticks)
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1½ cups chicken stock
¾ cup dry white wine
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
400g peeled tomatoes, chopped or 250ml of tomato passata
<1 tsp sugar
4 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
25g roasted olives or 50g black olives, pitted and chopped
tomato paste (if required)
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
- Use sharp knife to remove tip section of wings (tip is safe to feed to pets) and trim any large pieces of fat from the other pieces of chicken. Heat olive oil and brown pieces in batches. Put pieces in a bowl and season.
- Preheat oven to 150C (fan-forced).
- Sauté onion and garlic for until soft. Add stock, wine, vinegar, tomatoes and sugar and bring to boil. Add chicken pieces, bring back to boil, cover with lid and transfer to oven.
- After 30 minutes, add anchovy and olives. Adjust seasoning and add a little tomato paste to suit your own taste. Return to oven and cook for a further 30 minutes. (If you remove the lid for the last 20 minutes, the sauce will become rich and thick.)
- Remove from oven. When cool enough, refrigerate overnight or until fat has solidified on surface.
- Skim off fat, gently reheat and stir through basil. Serve with pasta or rice, sprinkled with some chopped parsley.