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July 24, 2014 § 3 Comments
I am calling this chicken cacciatori because I like the way that title sounds, catching on my tongue. Cha-cha-cha-Tori!
But if you are a purist of any kind, please forgive me. This recipe is almost entirely improvised, (every time I make it) and was not passed down to me from a Nona or a friend’s Nona or even from a Batali cookbook. It’s really just simmered chicken thighs in tomato broth with vegetables, wine and olives.
But, oh, it’s so much more than that. The ingredients really mingle and dance. When I cook it, I want to spin around and say its name over and over and over: Cha-cha-cha. Tori! The urge to sing its praises gets stronger as the days go by, so its best to make a bit ahead.
This meal has become a favorite in our household for a few reasons. First, it requires just one pot. Second, it’s virtually foolproof. Cooking this is like painting with acrylics: you can make a few mistakes and fix them as you go. Also, it’s excellent in any season. As a stew, it’s comforting in the cooler weather, but it’s also brimming with summer vegetables, and is great for those overwhelmed gardeners with zucchini coming out of their ears. (Emily!)
Generally, I try to make something more interesting than poultry when guests come for dinner, but this is an exception. If you spoon this over polenta with melted blue cheese, as I did on Tuesday night, you won’t feel at all ashamed of serving something as quotidian as chicken. You might only be ashamed of not making enough for seconds or thirds.
Sauté 2 pieces of bacon or pancetta over medium high heat, and set aside. In the renderings, brown 2 pounds of chicken parts (I like thighs… yeah). You could also use butter, or olive oil, or a combination. When the skin is brown, (after a few minutes on each side) remove the chicken with a slotted spoon, and set it aside.
In the same pan, Sauté 1 chopped red onion until soft. Add a few chopped cloves of garlic. When the garlic is just softening, add a couple of chopped peppers (I used red and orange) and a couple of chopped zucchini. (You may want to add a bit more fat, or wine or liquid from the tomatoes to keep things moving.) When the vegetables are softening, pour in a 28oz can of crushed tomatoes and 1 cup of white wine and bring to a simmer. It never hurts to swirl in a tablespoon of tomato paste, if you have it. Throw in a handful of chopped parsley and a couple of bay leaves.
Before the vegetables get too soft, add back the chicken, skin side up. Throw in a generous handful of olives–I use a mix of Castelvetrano and Gaeta, but any olives will do. Cover the pan and let the chicken and vegetables simmer for a great long while–longer if you’re cooking chicken breasts whole. (Often, I remove the chicken from the pan after a while and shred it with a serrated knife. I might then use the bones along with some garlic and onion to make a chicken broth in which to cook my polenta.) Season the dish as you go–sometimes I like to add red pepper flakes. I throw in some torn basil at the very end.
I like this over polenta cooked in chicken broth with melted blue cheese. If I used pork at the start (either bacon or pancetta) I add it to the polenta before pouring the cacciatori on top.