Here’s a new take on Chicken Cacciatore, a rustic stew of tender boneless chicken, simmered with wine, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, roasted peppers and potatoes.
It’s been snowing non-stop in the Boston area lately. My morning dog walks are chilly and short. The landscape is white on white. My backyard is unnavigable, except for a thin path made by the dog, leading from the door to his favorite tree. My outdoor furniture looks like ski moguls. But I have to admit that I actually love being trapped in the house on a cold snowy day – especially when there’s a pot of stew simmering on the stove. The more it snows, the more I want to make stew. It’s my way of compensating for all the cold bleakness – by creating something warm, colorful, and comforting.
I’ve always been a big fan of Chicken Cacciatore and I had fun developing my own version, with some new, delicious twists. I oven-roasted the chicken (boneless) and vegetables before simmering them with wine, tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic and herbs…oh, and potatoes! I added lots of thinly sliced potatoes. You definitely need potatoes in a snowy-day stew! Spoon the stew into bowls and enjoy every tender, wine-scented, tomatoey, potatoey bite!
I use a mix of boneless chicken thighs and breasts, which I brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast in a 400ºF oven for 25 minutes.
I slice the bell peppers, carrots and onions, toss them with olive oil and salt, and roast them in a 400ºF oven for 40 minutes.
Then I throw everything in the pot and it all simmers gently until the potatoes are tender, the sauce thickens, and all the flavors meld.
I was planning to talk a little about the history and origin of chicken cacciatore, but that’s fraught with more controversy than I expected. Theres total agreement that “Cacciatore” is Italian for “Hunter” and that the dish originated in Italy, but that’s about as far as the consensus goes. Some insist that true chicken cacciatore has no tomatoes, because they weren’t available to hunters, and this dish was originally made from ingredients that the hunter could hunt or forage. Others dispel that theory by pointing out that chickens are domestic farm animals and not something you hunt! They argue that this dish was prepared for the hunters by their wives, who wanted to make them something delicious and comforting after a long day of work.
However chicken cacciatore came to be, I’m glad it’s here! I hope you enjoy my version!!
If you’re looking for more wonderful comforting chicken recipes, try this top-rated recipe for Orange and Tomato Simmered Chicken with Couscous from the January edition of Cooking Light Magazine.
- 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken - breasts and thighs
- 2 large yellow onions, peeled, halved and ½-inch sliced
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 2 red bell peppers, ribs and seeds removed, cut into ½-inch strips lengthwise, then cut the strips in half crosswise.
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced crosswise
- 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- ½ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 8 ounces button mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
- ¾ cup dry white wine (Vermouth is fine)
- 4 cups low salt chicken broth (I recommend Swanson's)
- 1 28 ounce can whole plum tomatoes, hand-crushed (I recommend San Marzano or Organic)
- 1 6 ounce can of tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
- 2 tablespoons drained capers
- preheat oven to 400ºF. Set chicken pieces on a roasting pan. Brush with olive oil (about 2 tablespoons total) on both sides. Season both sides with salt (about 1 teaspoon total) and several grinds of pepper.
- Put peppers, onions and carrots in a large bowl. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Spread them out on a roasting pan. Cook vegetables on the upper shelf of the oven and chicken on the lower shelf. After 25 minutes, remove the chicken and let it cool. Move the vegetables to the lower shelf, toss them, and roast for an additional 15 minutes. When chicken is cool enough to handle, cut it into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
- Meanwhile (while everything is roasting) heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large dutch oven or soup kettle over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for about 30 seconds, just until the garlic is fragrant. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms lose their water and start to brown. Add white wine and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or so. Stir in broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, spices and salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add potatoes, chicken, vegetables, and capers. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, for 35 minutes, until potatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened a bit. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.