Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chicken Cacciatore

My original exposure to Chicken Cacciatore came from a short-lived brand of simmering sauces called "Chicken Tonight."  You may not remember them, but I bet you remember the jingle.  Play the video below and it'll all come rushing back.

Remember now?  The advertising obviously worked on my family, as we would often proclaim "I feel like chicken tonight!"  I think the only one of their sauces we tried was the cacciatore, but it was actually pretty tasty.  Chicken Tonight brand is now gone (though apparently quite alive and quite successful abroad), but chicken cacciatore remains delicious.  It's also quite easy!  This recipe made enough to feed Kristin and me for almost a week, so it's a great way to eat for a while or entertain company on a small budget.

This recipe makes great use of chicken thighs.  They're cheap, and both absorb a lot of flavor from the sauce in which they simmer and lend some nice meaty flavor of their own.  You'll also need bell peppers, sweet onion, button mushrooms, canned tomatoes, garlic olive oil, butter, flour, white wine, thyme, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper.

It sounds like a long list, but when the long list is mostly vegetables and seasonings, life is good.

First, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Season your chicken thighs all over with salt and pepper, then dredge in a thin coating of flour.

In a large dutch oven (or other pot capable of moving from stove to oven), melt a tablespoon of butter in a bit of olive oil.  Brown the chicken on both sides, 3-4 minutes per side.  Do this in batches, setting the chicken aside afterward.  You don't need to cook the chicken completely through, as it will finish in the oven, but do get it nice and brown.

While the chicken is cooking, chop the onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms into large-ish pieces.  They'll be cooking for quite a while, so keeping pieces large retains some texture.

Pour off most of the remaining fat once the chicken is browned, keeping a tablespoon or two in the pan.  Add all of the vegetables to the pan - onions, peppers, mushrooms, and minced garlic.  Cook just a couple of minutes until they're starting to soften.

After a couple of minutes, add a cup of decent white wine and your seasonings - thyme, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper.  A dry white is probably ideal, but all I had on hand was a Riesling, and that worked really nicely.  Drink the rest of whatever you use with dinner - it'll pair nicely.

Cook the vegetables and wine another minute or two until the wine starts to bubble.  This ensures that you avoid that edgy, "raw wine" taste.

Once the wine is bubbling, open and add your two large cans of diced tomatoes, juice and all.  Your dutch oven will be getting quite full at this point.  It should also be smelling better and better.

Reintroduce the chicken thighs to the magical mixture in the dutch oven.  At least partially submerge the chicken so it can absorb plenty of saucy goodness.

Now into the oven!  Cover and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

By about 30 minutes in, your entire home will smell amazing.  Hang in there to finish the hour before pulling it out and uncovering the dutch oven.  Distract yourself in the last 10-15 minutes by cooking some pasta according to the directions on the box.  When the timer finally goes off, the cacciatore should look more or less like the photo above.

Devour promptly over noodles.

Recipe: Chicken Cacciatore
Prep Time: 15 Minutes | Cook Time: 90 Minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: 8-10

  • 16 oz Pasta, cooked according to directions on package.
  • 8 Chicken Thighs
  • 1/3 cup Flour
  • 1 large Sweet Onion
  • 2 large Red Bell Peppers
  • 8 cloves Garlic
  • 12 oz White Button Mushrooms
  • 2 cans (28 oz) Diced Tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup White Wine
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 1 tsp Ground Thyme
  • 2 tsp Oregano
  • 1 tsp Basil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Roughly chop onions, peppers, and mushrooms.  Leave pieces fairly large.  Mince garlic.
  3. Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Dredge in flour.
  4. Melt butter in olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat.  Brown chicken on both sides, 3-4 minutes per side.  Set chicken aside and discard all but a small amount of fat.
  5. Saute onions, peppers, mushrooms, and garlic in remaining fat 2-3 minutes until beginning to soften.  Add thyme, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, and wine.  Cook another 1 minute until wine bubbles.
  6. Add canned tomatoes (with juice) and mix well.
  7. Return chicken to dutch oven, partially submerged.  Cover and bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.
  8. Serve hot over pasta.

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