Falsetti: This chicken dish is quite a catch
Chickens became domesticated about 8,000 years ago. That should have been my first clue that chicken cacciatore, or hunter’s chicken stew, was not about hunting chickens and cooking them up over an open fire in the woods.
The Italian name of the dish, “pollo alla cacciatora,” or chicken in the style of the hunter’s wife, gives a much clearer picture of its origin.
In my imagination, this is the meal the matriarch of the family prepared to fortify the men before they set off in search of wild boar or some other, more daunting prey than the fowl scratching around in the backyard. Or perhaps it was served when they returned empty-handed.
Chicken cacciatore is a rustic dish made throughout Italy. Although each family has its own version, it always begins with a chicken that is braised in a tomato sauce with herbs added for flavor.
The recipe calls for a whole chicken cut into 10 pieces: 2 breasts (each cut in half), 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks and 2 wings. You might be tempted to buy boneless parts, but the bone-in meat makes for a richer, more flavorful sauce.
If your knives are like mine and not razor-sharp, ask the person working at the butcher counter of the supermarket for some help. He or she will cut up a whole chicken any way you want upon request. Use the back and other remaining parts to make stock, which can be frozen to use in other recipes.
Tuesday, Oct. 15, was National Chicken Cacciatore day in the United States. Although you may be a day late and a dollar short, there is still time to celebrate.
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 (3-4 lb.) chicken, cut into 10 pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
2/3 cup white wine
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet or dutch oven over a medium-high flame. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Working in batches, cook the chicken until browned, 10 to 12 minutes, and transfer to a plate.
Add the rosemary, garlic, bay leaf, carrot, bell pepper, onion and mushrooms to the skillet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until golden, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the skillet, until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.
Return the chicken to the skillet and add the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, until the chicken is tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and serve with the sauce spooned over the top with a sprinkle of chopped parsley. There will be ample sauce for a side of spaghetti.
— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at email@example.com.