Translating a classic.
Every few hundred years or so it’s a good idea to take a fresh look at a classic dish. An Italian-American favorite with roots in Italy going back centuries, chicken cacciatore is the perfect recipe to expand upon because variations have existed over time. In Italian, the word cacciatore means hunter, and it’s common to hear chicken cacciatore described as a hunter’s chicken stew. In Italy, though, the dish is more often known as pollo alla cacciatora, which actually means the hunter’s wife’s chicken stew. Whose dish is it, his or hers? It’s time to make it yours.
All the ingredients for a successful makeover.
The essence of chicken cacciatore is the combination of a lean meat, aromatic vegetables and savory mushrooms. Some early forms of chicken cacciatore don’t include tomatoes, which arrived in Italy in the 16th century as the result of explorations in the Americas and gradually became accepted as an edible food. But the version of chicken cacciatore popularized in Italian-American cooking in the 1950s usually features a red sauce, typically thick and heavy.
This new recipe for Refreshed Chicken Cacciatore calls for diced tomatoes plus sun-dried tomatoes. It also includes pimiento-stuffed olives for a sweet-and-salty bonus. Pre-cooking bacon or pancetta adds a depth of flavor to go along with the olive oil you’ll use to sauté the chicken thighs and veggies. It all comes together in the skillet for 15 minutes of braising, which in fact is the secret for why this recipe is so beloved.
In praise of the braise.
Though braising is similar to simmering in the sense there’s liquid and low heat, the two cooking techniques are different. With braising, you’re using just a small amount of liquid or sauce to finish cooking a main ingredient — usually meat — that’s already been sautéed and browned. When you’re simmering a stew, in contrast, all ingredients are completely submerged.
Braising can be a lengthy process, but it doesn’t have to be. Here, it’s just 15 minutes in a light sauce you create from red bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, diced tomatoes and white wine or chicken broth. The veggies stay crisp, and the chicken remains tender and moist.
Finish with farro.
Chicken cacciatore pairs perfectly with your favorite rustic bread or rice, but there’s an ideal option even older than the recipe itself and also associated with historic Italian cuisine. Serve your chicken cacciatore with farro, which looks and tastes like a light brown rice. It’s sometimes called emmer, and this high fiber whole grain contributes B vitamins, zinc, iron and protein.
If you’re on the hunt for a fresh new take on a classic recipe, try Refreshed Chicken Cacciatore. It’s yours to savor and enjoy, a healthy new variation that makes a great meal even better.