I remember my first brush with Chicken Cacciatore. I was a 21 year old new bride, living in our first apartment, in Calgary, Alberta. We had a very limited income in those days (nothing's changed since then, lol) and I was always on the lookout for a great bargain at the shops.
I loved to cook and as inexperienced as I was, I was always wanting to add some adventure into our meals. One day, the local Safeway shop was offering a reduced rate on chickens. I bought up several of them and hurried home, my head filled with great ideas of what I was going to do with them. They were labeled stewing hens.
I was so ignorant and inexperienced, that I had no idea that stewing hens were old chickens that had spent most of their lives laying eggs, and were fit only to be slowly simmered for long periods of time and made into soups and stews. They can be quite delicious when cooked properly . . . think Chicken Fricasee, or Brunswick Stew.
I wanted to make Chicken Cacciatore. I had what I thought was the perfect recipe, taken from the Chicken volume of my Better Homes and Garden's Cookbook Library. (A library I had carefully saved for and collected over a long period of time.) Oh how sophisticated I thought I was being! I carefully cut them up and followed the directions in my recipe to the "t." Unfortunately, we ended up with something that was rather horrible . . . impossible to cut, or chew, or anything else . . . I suppose if I had simmered it overnight, it would have ended up being quite edible . . . but I didn't know that then.
I only knew I had created extreme "rubber" chicken.
That was a long time ago now, some 30 odd years, and I am quite happy to say that years of experience have taught me what to do with a stewing hen now. I have also quite happily learned how to make a really delicious Chicken Cacciatore.
This is Italian Comfort food, cooked in my English Kitchen. I'm quite sure a real Italian would point out all my failings in the recipe, but no matter, it's tasty nonetheless, authentic or not . . .
My husband says he doesn't like Italian food . . . hah!! He always gobbles this up and asks for seconds.
Serves 4 to 6
A delicious chicken dish with a rich tomato sauce. I like to use chicken thighs as they have enough flavour to stand up to the robust flavours of the sauce. Serve this with rice or spaghetti for a tasty wintertime supper. Crusty bread is also a great "go-with" for sopping up any juices!
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and halved
5 TBS olive oil
2 TBS sherry vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 chicken thighs (Bone in with skin on)
2 TBS chopped fresh Marjoram leaves
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 fat garlic cloves, peeled and minced
4 ounces dry white wine (1/2 cup)
2 (400g) tins of chopped plum tomatoes in juice (about 4 cups)
250ml of chicken broth (1 cup)
2 TBS chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F. Place the mushrooms, caps down, into a small baking dish, in a single layer. Drizzle with 2 TBS of the olive oil and the vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast until golden brown, about 20 minutes, giving them a stir once or twice during the roasting process so that they cook evenly. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper and 1 TBS of the Marjoram leaves. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Lay the chicken thighs in the hot oil, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes per side, until lightly browned all over. Transfer to a platter and keep warm, loosely covered with foil.
Add the onion to the pan drippings and cook over medium high heat until soft and translucent, stirring often. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant. Add the wine and bring to the boil, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce to half the amount by boiling for 20 to 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chicken broth. Cook and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes until the sauce thickens and reduces somewhat.
Return the chicken pieces to the pan and simmer for an additional 15 minutes or so, until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in the mushrooms, parsley and remaining marjoram. Cook for several minutes longer. Place the chicken thighs on heated plates and spoon the sauce over top. Garnish with the grated cheese and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.