December 11, 2015

Chicken Cacciatore

A lot of things are going on in my life right now. Finals are looming in the all-too-near future, I'll be in Italy in a month, and I have to figure out how to somehow cram all of my stuff into too few boxes to store until August. Also, it's incredibly warm for December in Wisconsin, but I still want tons of steaming hot comfort food. The solution? Wrapping myself in a giant fuzzy blanket, ignoring all my problems and responsibilities, and curling up with a big bowl of chicken cacciatore, cooked all day in a crockpot until the chicken is unbelievably tender and flavorful.

I'm basically an expert on Italy by now. The anticipation for my semester abroad combined with a teeny bit of procrastination in my pre-finals haze has resulted in way too much time spent browsing European destinations where I can eat the most food possible and learning random facts about Italy.

Turns out chicken cacciatore actually originated in Italy (unlike many other "Italian" favorites here in America coughcough chicken parmesan coughcough), but it didn't have tomatoes. It was a hunter's meal of dark meat with mushrooms and herbs in a savory gravy that could easily be prepared in the outdoors. I decided to embrace my stubborn need for tomatoes in 90% of savory Italian dishes and add them in not one but two ways: fresh tomatoes and tomato sauce. It may not be the true classic cacciatore but it is definitely delicious.

Even though this is made in a crock pot, I still take the time to start cooking the chicken and vegetables properly. As usual, I use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs for the moisture and flavor. I'm a firm believer that chicken should always be crispy in at least one step of the cooking process, so I start by searing it until golden brown. The skins get nice and crispy, but they'll most likely end up soggy at the end of the cooking process. I don't mind, though, because this releases all the schmaltz to cook the vegetables in, and I'm willing to sacrifice my beloved crispy skin for incredibly tender insides.

Once there is plenty of schmaltz left in the pan, I throw in some mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions. After a few minutes, I add plenty of garlic and cook all the vegetables until aromatic. They're going to cook for a long time in the slow cooker so you don't have to worry about cooking them all the way through.

The sauteed vegetables are combined with fresh diced tomatoes (you can use whole if they aren't in season), red wine, chicken broth, and marinara sauce. You can do this right in the slow cooker to reduce your cleanup time. These all cook into a beautiful sauce that you'll want to eat on just about everything. The marinara sauce is going to be a pretty prominent flavor, so I like to make it myself, but I'm the first to recognize that sometimes there just isn't time for that (like when you have 3 finals in 36 hours), so jarred sauce is a perfectly acceptable substitute. Just make sure you taste the cacciatore sauce about halfway through to make sure it's seasoned properly whether you used homemade marinara or not.

After 5 or 6 hours you should end up with a hot, bubbly tomato sauce filled with vegetables and fall-off-the-bone chicken. Since I'm addicted to carbs, I serve it over pasta, but it's hearty enough to eat on its own. You could also serve over orzo or polenta if you want to be a little more creative. Based on my mom's requests for this dish whenever I'm back in town, it's just as good frozen and reheated as it is on the first day, so make as much as your crock pot can hold and then eat as much as you can hold (I know I will).

6 Bone-In, Skin-On Chicken Thighs
1/4 Cup Flour
8 oz Baby Bella Mushrooms, Sliced
2 Bell Peppers, Diced
1 Large Yellow Onion, Diced
5 Cloves Garlic, Minced
3 Large Tomatoes, Cubed with Juice Reserved
1 Cup Red Wine
1 Cup Chicken Broth
1 1/2 Cups Marinara Sauce

Heat some oil in a large pot. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour. Sear until deep golden brown, then set aside.

Cook the mushrooms, bell peppers, and onion in the chicken drippings until tender, about 8 minutes, stirring in the garlic after 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Combine the sautéed vegetables, tomatoes and juice, wine, chicken broth, and marinara in a slow cooker. Add the chicken and stir to cover with the vegetables and liquid. Cook on low for 5-6 hours.

Serves 6
Recipe Adapted from Chick-O-Bowl

No comments:

Post a Comment