Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chicken cacciatore

There are an almost infinite variety of ways to do chicken cacciatore, but they're all basically a rustic braise of chicken, tomatoes and vegetables. So feel free to substitute.

I used this recipe from the New York Times. I adapted it a bit; I left out the dried mushrooms and garlic (didn't have any), added more wine, and instead of using chicken legs/thighs, I just used one whole cut-up chicken.

The advantages to using a whole cut-up chicken are that's far cheaper than buying chicken parts by the pound (2 whole chickens at Sam's Club: $8.80, for $4.40 each, for a 5-6 lb chicken. That's around 75 cents a pound, and the scraps can be used to make chicken broth). The disadvantages of using a whole cut-up chicken are that you have to cut up a whole chicken. It's not difficult, especially if you have a really good set of kitchen shears; but if you don't have good kitchen scissors, and/or are squeamish about cutting up a whole chicken, well, I can't help you there. Try to find chicken thighs on sale.

Also, chicken cacciatore is usually served with pasta or rice. I am happy to report that it goes very well with cheese grits.

1/2 oz dried mushrooms (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 to 8 skinless chicken legs and/or thighs (thighs can be boneless); or one whole cut-up chicken
1 small onion, minced
1 small carrot, minced
1 rib celery, minced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh minced Italian parsley
1 heaped teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, or 1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 pound mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1/2 cup red wine (I used 1 to 1 1/2 cups)
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes in juice

If using, place the dried mushrooms in a bowl or heat-proof glass measuring cup and pour on 2 cups boiling water. Let sit 15 to 30 minutes, until mushrooms are softened. Drain through a strainer lined with cheesecloth or a paper towel and set over a bowl. Squeeze out excess water and chop coarsely. Set aside. Measure out 1 cup of the soaking liquid and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown, in batches, for 5 minutes on each side. Transfer the chicken pieces to a bowl as they are done.

Turn the heat down to medium, add the remaining oil and the onion, carrot and celery, as well as a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes and salt to taste. Cover, turn the heat to low and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, until the mixture is soft and aromatic. Stir in the fresh and dried mushrooms, turn the heat back up to medium, and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are just tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the wine and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes, until the wine has reduced by about half. Add the tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down a little and smell fragrant. Stir in the mushroom soaking liquid that you set aside.

Return the chicken pieces to the pan and stir so that they are well submerged in the tomato mixture. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes, until the chicken is tender. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve with pasta or rice.

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