Chicken cacciatore has many variations both in the United States and in Italy. Simply translated, it means “hunters’ style chicken”. Generally, it implies a moist, stewy dish, made with chicken parts, plus wine and herbs. Sometimes sweet peppers are added; sometimes tomato is added–neither are added to my mom’s recipe.
My mom’s chicken cacciatore gets its distinctive flavor not only from white wine and herbs, but also from a touch of white wine vinegar. The predominant herbs are oregano, bay leaves and parsley. As I’ve said before, mother doesn’t use a lot of oregano in her cooking, except for some seafood dishes, and most prominently here, in her chicken cacciatore.
The dish begins in a way that many Italian mothers begin their stews or braises, but which is counterintuitive to anyone who’s ever worked in a professional kitchen. Herbs, garlic and oil are placed in a cold saute pan. The chicken gets added almost immediately, then everything comes up to temperature together and begins gently browning together.
Mom always made it with a cut up whole chicken, but that was in the days before boneless, skinless thighs. Now thighs are her preferred chicken parts (mine, too).
Since the dish is saucy, some plain pasta is a great accompaniment. I decided to make fettucine al pesto as a first course however, since my neighbor Beppi brought me more basil than I could possibly cook with for the next year. See Beppi’s pesto recipe in my Pasta with Shrimp and Pesto
In addition, I’m serving sauteed swiss chard as an accompaniment.
Mom’s Pollo alla Cacciatore
serves 4 – 6
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/4 c olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
3 large bay leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 c white wine
1/2 c white vinegar
3 tbls chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c flour
10 oz. white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced in 1/4″ slices
1 c water
salt and pepper to taste
Into a broad skillet large enough to hold all the chicken, pour in the oil and arrange garlic, bay leaves, and 2 tablespoons parsley in one layer, plus 1 teaspoon salt (my mother maintains that adding some salt at this point is critical).
After only about a minute, add the chicken thighs and continue sauteing all together for about 7 – 8 minutes on medium heat.
Add wine and cook for a minute to reduce alcohol. Add flour and water and simmer, uncovered for 2 minutes.
Add mushrooms and cover.
Simmer, covered on low heat, for about 10 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking for another 3 – 5 minutes if the mixture is still watery. Taste and add salt, if necessary. Sprinkle with more fresh parsley and serve.