Chicken Cacciatore is the Italian dish that I cut my cooking chops on. I was fascinated with the layering of flavours. How each step intensified the complexity of the final dish. It’s definitely possible to throw the same ingredients in a pot and pretend it’s Chicken Cacciatore but without the proper technique you end up with an insipid, tasteless chicken cacciatore impostor.
The trick to creating a deep, rich cacciatore sauce is taking the time to bring out the unique flavours of each component starting with the extra virgin olive oil.
Make sure you don’t overheat the olive oil before adding the chicken pieces. If the olive oil is smoking you’ve taken it too far. The chicken should gently sizzle when you add it to the pot. Smoking olive oil will create a burnt flavour that is impossible to get rid of.
Browning the chicken well on the bone side gives you a gorgeous fond to begin the layering of flavour process. Do your best to not tear the chicken skin when you turn it over. Reducing the heat will help greatly but if it does rip it’s not the end of the world. Once you have the chicken out of the pot, increasing the heat back to medium high will help caramelize your vegetables without compromising their structure. I still want to be able to recognize each vegetable rather than have it cooked to mush.
The wine you cook with is critical. I think it’s hilarious when someone tells me they opened a bottle of wine that tasted awful so they saved it for cooking. If it’s awful to drink, it’s awful to eat. Cooking will not improve the flavour. When your wine hits the bottom of the Dutch oven, it will immediately start to bubble and loosen all the delicious bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. These over cooked pieces of chicken and vegetable are part of the gold. Use a wooden spoon to get every last piece.
Seasoning is one of the most difficult steps to master in savory dishes. So many recipes tell you to salt to taste but what if you can’t tell? I use a salt free chicken broth so that I have control over how salty my finished dish is. Under salting will leave your Chicken Cacciatore bland so trust me and use my recommended 2 teaspoons to start. It’s well seasoned but if you like more salt, add it at the table.
Passata di Pomodoro is my go to for most of my tomato based meat sauces. I love the thick consistency, vibrant color and the way it clings to my pasta. Once you have everything in the pot, into the oven it goes for a lovely braise. Using the oven rather than the stove top eliminates any chance of your sauce scorching on the bottom from an uneven burner. After the hour is up, you will have a deep. rich tomatoey sauce full of vegetables and succulent chicken.
Chicken Cacciatore can be served with pasta, polenta, mashed potatoes or just a really great bread to sop up the sauce. Once you try this recipe, you will never look back. The art of layering flavour will take your cooking to a whole other level.
Drop me a note in the comment section. I’d love to hear how your dish turns out.
Thanks for reading.
- 1 - 3lb chicken, cut into 6 pieces seasoned with salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lb cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
- 1 leek, sliced in 1/4"discs and soaked if necessary
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced with membrane and seeds removed
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 small red onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground fennel seed
- 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary needles, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 cup unsalted chicken stock
- 1 400 gram bottle tomato passata
- Preheat oven 350*F
- Heat olive oil in heavy Dutch oven over medium high heat.
- Add chicken pieces, bone side down and brown for 10 minutes.
- Turn chicken over, reduce heat to low and brown gently on skin side for 5 minutes.
- Remove chicken to a platter and set aside.
- Increase heat to medium high, add all vegetables and saute until they start to caramelize - about to minutes.
- Deglaze pot with red wine and reduce to half.
- Add all of the sea salt, pepper, ground fennel, dried chili flakes, dried oregano, bay leaves and fresh rosemary.
- Add chicken stock and the passata - stir well to combine.
- Return chicken pieces to the pot and submerge in the sauce.
- Cover Dutch oven and place on bottom rack of your preheated oven.
- Bake for 1 hour.
- Remove from oven and serve with pasta or mashed potatoes
THE LOVE: Take your time and use delicious wine.