An Authentic Chicken Cacciatore Recipe and the Origins of Chicken Cacciatore
Did you know an authentic Chicken Cacciatore recipe doesn't have tomatoes in it and that it was a traditional Italian dish that hunters could easily make in the field if they needed to cook a meal?
It is a traditional dish that combines the harvests of the forests, the fields and the garden in the use of its ingredients. However, there are also variations on this chicken dish depending on which region of Italy you are making it. If you are making chicken cacciatore in southern Italy, then you will use red wine in the sauce, and if you are in northern Italy, then you will use white wine. You can also substitute chicken for rabbit.
Basically, Italian chicken cacciatore is a chicken stew with chicken, garlic, herbs and mushrooms as a base. Sometimes green peppers are added to give the stew an additional interesting twist. Nowadays you will see modern versions where tomatoes and tomato sauce is added to the stock. However, this is not how it is traditionally cooked.
With our chicken cacciatore recipe below the gravy that comes just by the stewing of the chicken in the wine is used as a base with no additions of tomatoes anywhere. Many will be surprised to read that, because it is probably not the chicken cacciatore that they have seen and eaten and you will see many a chicken cacciatore recipe calling for tomatoes of some description. Of course these recipes are equally delicious, just not authentic.
You will also see modern recipes asking for the chicken pieces to be dredged in flour first and then pan seared. Do you think that the hunters carried flour around with them? Of course not, and the traditional Italian chicken cacciatore recipe would not use flour either. The chicken would be cut up, pan fried and then stewed in the wine with the herbs until the meat just fell off the bone. It was then served with a hunk of plain bread.
Authentic Chicken Cacciatore Recipe
Take 1 chicken and cut up into smaller pieces. Season well with salt and pepper. Brown in a hot skillet with some olive oil. Remove from pan and set aside.Slice 1 large onion, crush 3 cloves garlic and slice a punnet of mushrooms. Add to chicken and brown gently. Add 1/2 cup prosciutto or bacon can be used as a substitute.Place the chicken back in the pan and add sprigs of rosemary, sage and thyme to the chicken.Add a dash of brown vinegar and allow to vaporize. Now add enough red wine to cover the chicken. Make sure that the wine is good. Chianti would have been the traditional wine added to this dish. Simmer over a slow heat until the chicken is well tender and falls off the bone.Serve with either polenta or hunks of bread with steamed or roasted vegetables on the side. Garnish with chopped parsley.
Picture courtesy of Evan Joshua Swigart
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