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Chicken Cacciatore (Pollo alla Cacciatora)

Chicken cacciatore served over squid ink pasta

Chicken cacciatore served over squid ink pasta

As the summer ends and fall arrives, it brings with it the Harvest (traditionally September) and Hunter’s (traditionally October) Moon. What better dish to gather the fading bounty than a chicken cacciatore, or Hunter’s Chicken? There are many variations on this dish from the Northern Italian region of Tuscany-and this is no exception. This delicious, hearty stew uses a long slow simmer to break down the zucchini and other vegetables to naturally thicken the dish. The result is an intense, deeply satisfying flavor. You can also use a slow cooker instead of a Dutch oven, either way it is a wonderful one pot slow simmered delight!

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken quartered (you may remove breast from the bone, if desired), with thighs and drums separated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • Several sprigs fresh thyme and oregano, stems removed
  • 3 pounds fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 zucchini, roughly chopped
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 4 bunches basil, divided into 2 groups and roughly chopped
  • 3 Tbs capers
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or equivalent heavy pot over medium heat. Salt the chicken pieces. Place the chicken skin side down and cook until skin is crisped, approximately 3-5 minutes. Turn the pieces over and sear the other side for another 3-5 minutes. Remove the chicken, sprinkle the skin with paprika and set aside. Add the onions and sweat until soft and translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes. Add the wine, deglazing any bits in the pot. Cook until almost all the wine is evaporated. Add the tomatoes, zucchini, 1/2 the basil, oregano, thyme, stock, and capers. Allow to simmer 2-3 hours until the vegetables have broken down and the liquid has reduced by about half.  Set the chicken pieces on top of the thickened ragu so that only the skins are visible.. Add the lemon zest and cook for another 60-90 minutes until reduced by another third. The vegetables should be a thick stew and chicken  should be thoroughly cooked. Remove the chicken pieces, shred the meat from the drums and add that back to the stew. Add the remainder of the reserved fresh basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. To plate, place a base of the stew on pasta or polenta and top with a piece of chicken. Garnish as desired (basil and fresh Parma recommended).

Chicken cacciatore served over squid ink pasta

Chicken cacciatore served over squid ink pasta