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Friday, May 13, 2011

Chicken Cacciatore -- or at least my version of it...

As far as I know, there is no classic chicken cacciatore recipe.  It'll be different depending on which area of Italy you are in.  Some prefer to use bell peppers, others mushrooms, others like to add some olives, etc.  I've tried all the different variations -- and they all work great.  This is just the way I did it, this time.  Like I said, those other ingredients also work great if you have them on hand, so this is just a guideline if you want to check it out.

This is actually a pretty easy recipe.  The toughest part I feel is making sure you know how to sear meat.  Chicken is tougher for certain people to sear because of the skin.  I'll explain a bit on how to avoid that issue and get perfectly crispy skin on your chicken.

What I used:
4 chicken thighs
1 can chunky tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (red wine or white wine works as well)
Chicken stock (amount varies)
Herbs of your choice (I used a sprig of rosemary, thyme and oregano)
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbs capers
1 tsp sugar
1/2 onion or 3-4 shallots sliced thinly

I'm going to say this again.  This recipe is very open and almost anything will go well with it.  So I'll try to give directions that would help out with other ingredients.  But to start off you want to prep your chicken thighs.  Trim off excess fat/skin, pat dry with paper towels and s&p both sides generously.  Like most of my other posts, I want to emphasize the drying of the chicken to ensure that the chicken doesn't stick and gets a good sear.  Using a preheated 10" stainless steel pan over medium high heat, heat olive oil in pan until shimmering.   Add in chicken skin side down.  In my situation, because I have a great all clad that retains heat in the pan well, I reduced the heat just a smidgen, still above medium.  Sear until skin comes off pan on its own.  Do not attempt to scrape the skin off the pan or it will rip and it won't be good.  It should come out looking like this:

After the skin is seared, sear the other side for a few minutes.  When that side gets its nice crust, remove from the pan.  You will have a lot of excess fat, pour out most of the fat.  Leave behind about 2 tsp.  Throw in garlic, onions, shallots, capers, mushrooms, peppers, and whatever else you are using.  The liquid from these ingredients should begin deglazing the pan.  Once they're a bit brown, throw in the wine or wine vinegar.  This should completely deglaze the pan.  Let it reduce to almost nothing...

... And then add in your tomato product with all its juices.  Add in any herbs you are planning to use as well.  Bring this to a boil, and add in your chicken skin side up.  Be careful not to ruin the crispy skin by getting it wet.  Add in chicken stock just up to the top of the chicken where it will not touch the skin.  Turn the heat down to medium low and let the chicken gently simmer in the tomato.

Depending on the size of your thighs, it should cook through in about 1/2 hour.  Check with a thermometer to ensure temperature has reached 170.  It should be done by now.  You can remove the chicken from the pan and reduce the sauce if you wish.  Also, you want to adjust the seasoning with more s&p if you feel like it.  Serve with rice, pasta or whatever you desire!  I garnished with some chiffonaded basil and grated parmesan cheese.