Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Chicken Cacciatore

"Cacciatore" is Italian for "hunter". Any meat can be prepared "hunter-style" or as a cacciatore - just cook with some tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and spices. Chicken is the most popular meat used in cacciatore, at least in the US. Maybe where you live Rabbit Cacciatore or Capybara Cacciatore rules.

I've been making this dish for several years and I've finally gotten its timing down. Good timing is vital in cooking, especially when handling a piece of meat (white meat chicken breasts) that can overcook in the time it takes to say Capybara Cacciatore. My breasts turn out so succulent the FRE has nicknamed this dish Chicken Seduction.


2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. olive oil

1 cup dry vermouth (Noilly Prat is a good one)
2 cups chicken broth, unsalted
1 cup tomato puree (canned)
1/2 cup finely diced tomatoes with juice (fresh)
8 kalamata olives, sliced lengthwise, in quarters (or other black olive)
2 tsp. capers with juice

1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. thyme leaves
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp. ground chili pepper (chipotle or ancho)
1/4 tsp. hot red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. salt

2 chicken breast halves (bone in, skin attached, truly hunter-style)
2 tbsp. high heat oil (most refined oils will work)
Dash black pepper
Dash kosher salt

Note: I make the sauce first and use it to braise the chicken breasts. I used to brown the chicken first, add the liquid ingredients all at once, and simmer until done. If you're pressed for time this latter way makes a very fine dish; although having the sauce premade improves the depth of flavor. Taking the time to reduce the alcohol (a trick I learned from a great French Reductionist) and other ingredients makes a world of difference.

1   Add the olive oil, garlic and shallot slices to a cold 10-inch sauté pan. Turn on low and allow the pan to warm slowly. Turn off the heat when the slices just begin to brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes, transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Note: This slow method of cooking garlic or other members of the onion family fends off bitterness that develops with higher heats. You'll notice the difference.

The few times I've added mushrooms to the dish I've sliced crimini or white buttons to 1/4-inch thickness, preheated the pan to medium high, added a tbsp. olive oil and browned quickly. It's not necessary to cook them fully now, they'll cook later with the chicken.

2   Pour vermouth into pan with any remaining garlic or shallot pieces and reduce at medium heat to 1/4 cup. Remove from pan and set aside.

3   Pour chicken broth into pan (don't bother cleaning pan between uses) and simmer on low for about 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree, diced tomatoes, sliced olives, capers, and all the spices. Simmer on low until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add back the garlic, onions and the reduced vermouth. Stir, transfer to a bowl, set aside.

4   Rinse and pat dry chicken breasts, season with kosher salt and pepper. Heat a clean 10-inch sauté pan to medium, add oil and immediately (don't wait for oil to smoke) place breasts skin side down in hot oil. Brown for 2 minutes, turn, brown other side for 2 minutes. Immediately cover the pan, turn heat off, and let sit undisturbed for 5 minutes. Pour the prepared sauce over the breasts, recover the pan, and simmer for 20 minutes. (If your sauce is too thick or there is too little to cover the bottom of the pan, add some chicken broth.) Let cool in pan with sauce for about 5 minutes before serving.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

sounds goood im doing it right now and enjoying a large glass of red wine!
great dish, many various ways of making it too, dont have to stick to the recipe completely!