Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Chicken Cacciatore

Some years ago a group of us spent a week in Tuscany, staying in a charming (read: old) villa in a tiny town of Bucine. Actually we stayed at this villa twice over the course of two years. In case anyone is interested, click HERE and you can see the villa. But this is the first trip I'm talking about today. The owners of the villa provided a delicious multi-course meal for us one night (they still do it now, but for a fee). It got us all talking about our favorite Italian food. Carole talked about her fabulous chicken cacciatore, and agreed that when we returned home, we'd have a reunion with all of us to share stories, all our photographs, and she'd fix it for us.
It took us awhile to get a date for everybody, but we did, finally, meet at her home in West Los Angeles, and this is the dish she made. We slicked up our plates in short order, I'll tell you. In between quaffs of chianti and telling stories. Laughing over some of our fun and funny adventures. Like the day we took the train to Florence, and made it on time to the last train back to our little village, with most of us having to help Carole with her bags and bags of purchases. Carole is a very successful real estate agent in Beverly Hills, and she dresses very well, so she thrives on buying all kinds of lovely things whenever she's in Italy. Then there was the story about the huge antique chest Carole bought the day we spent in Siena. She spent nearly as much on the shipping as she did the antique itself (Well, not quite, but it makes for a good story, doesn't it? The chest is lovely and was very expensive.).

We had a grand time at our trip reunion. Carole happened to mention that the cacciatore recipe was Mario Batali's, so it took just a bit of sleuthing on the internet to find it. About the only thing truly different about the preparation is the addition of pancetta. (Remember, pancetta is unsmoked Italian bacon.)
Cook's Notes: This freezes well, and makes a nice presentation with some linguine or thin spaghetti to serve it on. The sauce is part of the greatness of this. And in this case, more is better. Don't skimp on the ingredients for that part.

Chicken Cacciatore
Recipe By: Adapted from Mario Batali, of the TV Food Network
Serving Size : 6
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 pieces chicken drumsticks
6 pieces chicken thighs
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
1 medium onion -- chopped
3/4 cup carrots -- chopped
1 stalk celery -- chopped
1 clove garlic -- minced
2 cups mushrooms - small, whole [my addition]
2 teaspoons fresh marjoram -- or oregano
1 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons cognac
28 ounces plum tomatoes -- diced, packed in puree
2 tablespoons Italian parsley -- chopped
4 ounces pancetta -- 1/4-inch dice
1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add 2 T. olive oil. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, and working in batches brown the chicken until golden brown, about 7 minutes per side. Remove chicken pieces as they are browned.
2. To the Dutch oven add the remaining 4 T. olive oil. sauté the pancetta until golden brown, about 6-7 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and save. To the pan add onion, carrot, celery, then scrape up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Add the garlic and marjoram and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the wine and cognac and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid is reduced by about two thirds.
3. Add the reserved pancetta, tomatoes and tomato puree; season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the sauce to a slow simmer and partially cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors come together, about 35-40 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 350°. Add the chicken pieces to the sauce and cook for one minute to heat through. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook until the chicken is tender, about 35-40 minutes.
5. Remove the chicken from the oven and transfer meat to a heated platter and cover loosely with foil. With a large spoon or ladle, skim any fat off the surface of the sauce and discard. Stir the parsley into the sauce and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.
Per Serving: 456 Calories; 26g Fat (56.7% calories from fat); 35g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 142mg Cholesterol; 681mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 5 Lean Meat; 2 Vegetable; 2 1/2 Fat.
Printer friendly recipe.

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