A Google search for chicken cacciatore yields 748,000 results. There are probably 747,000 different versions, some varying by one ingredient (turmeric?) or a slightly different technique. But this, according to my eldest child, is the definitive version. While he does not cook himself (why should he, when he has me to do it for him?), he is extremely specific about the proper ingredients, tastes, and textures of his favorite foods.
And why not? My goal here is to create a taste memory so that one day, in the distant future, he’ll be grateful I wrote down the damn recipe. I still hold out hope that he’ll cook for himself someday. When he does, he can feel free to change the recipe to suit his own taste. He can braise the chicken on top of the stove or in the oven. He can use white wine or vermouth, with equally fine results. Some peas would be a nice addition. Saute in butter, olive oil, bacon fat…? The possibilities are almost endless.
For now, here’s the way I have to proceed.
For the chicken:
1 chicken, cut into 12 serving pieces; neck, back, and wing tips reserved for stock
½ cup flour, for dredging
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
2 large carrots, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
3 large red peppers, or 2 red and one green, sliced in ½-inch wide strips
2 large cloves garlic, lightly smashed with the side of a knife
1 cup dry white wine
½ can whole Italian tomatoes, chopped, with their juice
½ lb. cremini mushrooms, halved or quartered, depending on their size
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon sriracha hot sauce*
grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for serving
For the broth:
chicken back, wing tips, and neck
1 bay leaf
1 onion, cut in four pieces
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk with leaves, coarsely chopped
First put the broth ingredients into a pot with water to cover. Simmer until ready to use.
You should have twelve chicken parts: 2 legs, 2 thighs, two wings, two breasts cut into three pieces each. Dredge them in the flour seasoned with the salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet large enough to eventually hold all the ingredients. Brown the chicken pieces a few at a time, removing them when done to a large plate. Add the onion, carrots, and celery to the pan and sauté until onions are translucent. Add the peppers and sauté till they start to soften slightly. Add the garlic and wine and turn up the heat. Simmer until the wine reduces a bit. Add the tomatoes, mushrooms, and bay leaves. Add the chicken parts. Strain the broth you made and add it to the chicken. Lower the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for 45 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Remove the chicken and vegetables, skim the layer of oil sitting on top of the broth, and boil the broth until reduced slightly (about 15 minutes). Add salt and sriracha to taste. Pull the skin off the chicken pieces and save for the dog. Return the chicken and vegetables to the pot. Serve with egg noodles or fusilli pasta and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
*My secret ingredient. Only Rooster brand will do.