Today we cook something new, something different, something slow, something my-mom-used-to-make-and-I-have-attempted-to-recreate-but-obviously-almost-accidentally-vastly-improved-upon-with-my-masterful-kitchen-skills, something semi-Italian (Southern, if one can believe the interwebs). Yes. A meat recipe. The first of many. Enjoy!
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
4 bone-in, skin-on hind quarters
½ c. flour (I use my own gluten-free blend)
1 tbs garlic powder
½ tbs sea salt
½ tbs black pepper
2 tbs dried herbs (equal parts rosemary, thyme, oregano and basil)
½ c. fresh basil (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (minced)
1 large onion (chopped)
2 bell peppers (chopped)
2-3 small zucchini (quartered lengthwise and sliced into 1/4 in. chunks)
12 mushrooms (sliced)
2x 15oz cans black olives (whole)
28oz can whole tomatoes
15oz can crushed tomatoes w/ basil
¾ c. red wine (something you don’t mind drinking)
6 tbs olive oil
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
Combine flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried herbs in a large bowl. Heat three tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy, oven safe pot with a lid, such as a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Dredge chicken parts in flour mixture until well coated (it’s really personal preference on what parts you use; I like the hind quarters and use them exclusively because the meat is more moist and flavorful). Arrange coated chicken across the bottom of the pot in a single layer, skin-side down. Fry until brown and crispy, about ten minutes, and then flip the chicken and do the same to the other side.
When both sides of the chicken are well crisped, remove them to a tray and pop them in the oven to hold their temp (hurray food safety!). Add the minced garlic, onion, bell pepper and zucchini and another two or three tablespoons of olive oil to your pot and sauté for a few minutes. Add two tablespoons of the flour mixture and sauté for another five minutes, stirring often. Remember to discard any unused flour mixture. Stir in the wine. Add both cans of tomatoes and the fresh basil. Mix in the mushrooms and black olives. Kill the heat. Take your chicken pieces and lay them across the top of the sauce in your pot, skin up, just slightly pressing them into the sauce.
Put a lid on it and pop it into your preheated oven for the slow cooking, three to six hours depending on whether or not you prefer the bones to be soft enough to bite through. When you think it’s just about ready, remove the lid and turn the heat up to 400 in order to re-crisp the chicken, twenty to thirty minutes. Watch it carefully at this high temp so as not to burn it.
Serve over pasta or long grain rice or eat it with a big wooden spoon straight from the pot if you like. Dig in or buon appetito or whatever! Should make about six servings, I think.
The great thing about Cacciatore is that it’s all rough approximation, coarse chopping and it’s another kind of one pot dish. Cacciatore is Italian for “huntsman,” so it’s meant to be a rustic, fly by the seat of your pants kind of affair. So go ahead and chop your vegetables with an old spade out by the wood shed (that’s what I do)!
It does take a while, but it’s all very simple and a great deal of that long prep time is hands off slow cooking. It works best if you have something you can move directly from the stove top into the oven, a big cast iron pot with a lid like a Dutch oven works perfectly; however, you can always improvise. For instance you can do all the prep work in a pot on the stove and then move everything to a crock pot for the slow cooking, or just reduce the heat to barely a simmer, just a smile across the top, throw a lid on it and do all the cooking right on the stove top (with the heat source directly to the bottom of the pan, this is the method most likely to scorch your sauce a little, but if you’re okay with it it, I’m okay with it).
And so as with all of my recipes, I say experiment. You can try (I have not) to use tofu, tempeh or fried eggplant to make a vegan version. Omit any veggies that don’t strike your fancy. Go ahead and grate a truckload of fine hard Italian cheese on the finished product; I’ll try not to hate you too much if you do (I once loved cheese, but she was a violent and spiteful lover). Make gradual changes. Little mistakes are easier to accommodate and still produce something reasonably edible.