Do you ever wonder how recipes evolve over the years? I found this History of Chicken Cacciatore from Days of the Year :
“It’s probably best to start off by saying what cacciatore actually means, which will help shed some light on the dish’s origins. Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian, and it is hunters who first ate this dish. In fact, it is thought that the first Chicken Caccaiatore was not made with chicken at all, but with rabbit or other wild game sometime during the Renaissance period, so between the 14th and 16th centuries. [Note from me: Italians do eat a lot of rabbit which we experienced when visiting. Even on the island of Ischia! We have an acquaintance who lives there and she told us rabbit is a favored delicacy on the island.]
“Chicken Cacciatore’s simple but delicious recipe was likely developed to satisfy the appetites of hunters who may have been on the track of a larger animal or herd of animals for several days, and who needed a tasty, filling stew that could easily be cooked outdoors to keep them going. The spices used, such as parsley and oregano, would have also been readily available to humble hunters. An interesting fact is that contrary to popular belief, Chicken Cacciatore did not originally contain tomatoes or tomato sauce, as tomatoes were brought to Italy from the New World later than it would have been made for the first time. When making this dish with chicken, it is more traditional to use the dark meat, not the white meat, as it contains more fat and therefore helps make a thicker, tastier sauce when cooked than lean chicken breast would.”
We like our mushrooms and pancetta crisp-ish so I sauté them a bit longer.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 5 1/2 ounces pancetta (or bacon), finely chopped
- 4 1/2 ounces mushrooms, button or your favorite
- 4 chicken drumsticks (I use all thighs)
- 4 chicken thighs
- 1/3 cup dry white wine (I like using red wine instead)
- 2 14 ounce cans chopped tomatoes (you can use fresh from the garden or frozen from summer's harvest and milled or chopped with juices)
- 1/4 teaspoon brown sugar (I don't usually add - I think it tastes good without the sugar)
- 1 sprig of oregano plus more to garnish
- 1 sprig of rosemary or parsley and basil - use whatever family of herbs you like
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/3 cup water
- Heat half the oil in a large pan or casserole.
- Add onion, garlic and celery. Cook over medium low heat for 6-8 minutes or until the onion is golden.
- Increase the heat and add pancetta and mushrooms for 4-5 minutes.
- Spoon all ingredients into a plate and set aside.
- Drizzle the remaining oil and lightly brown the chicken pieces a few at a time in the pan.
- Season as they brown with salt and pepper.
- Spoon off any excess fat.
- Add wine, increase the heat and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated.
- Combine tomatoes, sugar (if using), your herbs (i.e. oregano, rosemary, bay leaf) and 1/3 cup water and add to the pot.
- Bring to a boil and then stir in the pancetta mixture.
- Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until chicken is tender.
- Discard the sprigs of herbs and bayleaf before serving.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- If liquid is too thin, remove the chicken from the pan, increase the heat and boil until thickened. OR, mix a few tablespoons of flour or cornstarch with a few tablespoons of the red sauce in a small bowl and add it into the pan, stirring to thicken.
- Serve over pasta, egg noodles, or polenta.