Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Are you chicken?

That was the ultimate challenge when I was a kid. No matter what, you didn't want to be going around with a label that you were "chicken". That led to a lot of broken bones and other stupid behavior on our part. Chicken got a bad rap, because if treated right, it's one of the easiest and most versatile meats to cook with, and while I've never known any live chickens personally for very long, I never found them to be particularly timid or "chicken" in their behavior. Maybe, some of you country people can enlighten me. When I give cooking lessons, I usually devote an entire lesson to chicken because of its versatility, but also because it's easy to get it wrong. Like all poultry, it must be handled right and neither overcooked nor undercooked. New cooks generally overcook chicken because, well, they are usually afraid of under cooking it and killing somebody. To this I say, pshaw! Get a thermometer. 

Chicken Cacciatore with roasted potatoes

Chicken cacciatore is one of those dishes made up by Italian American restaurants. In Italy, it would be rabbit, because cacciatore means "in the style of the hunter" and well, you don't hunt chickens.So, anyway I cook chicken when my wife is out so double or triple the recipe as you need to feed more than one. I keep frozen, boneless and skinless chicken thighs in my freezer, but there is no reason why you  couldn't cook this dish with a whole chicken, the only caveat being make sure the pieces you use are cut up uniformly. 

Before I began my chicken, I put some cut up Yukon gold potatoes and some baby bell peppers (with olive oil and salt) in a 375 degree oven to roast. The idea is to have them ready by the time the rest of the dish is ready. I'm not going to use all the peppers.

After salting my chicken pieces which I have cut up in bite size chunks, I brown them over medium heat with a little onion. If you have a lot of chicken,omit the onion till later and brown the chicken in batches, but remember the idea is to brown the chicken not cook it through.

Now add to the pan some sliced mushrooms and cook them till soft. Notice, nothing in the pan is getting too brown. It's medium heat (#4 or 5).

Next, I'm adding some tomatoes from a 28 ounce can. I wound up using three and a little of the juice. It's a chicken dish. The other ingredients shouldn't overwhelm the chicken.

If you have it, you can add a splash of white wine here. Otherwise, a little juice from the can is fine. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon as you go.

This is how the peppers should look when they are done. I took half of them , cut off their stems and roughly chopped them. They go into the pan for the last two minutes.Remember, the chicken is the star of the dish. Look at the picture above. That's how it should look. You will learn the timing by doing this, but the main concern is not to overcook and dry up the chicken. Use dark meat, or if you use white meat (especially if it's boneless), hold it out(after you have browned it) till after you add the tomatoes and let it finish cooking as the sauce develops.


  1. Looks fantastic Joe!! How are your tomatoes (in th pots) coming along so far? Have a good night.

  2. Looks fabulous! one of my favorite dishes...though your authentic version is quite different from my mamas which is more like tomato sauce with a few chickens thrown in for good measure. Don't tell her I said that! Great job.

  3. Great post! I love making this dish but my boyfriend doesn't like dark meat chicken so I rarely make it. Your pictures are making me hungry!

  4. @Rachel -Tomatoes are coming along--I'll post pics on my next post

    @Amy -Now that you're an honorary Italian, you'll have to show her how!

    @Michelle -Well,I know you are aware you can do the dish with white meat, although I would keep the bones on for more flavor if I were just using white meat.