In Italian “Cacciatore” means “hunter”. Thus “Pollo alla Cacciatora”, usually referred to as Chicken Cacciatore in English, simply means “hunter’s style chicken”. It is a dish found throughout Italy in hundreds, if not thousands, of variations.
While the origins of a dish prepared “alla cacciatora” are certainly vague, it’s generally inferred to have been prepared by the hunter’s wives using wild ingredients their husbands found while hunting. In it’s rustic variations, the dish was often made using, “il coniglio or la lepre”, rabbit or wild hare; or various game birds such as “il piccione, la quaglia or il fagiano”, squab, quail or pheasant. The hunter may have also been lucky enough to find some edible mushrooms or wild herbs, which he also brought home from his day of hunting. Taking these wild ingredients, the wives often braised or stewed them along with peppers, onions, other herbs, wine and tomatoes. The result was a hearty, satisfying dish meant to re-invigorate her tired husband. Today, the preparation has been modernized, and while some hobbyist hunters may still catch and prepare game in the traditional “cacciatora” manner, it’s easier to simply go to the grocery store and buy chicken along with the vegetables and herbs.
Pollo alla Cacciatora is so flavorful and so satisfying that one might think that it is difficult and time-consuming to make. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Start to finish, it takes about an hour to prepare. And, as with so many dishes, Pollo alla Cacciatora gets better as it sits and the ingredients are allowed to combine, and the flavors to further develop. This makes Pollo alla Cacciatora an ideal dish to prepare ahead and reheat for a quick weekday dinner that your family will think you spent hours lovingly preparing.
Today, we served our Pollo alla Cacciatora with homemade focaccia, but you can serve it in a variety of ways. For example, serve Pollo alla Cacciatora with crusty Italian bread, over your favorite pasta or, for a real rustic meal, over polenta (see my soft polenta recipe). In any manner you serve it, Pollo alla Cacciatora will certainly become a family favorite, if it isn’t already.
- 3-4 lbs. chicken, about 8 pieces, any combination of legs, breasts and thighs
- ¾ cup, or more, flour for dredging
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 10 oz or more to taste Crimini (Baby Bella) mushrooms, sliced
- 4 medium bell peppers seeded and sliced; any combination of red and green;
- 2 medium or large yellow onions, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
- 1 tsp. minced rosemary or 1 sprig of fresh
- ½ cup dry red wine
- 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
- In a large Dutch oven or saucepan heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
- Season the flour with the salt and ground black pepper then dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour.
- Working in batches, brown the chicken on all sides then transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Add the bell peppers, onions and mushrooms to pan and cook until they just start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add wine to deglaze the saucepan scraping the browned bits from bottom, and cook until reduced by half, about 2-3 minutes.
- Return chicken to pan and add tomatoes, parsley and rosemary. Add salt and pepper to taste, then mix well and bring bring to a simmer. Cook, covered, until chicken is tender, about 30 minutes.
- Serve the Chicken Cacciatore from the Dutch oven spooning the sauce and vegetables over the top.
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